I’ve been reading some of the seldom quoted from writings in scripture in the last few months, on a mining mission to see what is being left out of popular teachings. The results are surprising, and, in some cases, very revealing of the overall religious culture we find ourselves in. But before I dive into one particular teaching from my new favorite prophet, allow me to ask the men reading a few questions. Men, how well do you relate to the Sunday morning service stuff? Really, how does it strike you? Are you able to sing, with gusto, the songs the band or song leader chooses? Do they resonate deep within your masculine soul? What about the teaching? Does it challenge you to, as Paul said, ‘live up to what you have already attained’, or does it leave you feeling weighed down and guilty most of the time? Is it about advancing the Kingdom forcefully, or is it more about tenderness, the sweet love of Jesus, all that? In short, how ‘manly’ does the Good News make you feel?
I ask, because many times, I find myself longing for a song, or a teaching, that inspires that warrior heart inside of me. Most times, I feel like my warrior heart is being told that it is not wanted, and, indeed…not even godly. This bothers me, for several reasons, not the least of which being because I want to raise my sons to be true champions and warriors. But popular religion just doesn’t seem to want people like us anymore. Are you tracking with this? Then, by all means…read on.
I just finished re-reading, for the umpteenth time, ‘The Barbarian Way’ by Erwin McManus. Of all his books, TBW is both his shortest…and his absolute best. If you haven’t read it, stop right here, bookmark it, and go buy it. This blog will still be here when you get back.
Find it? Great. Read it. It will awaken something long dormant in you that is desperately needed…whether civilized religion knows it or not.
The main thrust of TBW is that we have aquiesced to a calm, civilized religion, where the boats are never rocked, and faith has been stripped of all it’s uncertainty. The focus is on a small character in scripture, named Jephthah (Judges 11). Jephthah has the same father as his brothers, but his mother was a prostitute. However, that is not the main truth of Jephthah. The main truth of his identity is the first half of the first sentence detailing his story: “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior…”. This is his calling card, his core identity, what God intended he be known for. “BUT”, continues the opening sentence, “he was the son of a prostitute”. Ah, there’s the rub for the ‘civilized’ tribe. His brothers want no part of him, and kick him out of the village. They forget his core identity, and focus on his inherited status. Sound familiar? Lots of religious teaching does exactly the same thing, and it’s killing the warrior spirit in men and boys. Rather than focus on who God made us, we tend to spend too much time identifying with our inherited status as ‘sinners’. We forget that the King himself came and broke us out of that prison, shattered our chains, and freed us to be, once again, who the King intended us to be. And so, like Jephthah, when men begin to live as though they believe that they have truly been freed, religion gets nervous. In order to regain control, they pound us with our past, and if we don’t give in and put our chains back on, they might even kick us out…at least figuratively. This is what happened to Jephthah.
But Jephthah wasn’t alone, because the story goes on to say that Jephthah found a band of other ‘worthless men’, and they went out raiding. I love that line (for some reason, it reminds me of The Goonies, or the Regulators from ‘Young Guns’). What I love about this is that, while the civilized village ostracized Jephthah, he kept his core identity intact, and just went out with other warrior men and did what warriors do. We must do the same, men, both for ourselves and for our sons. If the ‘civilized’ do not want us, we must not give in to the pressure to assimilate (and therefore castrate) ourselves; we must simply go out, band together, and keep raiding enemy territory. Our sons are screaming for leadership that will take them into who God made them at their core, not necessarily what the hour and a half on Sunday is telling them.
Eventually, war comes to the village of Gilead, and the village elders realize that their civilization will not survive without warriors. So they go and ask the warrior Jephthah to come fight for them. Jephthah is understandably terse with them: “Wait, wait, wait. You mean to tell me you kicked me out of your little tribe, and now you want me to fight your battles for you?” (paraphrased, of course) However, they vow to make him the leader of the tribe if he will simply come do what he does best. And so, the Warrior returns because the civilized are finally made to realize that his core identity is more valuable to them than his past. Brilliant.
Does this speak to you? I hope it does, because fathers, the Kingdom needs you to stand up, take up arms, and go to war against the Powers that have been assaulting masculinity for generations. The church has become largely civilized, and has lost its warrior ethos, and it will probably not like it if you rise up and pick up your weapon. In fact, they will, before they ostracize you, try to convince you to lay them back down by quoting Isaiah 2:4-He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. There’s a lot of that thought process in the church today, and it’s absolutely toxic, because it isn’t time for that yet. The War is won, but the battles will continue until Christ returns. Oh, and when He returns? I’ll bet the civilized religious won’t recognize him, because that sacrificial lamb will have become a Lion. A warrior. Wearing a bloody cowl, wielding a sword, with an inferno blazing in his eyes, and a name carved on his thigh. The Word of God. And He will lead the armies of God (that includes you and me!) to finish the battle that we were supposed to be fighting all this time…but we’ve done some bad, ill-timed blacksmithing. In fact, that brings me to my new favorite prophet, Joel. I’ve heard the Isaiah passage all my life, so you can imagine my surprise (and joy, to be quite honest), when I read this from Joel:
Proclaim this among the nations:
Consecrate for war;
stir up the mighty men.
Let all the men of war draw near;
let them come up.
Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”
This has modern day implications. Men, take up those garden tools and turn them back into tools of war. We are at war, yet our Enemy has had little opposition for a long time now. Christ redeemed our lives, our hearts, FOR something…not just FROM something. We are to be His regents, his Holy Priesthood, his ‘set apart ones’ (Saints). We are to forcefully take hold of a forcefully advancing Kingdom (Matthew 11:12). This is no time to sit in a comfy chair singing mild love songs with our tail tucked between our legs because the rest of the village thinks all we are is a lowly son of a prostitute. That is not what is most true of us.
We are warriors.
We are free to stand against the Powers and Principalities.
Our weapons are mighty through God, and perfect for tearing down strongholds.
Let us use them, and teach our sons to do the same.
Civilized religion may not know it yet, but they are going to need warriors one day, very soon. And we must band together, and go out raiding, even when the village doesn’t want us, keeping ourselves in top form for the day the Village needs people like us. Our sons need to be raised to be who God created them to be, which means we must rediscover it ourselves, to lead well.
Because our Father is truly God of the Warrior, and God of the Outcast. And a Master Blacksmith.