With all of our talk about gender roles and the place of men in society and the church, I think we tend to overlook Jesus.
He was a man, right?
Some folks say Jesus was tough and awesome, flipping over tables, schooling his critics, and beating down the devil on an empty stomach. Wasn’t he a super manly man? Doesn’t he embody strong male leadership?
He certainly did flip tables over at least once—perhaps twice if you’re really worried about lining up your Gospel accounts.
Ah, but Jesus also did some things that may have resulted in the loss of his man card. He did some things that were not bold, strong, and dominating.
Jesus Was Homeless
For starters, we don’t read all that much about Jesus having a home during his ministry. It seems that he had been living in Capernaum and that this may have been a point of tension with the folks in Nazareth, but we never read about Jesus welcoming anyone into his house during his ministry years. He was an itinerant preacher who relied on the hospitality of others.
Itinerant preachers certainly were common back in his day. In fact, the epistle of 3 John addresses problems with the many preachers traveling from church to church. And we shouldn’t forget that Jesus was much like another homeless guy we all love: Paul.
Jesus didn’t have a home in the sense that we think of as the defining mark of adulthood. At the age when most of us are comparing real estate markets and looking for a good APR rate, Jesus was leaving his career behind and taking to the road, which brings us to another point.
Jesus Did Not Provide Financially
Jesus left his carpentry work in order to pursue ministry, and so far as we know, he depended largely on a group of rich women. Jesus performed miracles to feed his followers in a pinch, but when it came down to the daily grind of living expenses that put food on the table, he relied on donations.
Even when it came down to his obligation to care for his mother, he had to entrust her into the care of a beloved disciple. While we see this as a good move, the people in Jesus’ day may not have looked on it quite so kindly. “Why didn’t he just stay in Galilee and grow his carpentry business?”
In retrospect we can see that Jesus’ ministry was far more important than working a steady job, but when it comes to followers of Jesus today responding to God’s calling and taking either career or ministry risks, it’s tempting to question their judgment.
Jesus Was Single
Jesus was the kind of guy who just couldn’t settle down.
You’d have thought that he’d read that God wants him to be fruitful and multiply.
To make things worse, Jesus was not only single, but he was often in the company of single women and women of ill repute.
As we look at singles, especially single men, as a kind of anomaly in our culture that is pretty much obsessed with marrying “the one” and settling down, we shouldn’t be surprised to find men who never marry. This is not necessarily a tragedy.
Jesus Washed the Feet of His Disciples
We struggle to find a modern equivalent of this powerful act where Jesus took the literal place of a servant, doing the lowest, dirtiest job in the household. Washing someone’s feet was both personal and demeaning, an act that Peter refused to accept at first.
For all of our talk about Jesus being strong and leading boldly, he also wept openly and compared himself to a chicken that wanted to gather its “chicks” under her wings. Not exactly the stuff you associate with a mighty warrior…
Should We Imitate Jesus’ Version of Manhood?
I write all of this by way of pointing to the complexity of the biblical story that presents us with a series of paintings that illustrate what it looks like to be followers of God in a particular time and place rather than nailing down a specific way to meet with God at all times and all places.
In Jesus we have God incarnate, and it’s natural to assume that even those of us who call ourselves his disciples will be different from him in some key ways. Plenty of us will marry and own homes.
However, in our rush to fit in with our Christian and Western culture, it’s easy to lose sight of how counter cultural and even revolutionary Jesus was in his own time and would be in our time. His ministry would not be the kind hailed at conferences and his manhood the model we’d think of imitating.
There is no blueprint for a “godly” home, ministry, or man. There is God’s calling on our lives, and obedience to that calling is what Jesus modeled for us and expects us to imitate. The details are incidental—home or no home, job or ministry support checks. When Jesus says, “Follow me!” We obey because there is no other source of hope or life.