Lost Art of Community

We live in a time and place where nothing bad really happens. People can go months, years even decades without experiencing anything closely related to trauma. In fact, I’d wager that there’s no shortage of people out there, in their 20’s and 30’s who’ve never experienced abuse, loss or even death. Sure, bad things happen to everyone, but in our western bubble we’ve manged to insulate our daily lives from suffering.

And at first glance, this might look like a great thing, and at one level it is. Safety, security and a dramatic reduction of danger are all a result of affluence. Today we are far more easily able to collect and accumulate personal possessions and wealth then previous generations. In turn, we are far more individualistic then previous generations.

If our society has perfected the art of buffering individuals and groups from harm, why then is this generation one of the worst affected by mental illness? Why is this generation one of the worst affected with behavioural disorders?  We are witnessing a generation rise up who, despite having every comfort, are for the most part the unhappiest generation ever. It is affected with some of the highest rates of depression, schizophrenia, poor health, anxiety and chronic illness in human history. Why, in all our technological advancements in health, security and communication, are we one of the most disconnected and lonely generations of all time? How can we live surrounded in urban environments, some of the densest residential dwellings known to the human race, and yet feel deeply, even dangerously alone?

Maybe, we’ve pursued all these great things and neglected ‘community’ along the way. What if accumulating affluence comes at a cost… What if it decreases our dependence on other people… What if it decreases our motivation to contribute to other people or groups within our society… What if…

What if… humans are built for hardship? What if humans were designed to thrive on it. We live in a time and place where nothing really bad happens. But it comes at the cost of experiencing something of what it means to be human. How do you become a mature adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a mature adult in a culture that doesn’t demand courage?

We are in the midst of a  generation of ‘adults’ who, for the most part have never been required to sacrifice. A generation that doesn’t know what loss or daily hardships are. So when tragedy strikes, (and it strikes everyone), it’s no wonder that a growing number within our society don’t know how to deal with it. It rapidly escalates and becomes overwhelming, pushing people beyond their limits. It would seem that rather than acting as a buffer, the modernisation of our societies has fostered mental health concerns.

One observation I’d made during my time as a medic in the Army, is that very few soldiers suffered mental health concerns ‘during’ their operational deployment. The soldiers I knew, young men and women, had been thrown into hideous circumstances, exposed to all kinds of traumatic situations, and in the moment, they cope exceptionally well. These young adults, to mention a few things, were dealing with life changing injuries, death, killing, murder, racism, religious extremism, prolonged separation from family and the uncertainty of hidden and indiscriminate enemy explosives. Yet, their health and well-being in the midst of this tribulation was almost always good.

Again, from my observation, there were two primary things that held these soldiers together. The first was a deep sense of comradery amongst the ranks. It was a bond that brought men and women together as brothers and sisters. It was a community that was as close as family. When one person struggled, everyone struggled with them. The second was in that environment everyone had a purpose. There was a obligation to contribute to the collective, and permission to lean on the collective when needed. There was a great honour in being strong, but at the same time there was no shame in moments of weakness. Everyone had a role to play and that role, in the community was meaningful.

But skip forward a few years, and the picture is far more grim. We lost 6 soldiers in combat on our operational deployment, and since then, at last count, we’ve lost 6 more to suicide. There are countless more suffering with ongoing mental health problems such as moral injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and so on. And since returning home, the two things that soldiers relied upon are almost entirely neglected by our affluent society.

Our western culture is highly individualistic. When we get home after work we close the doors and windows and tend to ourselves and our family. The system honours those who work hard and succeed on an individualistic level.

And, as a consequence of heightened individualism, our culture has perfected the art of making people feel unnecessary. People are almost always regarded as indispensable. People aren’t required to contribute to a larger group, and people don’t therefore, have permission to lean upon someone else without feeling a sense of shame.

When a soldier is removed from their tribe-like community, they find themselves overwhelmed by the burden of their experiences because they no longer share it with their peers.

I’m not a mental health professional, and I’m certain that many victims of trauma suffer very real and prolific mental illnesses, but what if sometimes it was less about the trauma itself, and more about the way we as a society prepare, and deal with trauma as a community?

From my own experience, as a Christian, my worldview expects suffering to happen. It gives permission for bad things to take place. The way I look at the world legitimises suffering. I have permission to have good days and bad days, permission to feel lonely and sad. But I also have a hope, that being human isn’t limited to my physical experiences. This way, in the bigger picture, traumatic events don’t undo my entire universe. Sure, for a time they suck, but the fabric that my world is constructed on remains in tact. As a Christian, my suffering has a purpose, even if I can’t see it at the time.

I also found that having deep spiritual and familial connections enabled me to better process the trauma that I’ve experienced. There were nights where I couldn’t sleep as I wrestled with deep injustices that had been committed against innocent people. There were moments were overwhelming sadness came upon me as I wrestled with the concepts of life and death. There’s been times I’ve been was torn to shreds over relationship troubles, but I’ve always found comfort in meeting with like-minded people, allowing them to comfort me and knowing that I was a comfort in return. I found comfort and value in community.

Maybe as a result of all this, we need to be less concerned about immunising ourselves from any risk of suffering, and more concerned about learning how to experience it in a healthy way. Maybe we need to give ourselves permission to struggle and do more to accept others as they struggle.

Talking About The Bible

At our church we are about to release a series we are calling ‘Neighbour 2 Neighbour’. It’s encouraging and equipping members to talk about Jesus to the people the encounter during their day.

Here’s one of the first we’ve put together. What do you think?

What does the world say about the Bible?

Our secular culture does not hold much regard for God’s Word. There are many who would claim that the Bible is outdated, inaccurate, irrelevant, self-contradicting, and even fictional, and that it cannot be supported by logic.

In Western cultures, there has been a rise in a more overt atheism, mobilised to attack the Christian message in many areas, and most namely, the Scriptures. This influence has permeated popular culture. Along with a general decrease in knowledge of the Bible (compared with ages past), modern Australians tend to be suspicious of what the Bible has to say – even to the point of thinking the values it promotes are harmful to the Australian way of life.

What does the Bible say about itself?

The Bible claims to be God’s Word [2 Timothy 3:16]. It is living and active, able to speak to our hearts and change us [Hebrews 4:12]. It is written so that you may believe in Jesus and have life in Him [John 20:31].

The Bible points us to Jesus

Jesus is the fullest revelation of God [Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3]. In Jesus, we see the Word who became one of us, full of grace and truth [John 1:1-18]. Jesus explained that the Old Testament (made up of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms) pointed to and was fulfilled in Him [Luke 24:27,44]. In Jesus, we see all God’s promises finding their fulfilment [2 Corinthians 1:20].

The Bible claims to be historical

The Old Testament is an historical document containing narrative, cultural poetry, songs, wisdom for life, dialogue with God, and teachings about life with God, and prophecy; including promises about the coming Messiah and His age to come.

The New Testament Gospels claim to be historical biographies of Jesus’ life and ministry. For example, Luke’s opening statement demonstrates the carefulness and accuracy he used in researching who Jesus is and what He did [Luke 1:1-4]. The Gospels each record details about geography, political situations, and architectural descriptions that have been corroborated by centuries of archaeology and historical investigation. The rest of the New Testament documents likewise record real people, places, and events that mean we can read them with great historical confidence.

The Bible is understood by the Holy Spirit

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to all who believe, and it is only through Him that we may truly know and understand the truth [John 14:17]. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth through the Bible. Even though the Bible makes the most sense of our human experience, it requires the Holy Spirit to overcome the prejudice of human sinfulness that rejects God’s Word.

What can we say about the Bible?

The Bible is Historically Reliable.

There are a variety of archaeological, geographical, and sociological details found in the Bible that have been found to be both accurate and verifiable even today. Especially concerning the New Testament, there are parallel accounts from Roman and Jewish historians that all help to confirm the reliability of details found in the Scriptures.

Discoveries over the past century have contributed enormously in demonstrating its reliability and accuracy in its preservation. This has been seen particularly in the comparison with the Old Testament documents and the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in a cave at Qumran in 1947).

The sheer quantity of fulfilled prophecy within the Bible’s pages speak for the reliability of God’s Word itself. God’s promises can be trusted, and His faithfulness is demonstrated page after page.

While we don’t have the original manuscripts that were directly inspired by God, we do have so many historically verifiable copies, that we can have total confidence that what we have today accurately reflects those original manuscripts. In fact, the authenticity of ancient biblical manuscripts surpasses all other ancient literature. The Bible transcends culture and language in such a way that it can be faithfully translated into any language with meaning and accuracy.

Australians desperately need the Bible!

If God really has revealed himself in such a way, then we ought to pay attention to it! Without this knowledge of God, we will never truly understand ourselves. We may be able to see the majesty and power of God through the created world, but we will never know God personally nor his redemption for us apart from His self-revelation in the Bible. Our deepest need is to know our Creator and Redeemer.

Life according to…

Do you compare, compete or both? Do you look upwards or downwards? Do you look upwards from yourself toward people better than yourself, wishing that you had more, could achieve more, were more? Or maybe you look downwards toward those less fortunate than yourself thinking that your better than others. Your thought might be ‘at least I’m not like them’.

At the end of the day we all do it. We all compare and compete. Without over emphasising gender roles, men typically compete, and women typically compare. Men might compete in who is stronger, faster, wealthier. And women might compare physical looks, clothes, families. Of course, gender roles are never absolute… men will compare and likewise women  will compete.

And while gauging where we’re at in life isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, when we base our identity on these competitions and comparisons that we can become unstuck. We can fall into the trap of trying to progress through life by comparing and competing. You need a promotion at work in order to maintain your social status. Or upgrading your boyfriend for a more advanced model will help you improve your own popularity. What about getting a bigger house, or another investment property in order that your social status will increase with your friends. It’s almost like a role playing game where you have to grind and farm enough points to get to the next level. And if you don’t have the best level and stats then you might as well not even play. #shoutout to all the WoW and GW2 gamers. At the end of the day if your doing better than those around you, than life is good. However, if you’re falling behind and everyone else is kicking the goals, then life is bad. We can become slaves to this way of thinking. In fact, chances are you already are, or at least have been in the past.

The real danger for those of us who are Christians, is to start measuring our faith against those around us. When we start to compare our blessings with those around us it becomes a pretty shaky roller coaster ride that isn’t going to end well. ‘God answers his prayers, he must be a better Christian that I am.’ Or. ‘His children are always perfectly behaved, he must be a more godly parent’. Or ‘His church has more newcomers than mine does’. etc.

The Apostle Paul talks about two ways the people generally identify with the world. He uses two weird words. Flesh & Spirit. People are either living according to the flesh, or according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Romans 8:5

The first, flesh, is all about people who chase things of this world. They go to all lengths to keep up with the Jones’s. Wear the best clothes, drive the best cars, have the best houses with the best swimming pools. They go to church to keep up appearances, they work hard to have more and more money, and they do all of these things to earn a better status. They indulge in food and drink. They chase whatever makes them feel good, incessantly pursuing self-glorification. At the end of the day, these people, choose to please themselves despite the cost.

The second way to live is according to the Spirit. These people chose to forgo fleshy indulgences and live a life that is selfless and aims to be altruistic (impossible be that it may). To live according to the Spirit means that the Spirit of God dwells within the person and directs them in a right way of living. These people are giving and caring and set their minds on the things that God considers important.

When all is stripped away, those who live according to the flesh are comparing and competing for the next ladder rung on the climb to glory. But those who live according to the Spirit find themselves ‘in Christ’ (Romans 8:1). And when one is in Christ they partake in His glory. Comparing and competing for glory becomes a nonsensical activity because when compared to the glory that comes with being in God the Son, all our own achievements pale in comparison.

Romans 8 is an outstanding scripture to reflect on in the light of comparing and competing as the world does opposed to living in step with the Spirit. Stop, and think about what the Apostle Paul might mean by the phrase ‘The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.’ (Romans 8:7)

You’ve probably heard the popular song, In Christ Alone, but maybe take a moment to listen to is again, and think about what it means to be In Christ Alone. What will it look like in your life to forsake the temptation to compare and compete in the flesh, so that you can truly be In Christ Alone.

7 Things Biblical Submission Is Not

The following is an excerpt from a sermon  on 1Peter 3:1-7.
The full audio can be found here!

1. Submission is not only for women.

  • (Ephesians 6:1) Children must obey their parents in the Lord.
  • (Chapter 2:13) – Everyone, both men and women should submit themselves to every human authority.
  • (1Peter 2:18) The slave / master relationship, in modern day terms, is talking about the boss / employee submission.
  • (1Peter 2:21) Jesus humbled himself at multiple points, but washing the feet of his disciples is a great example, which of course foretells of his ultimate subjection to the cross.
  • (1Peter 3:7) It’s really important to see what Peter says about husbands in the passage we are dealing about here. He starts by saying “Husbands, in the same way” … This is a direct link back to Jesus’ example in chapter 2. If you wanted to amplify the wording here, you might say something like “In the same way that Jesus submitted to the Father’s will and suffered wounds for those he loved… so you should be selfless and caring toward your wives, considering her needs of more importance than your own.” Humbling oneself in submission is not just for women… if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s certainly good enough for all of us.
  • (1Peter 3:7) Peter tells husbands to be respectful of their wives. This means to honour and edify. To build up. In fact, the Greek word for respect here is a military word that denotes the honour which belongs to one who holds a position of rank or authority. That honour is granted based on a wife’s position as a co-heir in the gift of life.

2. Submission is not suggesting that the one who submits is in any way of less worth.

  • (1Peter 3:7) Peter tells husbands that their wives are co-heirs in Christ. He is making a very clear statement, that although there are, in general terms, unique physical and emotional features that separate men and women, they’re equally valuable in God’s sight. Men and women have the same worth and value in God’s sight.
    • They are equally elected.
    • Equally called.
    • Equally born-again.
    • Equally Justified.
    • Equally Adopted into God’s family.
    • They are equally made-perfect through Christ.
    • And in heaven they will be equally glorified by the Father’s graces.
  • Although men and women are distinct in their DNA… in their bodies… Peter is confirming what we all believe… that men and women are complete equal in God’s sight…

3. Submission is not being forced to agree on everything

  • (1Peter 3:1) As I already said, the reason Peter spends a bit more time on the role of women here is because she has had the courage to put her HOPE in Jesus Christ and her husband has not. This automatically suggests that submission does not mean you automatically have to forfeit your opinion or beliefs.

4. Submission is not putting the will of others before the will of Christ.

  • If Jesus is the example to follow, He never submitted to any human authority outside of the Father’s will. Submission is not putting the will of others before the will of Christ.
  • In fact, the exact opposite is true, in verse 1, Peter encourages people in submission to use their honorable character as a means of changing others. To win people without words. To convince people that God’s Word is true and worth following.

5. Submission does not mean avoiding the effort to influence or change others.

  • At every point we are to respectfully and faithfully try and be agents of change within our communities. We are to turn our wayward culture back towards the Creator who knows what’s best.

6. Submission is not females submitting to all men.

  • This passage is not talking about women submitting to males in general. It’s not talking about wives submitting to someone else’s husband. It’s not even talking about women submitting to a work boss or church leaders. It is clearly talking about one unique relationship, wives to their OWN HUSBANDS.

7. Submission does not mean acting and living in fear.

  • Look at verse 6. We are encouraged to not give way to fear. We’ll spend a bit of time on this particular point as we have a deeper look at biblical submission. But needless to say that biblical submission is never a fearful response to threats, manipulation or abuse.

A brief history of Christian Singleness

Marriage is being thrust under the spotlight once again. But where does that leave singles? Any media coverage that is targeted towards single men and women is almost always… ‘Meet Mr. Right’ or ‘How to move on from Mr. Wrong’.

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Our culture shouts at us, teaching us that singleness is a time of transition. You’re either preparing for, or moving away from a relationship. This toxic understanding of singleness suggests that the ideal is always to be in a relationship. In fact, if your single for too long, there’s likely something wrong with you, or so social media tells us. If we have a brief look at the history of singleness we will see where this unhealthy understanding has stemmed from.

The Jewish Perspective

In the Old Testament there was no real place for singles. Everyone, including priests, were encouraged to marry. This was because their was very little teaching on an ‘afterlife’. Unlike today where spiritual people focus on moving toward a heaven or nirvana like experience, the ancient Hebrew culture thought that the hereditary line was most valuable. This is why there is so much emphasis on genealogy in the Old Testament. A man or woman without a family had no means of continuing their family line.

Even in the New Testament period we can see that Jewish teaching were just as strict, if not more so. In the Mishnah suggests that ‘a man without a family is not a man at all.’

The New Testament Perspective

Then, as if we were watching a wrecking ball sweep through the flimsy veil of a Jewish understanding of relationships, along comes Jesus. He entered into the first century culture and broke down the negative stigma of singleness. Jesus taught that marriage and family are not an eternal reality, that it is not supposed to be the centre of one’s life. He taught counter to the Jewish teachings, there is no eternity in bloodlines, but only in the resurrection. Therefore, Christ should be more central than even family. Jesus clearly teaches that people can choose to remain single for the purpose of serving the kingdom of heaven.

Paul then continues this message by saying he wishes ‘people could remain single as he does’ but also understands that it’s not always possible. Alongside Paul it appears that Luke, Silas, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Epaphroditus, Apollos, Lydia, Dorcas and Pheobe all remained single throughout their ministry.

It was obvious that single men and women had much to contribute to growing the kingdom of God.

The Early Church Perspective

After the wrecking ball shatters the Jewish context it bursts through the debris and swings like a pendulum out the other side. All of a sudden singleness becomes the ‘best practice’ for the ‘most holy’. Examples of spiritual devotion laid out by the apostle Paul inspired his successors to remain celibate in their service to the Lord. Ignatius, Justin Martyr and Origen in the second and third centuries all commended the celibate lifestyle. The ascetic Gnostic influence pushed common religious practice to the extreme, the body was evil and humanity must resist it’s urges at every point in order to remain pure and holy.

Later, people such as Augustine taught that sin was transmitted from generation to generation through sexual intercourse. The best practice was that one would abstain from building families. There were certainly enough heathens to convert in order to grow the kingdom. He taught that while marriage was good, celibacy was even better.

The Reformers Perspective

The 16th century reformation came at a time where the dominate catholic church was rife with not-so-celibate priests. It was common knowledge that Renaissance priests had mistresses and children. Protestant Reformers sought to renew the corrupt church. German reformer, Martin Luther, who had begun his ministry as a monk, new the dangers of forced clerical celibacy. He rooted his argument against the doctrine in the natural order. If men and women are being forced to go against their created natural instincts they are preventing nature from being nature. (I wouldn’t use this argument today).

Likewise, John Calvin the Swiss reformer taught that God not only permitted but commended marriage. He taught that there was still a place for singleness but it is only for those who had been ‘singled out by the divine will of God’.

Where does that leave us today?

With the benefit of hindsight, teaching on singleness has started to find some balance, though emphasis still clearly lays on the family unit. Our churches try and emphasise with single Christians but the feedback is that they have a tendency to come across as condescending. Statements like: ‘It’s alright, your time will come…’ or ‘I know how you feel, I really struggled as a single before I got married at 22…’ or even ‘God has given you the gift of singleness…’. (I think singleness is a gift [1Cor 7:7] but when spoken about as a place of empathy it’s like a gift of bad cologne. ‘Thanks, but I really don’t want it’.

As our culture continues to water down the concept of marriage, sexuality and morals it is obvious that there will be an increasing number of singles within our communities. With a divorce rate of roughly 50%, a homosexual rate of roughly 10%, an aging population increasing the number of widows and widowers, we need to be increasingly aware of the singles within our communities.

Singleness is not always a time of transition. We pray, under God’s sovereignty, that men and women would continue to unite in marriage, however it is unrealistic to expect this to be a reality for all singles. By making this the goal, we marginalise people who haven’t yet obtained it. What if the goal was something else?

The church needs to be clear that one’s relationship status does not primarily define their identity. One’s value does not come from their circumstances. Both singles and marrieds should be actively seeking to place Christ at the centre of their lives.

A truly Christian view of both singleness and marriage will honour both equally without disparaging one or the other. Recovering such a balance is the first step toward a church where singles are valued equally with marrieds.

Keeping Christ at the centre means that regardless of our relationship circumstances Christ gives us value, meaning and purpose. If our relationship circumstances change, and Christ is still centre, then the value, meaning and purpose of our lives in still intact.

[Edit: Thoughts stemmed from chapters 2 and 3 of The Single Issue by Al Hsu.]

The reason I’m a Christian…

This is why I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

First, I look outside of myself, into the world, and see absolute wonder. I see Earth, that appears to be in a constant state of change. I see the complexity of the universe. Stars. Galaxies. Other earth-like planets. I look and see the intricate nature of emotion. I see corruption. Hate and anger. Violence. Inequality. I see brokenness. Pain and sorrow. But I also see compassion, love and forgiveness. I see charity and selflessness. I get the sense that there is something mysterious about the universe. Something that the human mind can’t explain. When I look outside of myself I feel like something isn’t ‘right’ with the world that I live in. The way I see it, there is something wrong. Yet, on my own I can’t explain it.

Then, I look inside of myself, into who I am, and see something that has a purpose. I don’t consider myself to be just a bunch of particles gathered together without direction. I feel like I can achieve things. Achievements that are significant, not just to me, but to the world. I feel like I can add value to other people’s lives. And I also feel like I have the power to detract value from other people’s lives. I can sometimes be a weapon, that is something that can cause harm. I can hurt other people. I can destroy the wonderful nature around me. I see inside of myself something that is not quite right, like the world around me there is something wrong. Sometimes I am happy. Excited. Enthusiastic. And Filled with hope. Other times I am sad. Lonely. Lethargic. And feel hopeless. I get the sense that I am supposed to be better than I am. Yet, on my own I can’t explain it.

I strive to be a better me. But in all my striving I can never achieve a standard of humanness that satisfies me. What am I comparing myself to? There must be something greater than me. There must be something greater than the world that I live in. If there is not, there is no purpose to life. How can I, and my world, be the greatest thing on offer? It is beautiful. And I really do enjoy my life. But no matter how much joy I experience, I am always left craving more. I have an insatiable appetite for more. Yet, on my own I can’t explain it.

In search for more, I could turn to science and knowledge. I would do well to do so as it offers my many answers to my questions. The vast universe. The complexity of Earth. The intricate construction of the human body. But it does not answer my yearnings for ‘WHY?’ Why am I here? Why do I feel like I have purpose?

I could also turn to philosophy. The love of wisdom. I could reflect inwardly to such a deep level that I am confident even unto death that my soul is real. I could justify love and forgiveness. Hate and violence. Greed and corruption. I could even convince myself of an afterlife. Of divine powers. But philosophy does not answer the question of truth… What are the facts? How can one philosopher draw such different conclusions to another? Reflecting inwardly does not always reveal universal truths.

In the search for more I could turn to religion. If I have the sense of something more, than there are plenty of ‘extras’ available through the various religions. All regions have one thing in common. They all tell me that there is something wrong with the world. BAM. That first thing that really hits home. That’s how I felt before I even started my search.

And that’s where the similarities end, see, most religions tell me I have to do more… Chant. Pray. Meditate. Tithe. And be charitable. They say that if I do more, I will ‘be more’. Some religions are focused on reaching external gods. Others are focused on reaching internal perfection. Yet, I already feel that the more I strive to do, the further I am from achieving my own standard. Let alone the standard of ‘the more’ that I seek.

Then I heard about Jesus. I had grown up listening to people talk about him. He makes sense of my world. We are supposed to marvel at the complexities of our universe. We are supposed to feel the full spectrum of emotion. People will sacrifice themselves for their friends in ultimate acts of love, and at other times allow others to die in spiteful and vindictive ways. Jesus explains greed and corruption. He understands my longing for more.

Jesus’ teachings are found in the Bible. Every word on every page makes sense of me and my world. There is supposed to be death in my world. Pain and sorrow are supposed to be present in our lives. To suggest that I can work my way towards perfection is unrealistic. It is opposed to science, and philosophy. Jesus makes the most sense of me. He makes sense of the way I feel. Jesus does not contradict science and philosophy, he perfects them. He answers the questions that they cannot.

Jesus offers a solution to the problems that I experience with myself and those that I see in the world. A solution that I find more appropriate than any other religion. All the other religions that the world has to offer say that I can achieve it on my own. But Jesus says, I cannot, that resonates with me. That is my experience. In all my striving, I am unable to fix these problems myself, so Jesus offers to fix them for me.

In response to his offer, I choose to follow his teachings. I am here to serve Jesus. I was created to bring glory to him. That is my purpose. The bible teaches countless ways that I can do this. But all of his commands boil down to this… I should love Him with all my heart, soul and mind. In addition I should love the people around me in a similar way, treating them as I would like to be treated. Everything the bible teaches hangs on this command. Yet, Jesus makes it clear that my perfection is not measured by how well I achieve this command. My work is in response to his work. In this simple fact, I am free to be the best human being I can, without fear or condemnation. I can be the best human I can, knowing that one day, in the future, I will be made perfect in the likeness of Jesus himself.

It is not what I can do, but what has been done on my behalf. Jesus makes most sense of my world and that is why I choose to follow him.

The more know about Jesus, the more sense he makes of myself, and the world that I live in. I would wager that it would be true for you as well. You should find a bible… find the book of Luke within it, and start reading about the most sensible thing this world has to offer. Good Luck.

The White Western Perspective on Masculinity

I was at a men’s forum this week, and was thoroughly challenged to think about the white, western perspective on masculinity and the extended period of adolescence into adult years. My thoughts are clearly rudimentary and I’d love to hear yours. Comment below.

In our current culture there are three imperative stages of life in manhood. Being born. Reaching puberty. And death. (You could argue that menopause is a fourth for women). The result, is a large group of adolescence aged ~30-70. An example given was Australian personality and sporting star: Sam Newman.

It was suggested that our culture is missing Rites of Passage into manhood. Well not entirely… the closest thing we have in Australia is ‘Schoolies Week’, but alcohol, drugs, sex and violence aren’t really challenging boys to be men. Thus, so far as maturity is concerned we are left in a constant state of neither being a child, nor an adult.

You might agree that we see this daily in our communities. Adults incapable of accepting responsibility. Parents burying themselves in financial debt because they want everything, and they want it now. Father’s who express sadness and futility by abusing against their families in temper-tantrum-like behaviour. Road users who use their vehicles as weapons and their hands as abusive communication devices because they feel that they are obviously more important than their neighbours. The list is endless, we could go on with any number of examples of where adults have failed to grow up.

In generations past, education was focused on learning about your parents’ life experience and replicating it, hopefully at some point extending it. Yet with the industrial revolution and the working class moving into factories, the father-son unit was split, and something had to be done with boys too young to work. Boys were sent to school to learn how to work in and manage factories. They were expected to graduate as men, but the system had failed. Academia does not equate to maturity. The point being, that adulthood was being delayed.

And now, according to our culture, it’s viewed that we can’t get an honourable job until we’ve completed 12 years of schooling, and 3 to 4 years of post-school training, either technical or academic. The point being, that adulthood is further being delayed.

It is a generalisation, but there are now several generations of Australian men who have avoided maturity. Now, for my Christian brothers and sisters, please don’t here me in the light of our good friend Mark Driscoll. I’m not calling for more machoism. I’m certainly not asking for more testosterone. I’m suggesting that what we need is to go back to the root what masculinity is. We need to embrace maturity and rediscover what it means for men in today’s culture.

At the forum this week it was discussed that youthful men typically take pride in their ‘maleness’. But as they become older, they tend to soften becoming more even tempered. They develop a caring nurturing side to their maleness. They find increased value in family and their experiences tend to be filtered with the lens of subjectivity rather than objectivity. Thus, as far as a cultural definition, (albeit misguided), males tend to start off more masculine and grow increasingly feminine with time. Unfortunately our culture doesn’t have a positive process for this to happen, and these changes take place in the midst of various forms of trauma. War. Abuse. Neglect. Depression. Physical and Mental Trauma.

(It might be seen that the opposite is true with women, they often are conditioned by society to be more ‘girly’ as children, playing with dolls and being pre-occupied with cooking, make-up and clothes, but as they grow older becoming parents and grandparents, they develop masculine traits such as stoicism and resilience).

As males culture places us on a spectrum of genderness, and our culture defines what is acceptable depending on our stage of life.

With all respect. I think this is ludicrous.

As a Christian I believe that God has created everyone unique. Neither individuals, nor the human collective, is at the centre of the universe. (Sorry to burst the bubbles). Every being in heaven and on Earth was created to worship God as the centre.

In God’s grand design he chose to make ‘male’ and ‘female’. We have discovered that He chose to take a combination of both a father’s and a mother’s genetic code and transfer that to a conceived child. Thus, each individual is going to express both masculine and feminine qualities. There are many influences on this in the pre-natal, early developing, and adolescent stages of life.

It’s time Australia stopped trying to cookie cut males into testosterone fuelled men. It’s time Australia starting embracing men for who they are and helping them to become who they were created to be. For the Christian community it’s time to share the love of Jesus which has never been dependent on sexual disposition. The current white, western perspective on masculinity stifles our culture and stops us moving into a new era of manhood.

On an aside, but an important one. I advocate the accuracy of the Bible. I affirm innerancy and divine inspiration. The scriptures are clear that corruption has infiltrated all generations of humanity. Sexuality, especially manhood, has been warped by sin. The result is: Confusion. Loneliness. Depression. Hate. Anger. Violence. Abuse. Neglect. Rape. Even same-sex attraction.

I believe God is deeply troubled by sin. In fact, he was so concerned for those he loved, that he demanded that his Son, Jesus, receive their death sentence. A demand that He willingly obeyed.

But, I believe that scripture is less concerned about the individual sin, and more concerned about the broken relationship that it causes with God. No matter how much damage you’ve caused with the weapon of masculinity, God is more concerned about your relationship with Him.

Men, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of masculinity, and no matter how you express yourself, the gospel is still true. And it’s still calling you to action. God has the power to restore hurting and broken people into a new and beautiful reflection of His glory.