In the world we live in, it is difficult to know what is Christian and what is not Christian. When I am in the car, I generally listen to either a Christian radio station or public radio. I admit I live in tension between listening to either Christian music, which has the tendency to move from worship and praise to preaching (there is a lot of bad theology out there) back again to classical music. The problem with classical music is that it is just music and sometimes I want some substance. So then I retreat to Celine Dion.
A few years ago at River Festival, Hootie and the Blowfish performed. Many of you may not listen to alternative rock music. I listened to some of their music to decide if I wanted to go or not. In their music I heard references to God, the devil, angels, walking on water, love, peace and harmony. I also heard descriptions of broken relationships, racism, drinking, pain, hurting, despair and loneliness. They are clearly a secular group, but those words almost sound Christian.
Society has undergone so much transition, that men are finding a hard time knowing how to be a man. If we have a difficult time knowing the difference between secular and Christian, then how can we know what role to take as a Christian person? So what makes or defines us as a Christian man?
As the Apostle Paul goes through Asia Minor, he establishes leaders in the new churches. In so doing, Paul sets standards for Christian leaders. If these standards are what God looks for in men and women of faith as leaders of the Church, then shouldn’t these standards be what you and I strive for in everyday life? So, as we ask ourselves today, what it is to be a Christian man, we can answer that question. To be a Christian man is to exhibit these attributes.
To be a Christian man is to be blameless. The husband of but one wife. A man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Not overbearing. Not quick-tempered. Not given to drunkenness. Not violent. Not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable. He must be one who loves what is good. A man who is self-controlled. A man who is upright. A holy person. And a man who is disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. All these are found in Titus 1:6-9.
As I would observe the eggs at different stages of development, I became amazed and intrigued by the process. It would not take long before an egg would be discovered that had a baby chick struggling to free itself from the confines of the shell that once had been its protection but was now a prison.
The chick would first peck a small hole in the side. Then with all its energy and might it would slowly but surely enlarge the hole by chipping away at the shell. Many times the pecking would cease as the baby chick lay in complete exhaustion. But as soon as strength was regained, it was back at it again. Soon a beak would appear. Then a head. The struggle continued and a wing would pop out. The baby chick would have to stop to rest having come so far yet still not being free. Once a leg was out the battle was almost won. Finally, freedom was realized. But even then the skinny, wet scrawny looking chick would spend several long moments in total exhaustion before regaining enough strength to walk.
I felt sorry for the chicks, even wanting to reach in and break the shell so the chick could be free. But the attendant told me that had been done before and every chick that had been freed prematurely had died. It was the struggle that prepared the chick for life. The battle gave the chick strength.
God will not prevent a lot of our pain and struggle for our own good, as much as He would like to spare us the pain. It is the struggle that gives us purpose and determination and strength. We like to say, “I’m no saint.” You learn to be a man by facing the battle. You learn to be a Christian by each victory that is won.
Doesn’t this sound like the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11)? I read about a small boy who was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew to be a man, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.”