Clint Pressley, pastor of the Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte NC, recently published a tongue-in-cheek list, 99 Steps Towards Manhood, that has earned some notoriety on social media. His 99 steps are interesting reading. Some of the steps are clearly important for any Christian, man or woman: trust Christ as Lord, don’t watch pornography, have a good work ethic, practice encouragement, take responsibility. Some are simply good sense: be attentive without being a stalker, notice things, be nice to your mother, keep your house clean, exercise good hygiene. Others, more tongue-in-cheek, seem a bit daunting, such as be able to do at least 25 pushups in a row, or memorize large passages of the Bible. Some reflect a sort of macho image of manhood: learn to split wood, learn to use a chainsaw, be a carnivore not a herbivore, don’t ever get a manicure. Others are what seem to be the particular preferences of Mr Pressley: get a good fountain pen, get rid of neck hair, get a dog, don’t wear crocs, and drink coffee, not tea, Mr Crumpet. But all these steps have their effect. It’s a clever list for social media: there is enough genuine wisdom to be taken seriously, and enough in-your-face opinion to get people talking. As for me, it got me questioning. Mr. Pressley started his list with step one: Trust Christ as Lord. Excellent advice! So if Christ is to be Lord, surely we should pay attention to what he says? Putting aside for the moment what Mr. Pressley says, what does Christ say? What’s Jesus’ list for christian manhood?
I turned to the Gospels to find out. First, I noticed that Jesus doesn’t have separate lists for men and women. Instead, he has commandments for everyone. Second, Jesus has many fewer steps: a total of three commandments, one for every thirty-three of Mr. Pressley’s. Here they are:
- You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. [Mark 12:30]
- In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.[Matthew 7:12]
- This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [John 15:12]
Unlike Mr. Pressley’s list, Jesus’ list is short, focusing only on essentials. Jesus starts by asking us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength: with everything we have. The Lord’s Prayer [Luke 11:1-4] shows us how. First, acknowledge God as Father, acknowledge his goodness, align yourself with his goals, ask for what you need, confident in his love and fatherhood, and in the light of that love, be reconciled with God and all those God loves, including those who have given us offense.
Second, Jesus gives us the “golden rule”, to do to others as you would have them do to you. Another way of putting it is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Mark 12:31] No, this doesn’t mean that when we ourselves prefer coffee, as Mr. Pressley evidently does, that we should only serve coffee, even to those who prefer tea. The truth is that what we would really have others do to us is to take our preferences into account. Hence by the golden rule, we should take into account the preferences of others. So even if Mr. Pressley prefers coffee, he should see that Mr. Crumpet has his tea, and with it plenty of crumpets, well buttered, with jam.
Finally, Jesus asks us to love one another as Jesus has loved us. But how has Jesus loved us? The bible explains: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8]. This is a pretty tall order. Jesus loved us to an extreme: he died for us, and he did so despite our sins. In other words, Jesus loves by giving everything he has for those who do not deserve it, and he wants us to love one another in the same way. That is tough, a lot tougher than 25 pushups or memorizing large passages of the bible. But it is the essence of Christian manhood and womanhood. Love like this is what makes us truly Christ-like. If we can learn to do this, with Jesus’ help, we will truly be Christians. Let us turn to Christ, and learn from him to love each other as he has loved us.