Kindness, gentleness, love, peace, joy. Would you be more likely to describe these character traits as “masculine” or “feminine”? If you answered “feminine,” you would not be alone — but you would be wrong. These are human traits — neither exclusively feminine nor masculine. Yet, our society and the church seem overly comfortable associating these attributes as feminine.
The Apostle Paul paints a picture of what the Christian ought to look like. One who is walking with God and is filled with the Holy Spirit will, according to Paul, be kind and gracious and peaceful and all the rest. I must agree with Lisa, though. Somewhere along the way, these have become values for women to aim for – not men.
It is a common accusation for Christians to be called weak. Weak for being patient, modest, avoiding conflict. Now, for many and especially men this accusation can sting. The attributes which are produced by the Spirit in the life of a disciple of Jesus can conflict with what a man expects of himself, or indeed what society expects of him.
So, in many mens ministries, the teaching is about how to be strong and courageous in a typically traditional sense. I endured read Wild at Heart and was somewhat shocked that masculinity was suddenly all about hunting and walking in the mountains and owning a big truck. Man was to ‘cultivate’ his wife and to make money for the household. Many others take this mentality, teaching men that masculinity is about having the power, controlling, dominating.
Being spiritual and Spirit-filled is then for the women. Making decisions and getting things done is for the men. The women can be gentle and kind and gracious. The men, however, should be ‘leaders’ which really means ‘in power’.
The trouble is this: Power and authority don’t seem to be the way of Christ. The accusations of Christians being weak are, frankly, legitimate. Christians are called to be servants. To bless and to care and to love. The world will call it weakness because they do not know the ways of God. We must affirm this as strength.
Christ must transform our views of gender, as he models for us what it looks like to be truly human. May the Church affirm in both men and women the work of the Holy Spirit as we are transformed into his likeness.