Wrestlers and Artists

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  • March 19, 2012

There’s a verse in Job about how God sets limits upon the seas and says to the proud waves, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther…” I’ve always loved that verse. It’s a vivid picture of God’s sovereign power. Not a drop of water from the mightiest ocean exceeds the bounds that God has placed. The tide crashes onto the shore but does not stretch a millimeter past God’s line. They are constrained.

I’ve often desired the same for my preaching. That when I preach, my words would never exceed the bounds of God’s Word. That I would never say more or less than what God requires and not a single word would fall beyond appropriate lines. Today, I’m reminded that the oceans have better restraint than my tongue.

It was nothing major. In fact, you might not have even noticed. On Sunday, I referenced Jacob and Esau, two brothers who were at odds and whose relationship had been severed by conflict. Jacob was a bit of a homebody and a mama’s boy. His older brother Esau was a hunter. A ruddy, hairy, man of the field (Gen. 25:27-28) whose ability to kill made Jacob tremble. In trying to describe these men, I likened Esau to the “wrestler-type” and Jacob as the “artist-type.” It was an off-the-cuff quip. I got a few chuckles, but deeply regretted it the second it came out of my mouth.

I regretted it because I don’t want to [even unintentionally] cast an unbiblical portrait of masculinity. A brother listening yesterday graciously told me that after hearing that line in the sermon, his mind wandered for a few minutes in thinking about what it means to be masculine according to the Bible. In the Scriptures, gender matters. Men and women are different. Men ought to act like men (1 Cor. 16:13). And all of that is a good thing. But the Biblical view of masculinity and ‘being a man’ is not about being a tough-guy. Masculinity has nothing to do with how much you can bench or how hard you can throw a punch. My words may have perpetuated an unhelpful stereotype that masculinity is about being a jock or being macho. Masculinity is about sacrificially bearing responsibility and leadership. Comparing wrestlers and artists in terms of being a man is like comparing Fords and Chevys and trying to figure out which one is more of a car. The best profile of masculinity is not Esau, “a skillful hunter, a man of the field” over Jacob “a quiet man, dwelling in tents.” Instead, the best profile and picture of masculinity is Jesus – the man who sacrificially bore responsibility for others even though it was not His fault, who humbly served by kneeling to the ground and washing the feet of the ones under His leadership, who gave even His life in order to provide and protect those who were entrusted to His care. That’s the Biblical portrait of perfect masculinity and that’s the kind of man the men at Seven Mile should strive to be.

Regretful for what I said yesterday. Grateful for the opportunity to try and clarify today.

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About Ajay Thomas

Ajay lives in Philadelphia with his wife Shainu and their kids Hannah and Micah. He is responsible for preaching and vision as a pastor at Seven Mile Road.

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