Summary: "The glory of God is man fully alive."
Where Have All The Men Gone?
St. Irenaeus said, "The glory of God is man fully alive." If you accept the definition of a man fully alive, as a man totally in love with Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the same works Jesus did, namely healing the sick and casting out demons, then I think you must agree that we should put man on the endangered species list.
How did we get in this sorry condition? Well, it goes back to our father Adam in the Garden of Eden. God put Adam in charge to rule, cultivate and care for his creation. When Eve was approached and tempted by the serpent (the devil), what does Adam do? Nothing! Adam is the original couch potato. He’s sitting on his duff, stuffing his face with delicious snacks, watching the animal show and falling asleep. He does nothing to help his wife in her time of need. He’s fast asleep, oblivious to the deadly scene occurring in his presence.
There is nothing new under the sun and Adam’s "virus" has been past down to the present time. Only now, man is more comatose than asleep. One of the major institutions contributing to man’s sorry condition today is the Church!
Genesis 2 tells us that Adam was born not in the Garden of Eden (Eve was), but was created in the wilderness before the Garden of Eden existed. This gives us an insight into what God intended for man. God created man for freedom, challenge, risk, mission and adventure. Everytime God meets a man in the bible; He calls him to an adventure. From Adam to the Apostle Paul and every man in between, God calls man to an adventure!
Gen 1:27 says "God created man in His image, in His divine image He created him ." What does it mean to bear the image of God? What is God like? This is a critical issue for a man. If I’m a living Icon of God himself, then I better have the correct image in my mind. Well, for sure God is adventurous. He is the ultimate risk taker. He created us with free will and the ability to reject His Fatherhood and love. That was a pretty risky decision.
The image of God we are frequently given in Church, is the image of Mr. Rogers. Jesus is Mr. Rogers with a beard, making the peace sign, with a few sheep and children around Him. Recently in Church, the gospel was about Jesus making a whip and cleansing the temple of the money changers and the animals. Two pastors in the local area interpreted that scripture account this way. One said that Jesus "really lost it", lost control over His anger and another said "this was totally out of character for Jesus, since Jesus is the ultimate pacifist." (A pacifist is one who opposes war or military preparedness, and proposes that all disputes be settled by arbitration according to Webster.)
The scriptures say the "The Lord is a Warrior ." (Exodus 15:13) Jesus said He came to destroy the devil and his works and to set the captives free. This sounds more like Maximus from the movie Gladiator, than Mr. Rogers from PBS. In Revelation 19 it says:
"Then I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was (called) "Faithful and True." He judges and wages war in righteousness. His eyes were (like) a fiery flame, and on his head were many diadems. He had a name inscribed that no one knows except himself. He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen. Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty. He has a name written on his cloak and on his thigh, "King of kings and Lord of lords ."
The hearts of men are stamped with the true wild, adventurous, warrior image of God. When they come to Church and Christ is presented as Mr. Rogers making peace signs, their hearts tell them this is not for me. You know what? Their hearts are telling them the truth! When Christianity is presented as some dull, insipid rule keeping, like Mr. Rogers saying "Don’t pick flowers in your neighbors garden", can you blame them for thinking that Christianity is a crutch for wimps and weak men! No wonder they don’t return.
This image of Jesus as Mr. Rogers is absolutely killing men. Men are born to be warriors, accepting challenge and risk. Men were born to be free, to fight and do battle. They inherently know that they if they must go to battle, they want to go with Maximus not Mr. Rogers. They know Mr. Rogers will get them killed. Tell men the truth! That Jesus is a warrior, He’s Maximus the Gladiator, that He has a battle for you to fight, a heroic, risky challenge for you to accept, a deadly foe to grapple with and that the fate of society is at stake. Tell men that Jesus the Gladiator is looking for a few good men to fight the good fight of faith. Challenge men with the truth of the gospel and they will fill the Church!