Christology–the study and application of the person and work of Jesus. What could be more core to Christianity than a proper understanding of the Christ Himself?! In some sense, we do a beautiful job in reformed circles of articulating, at least in our textbooks, a correct understanding of the person and work of Jesus. But I’m burdened that the latest wave of enthusiasm for ministry in reformed circles has a troubling view of Christ. That’s a loaded statement, so I will explain.
I am not burdened about how we articulate who Jesus is. I think we get that right. He is both suffering servant and avenging King. He turned the other cheek at His betrayal in the gospels and returns with a sword in His mouth in Revelation. Our problem in reformed circles is that WE MISTAKE WHICH JESUS WE ARE CALLED TO BE LIKE. We know from Romans 8 that God’s plan from before time began was to conform us to the image of Christ. That is sanctification–God roots out our sin and depravity and replaces it with His image and His example. But talk that makes it sound like we are supposed to take the sickle and sword to our enemies on a white horse with a tattoo down our leg is the sign of a warped understanding of who Christ is and what it means to be conformed to His image.
The concern some have is that emphasizing the suffering Servant of the gospels presents an effiminate Jesus that men don’t want to be like. That troubles me. It troubles me a little as a woman. My husband is a very manly man, but it’s not because he does mixed martial arts, drives a pick up truck (though he does drive a nice big, black one), or has a tattoo on his thigh. But more than troubling me as a woman, it troubles me as a lay theologian. Because even without a seminary degree, I know exactly what the Bible wants me (and my husband) to emulate when it says to be like Jesus. Because just in case you think being like Jesus means coming in white hot fury with a sword in your mouth, Paul clears it all up for us in Philippians 2.
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Turning the other cheek is not effeminate. Washing someone’s feet is not wimpy. Returning grace in place of vengeance does not undermine masculinity. God forbid we minimize the suffering Servant of the gospels in an effort to “reclaim” a segment of Christian ministry. And if you are a single lady reading this, I encourage you to not mistake testosterone driven nonsense for authentic Biblical masculinity. Look for a man who demonstrates Christ’s humility, returning grace for vengeance and love for retaliation. Beware of the guy who seems to think the most important act of Jesus we need to emulate from the gospels is overturning tables in the temple. Jesus certainly did it, but in context.
Who defines in your mind what it means to be a manly man? Is it Jesus? Is it the Jesus of the gospels who allowed Himself to be betrayed, mocked, and scorned because He had mercy and grace on those who could not save themselves? That, dear sister, is the definition of masculinity. And for anyone who would argue that it’s not my business as a woman to analyze or warn against this trend, I say you are dead wrong. It is crucial for Christian women to understand what authentic Biblical masculinity looks like, especially if you believe in wives submitting to their husbands and male-only pastoral leadership. It is of fundamental importance for all of us in the church to have a proper understanding of what it means to BE LIKE CHRIST.