If the title sounds familiar, it’s because not too long ago, I wrote a post about Ray Rice and his domestic abuse case. Now, the cases of abuse are piling up. Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald and Jonathan Dwyer are all under investigation for alleged cases of abuse.
What is happening here? What is wrong? What can we do to fix this? Make more laws? Make better policy? Kick them all out?
Honestly, depending on the legal outcome of these cases, none of these men should play football again. Ever. I don’t care that Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL. If you abuse your child, you don’t deserve to play football. You deserve a jail cell.
The biggest problem, as stated in the post about Ray Rice, is sin. And the answer is Jesus. Jesus lives the life we cannot live. He dies the death we should have died. And He defeats sin and death, rising from the grave, commanding all men to repent and come to Him for salvation and new life. The answer is to come to Jesus with a repentant, humble heart, trusting Him for forgiveness and new life where we learn, day by day, to live in obedience to Him as Lord.
The answer is still the same. It’s still grace. It’s forgiveness, and the work of God in someone’s heart.
But God isn’t just the redeemer of individuals. He’s the redeemer of entire cultures, entire nations, and the entire world. And what the NFL culture, sports culture, and man culture (if I can call it that) needs is redemption. Forgiveness, new life, a new direction. And that is something only Jesus can provide.
Here’s where we’ve gone wrong: We celebrate the wrong kinds of men. We clap for the men who out-muscle the man across from him, the men who hit the game-winning shot. We clap for the man who beats the other man to a bloody pulp. We equate manliness with muscles and athletic ability. Jesus never, ever equates true manhood with how much you can bench press (or any other physical attribute). While we should most definitely take care of our bodies, it is done out of desire to honor God and the desire to be ready to do what God’s called us to do. If you can bench press 350 but fail to love and honor your wife, you’re not a man. You’re a boy with muscles. Congratulations, punk.
We celebrate athletic feats while quietly dismissing off the field character issues. After all, who cares how you treat your child if you can run for 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns? If you can win an NBA title, it seems we don’t care if you’re humble and serve others the way God serves us in Christ. Men that do humble themselves in the image of Christ, loving and serving others, are assumed to be less than men. They’re “girly-men.” They’re “whipped” by their woman. Again, the goal is not be “yes men,” simply doing everything anyone asks you to do, but we do seek to meet others’ needs before we meet our own. The sports culture, and culture as a whole, teaches that manliness is getting what you want when you want it. You know what happens, unfortunately, when man’s depravity meets an attitude of getting what you want when you want it? Rape. Certainly not service, or love, or honoring others. But rape is the worst form of this false “manhood.” If a woman won’t give you what you “deserve” as a man, just take it. After all, you’re a man. You do what you want.
Real men don’t touch women that they aren’t married to. Real men repent when they fail in romantic relationships outside of marriage, and seek God’s grace in both pardon and purification. And if and when they fall again, they get up, trusting Christ, and they lead their girlfriends to do the same. Real men learn to treat women with honor and respect.
We celebrate riches, have TV shows (Is “Cribs” still a thing on MTV?) about how celebrities lavishly spend their money, and we look down on the poor as if they are worthless. Is it any wonder then that the richest of us in terms of money tend to be the poorest of us in terms of character?
We have fathers who fail to be fathers. They leave their children, seeing the child they helped create as a burden, wishing to live a carefree, sinful lifestyle of selfishness and laziness. We have fathers depending on the government to give them a welfare check instead of getting a job. And when their son winds up in a gang or in prison, they blame the police, or society, or the school system, instead of looking in the mirror.
We have friends who are more interested in being seen on social media than helping their brothers become better men. Even as Christians, we are far too often consumed by the pursuit of popularity rather than helping each other pursue holiness, the high calling we have in Christ.
Today, Florida State quarterback, Heisman Trophy/National Title-winning quarterback, Jameis Winston, was suspended for the first half of this weekend’s game against Clemson for making crude and vulgar comments toward women. It’s nothing I care to repeat on this post, but the Internet can tell you pretty quickly. Apparently the statement was made in front of many students, some of which I presume to be Winston’s “friends.”
I am so grateful that my friends are not like his. If your friends encourage sinful behavior, run. If your friends want to laugh at your stupidity more than help you in your struggles, run. If your friends say, “Do it for the Vine” more than they say, “Follow Jesus,” run. If I had said anything near what Winston said, I can’t think of a single friend who would laugh with/at me. My brothers in Christ would call/text/Facebook me and ask me what in the world I was thinking. They’d quickly call me to repentance and chastise me for being so foolish and vulgar as a disciple of Christ. Thank you, God, for Godly friends.
This brings us to the solution: Jesus creates Godly men. What, or rather, who, ultimately fixes the culture is Jesus. Jesus does this through taking sinful, ungodly men and turning them, by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, into Godly men, who then teach their sons, brothers and friends how to be Godly men, by the grace of God.
We need husbands and fathers who understand that real men give their lives for their families. And I’m not talking about literally dying for your wife and children (though that would certainly be the right thing to do, if needed). I’m talking about what Jesus talked about in Ephesians 5, where He says, through the apostle Paul, “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.” I’ve said it before here and elsewhere–to love your wife like Christ loved the church is to make the ultimate sacrifice for your wife–your life. Jesus literally gave up His life for the church to have life. While we probably won’t literally die for our wives, we are commanded to die daily and live for Christ, our family, and others, for the glory of God. What does that look like? Getting a job. Keeping a job. Spending time with your family, phone-free. Keeping your eyes free from pornography and women that don’t have your ring around their finger. Spending time talking to your family about their relationship with God and taking the responsibility God gave you as a man in leading them to a deeper faith in Christ as Savior and Lord. There’s so much more to that, and, honestly, because I’m not married yet, this is the part of the blog where I need a co-author who knows a whole lot more than me. Find a Godly, married man, and learn from him. I have several of these men in my life, from my grandfather to church leaders to ministers that have served me over the last few years.
We need men that understand that manhood isn’t marked by your muscle definition, or the car you drive, or the house you live in, or the shoes you wear, or the attractiveness of your woman. We need men that die to the world and live for the glory of God and the joy of others, seeking to put others first in a “me-first” society.
This is exactly what Jesus did. If anyone had the right to demand worship, it’s Jesus. You ran for 30 touchdowns last season? That’s cute. Ever seen Mount Everest? Yeah…He made that. You drive a Bentley? Cool story, bro. He invented and gave you the brain you don’t seem to be using. Your dad owns the town? His dad owns the “cattle on a thousand hills.” And the sun. Oh yeah…His dad owns the sun! He speaks and light is created! Top that.
Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Alpha and Omega, and His kingdom will reign forever and ever. And we dare to puff ourselves up with pride before Him, thinking we have any room to stand before a holy God, because we’re “cool.” We are not cool. We are sinners. And we need Christ.
Jesus is the Son of God, but He left His heavenly home to come here, not to be worshiped as the one true King, but to serve, suffer and die at the hands of sinful men that not once treated Him rightly. What happens when the men of today suffer insult and injury? We want to step in the ring and prove we’re better than the next guy. I remember even as a kid trading insults back and forth, thinking that that proved how cool I was (and unfortunately, there are still times today I can fall into this prideful trap). While there’s certainly nothing wrong with self-defense and defense of others, prideful self-exaltation for the purpose of “getting back” with someone is completely sinful and not at all Christlike.
What is Christlike? Humility. Love. Exalting God. Service. Dying to self.
Again, remember who Jesus is. Remember what He rightly deserves. And then turn to John 13. John 13 finds the King of all the universe washing the feet of sinful men, whose feet weren’t so clean, either. One of these men would betray Him for a few coins and deliver Him over to be crucified. And Jesus, who shouldn’t bow to anyone, got on His knees and he washed the disgusting, dirty feet of sinful men who deserved nothing but hell. And then He died for them.
That’s manhood. That’s what it means to be a man. To give everything you have, not to make a name for yourself, but to love others, to glorify God, so that when you leave this Earth, your legacy isn’t measured in stats, number of cars, trophies or the amount of zeroes in your bank account, but rather in the people you introduced to Jesus and the Godly, holy example of your life. You leave a legacy of Godly marriage, Godly fatherhood and Godly friendship. You model repentance and faith in the gospel and power of Jesus Christ for your wife, children and friends. No man, other than Jesus Christ, is perfect. One of the markers of a Godly man is realizing how far short you fall, daily, of God’s glory, and repenting, confessing where you fail, and putting your hope in Jesus for salvation and new life. And then you lead your wife and your children and your friends to a deeper appreciation and love of Jesus Christ.
As I type these words of what it means to be a Godly man, I realize that I fall so far short of what God expects of me as a man, as His image-bearer. Even as a Christian, as one who is following Christ as Lord and has been saved from sin, I still fail, daily. This morning, I repented of not loving others as much as I should. I confessed that I don’t listen as well as I should, and that I can be so lazy at times it is unreal. None of this is okay. I have so much to learn about what it means to be a Godly man. And while I’m thankful for the Godly men that stand as examples in my life, I’m even more thankful for the God-man who gave Himself for my failures and lives to make me new.
We can repent. By the grace of God, we can change. And as we change, we can change culture. Instead of teaching our sons to look up to disgraced sports stars, let’s give them a reason to look up to us. Instead of being quick to defend ourselves, let’s be quick to repent, trusting Jesus to save us, to forgive us, to change us. And our sons, and their sons, will be part of a Godly legacy of men who thought nothing of themselves, but only of Jesus and those who need them.
There is hope for the NFL. There is hope for America. There is hope for men. There is hope for all of us. His name is Jesus. He loves you, and stands ready to save and help those who call on His name.
A day is coming where He will reign as King forever. Until that day comes, may we trust in Him, honor Him, and walk with Him. Lord, may we repent quickly, trusting you to forgive us, and by your grace, to change us and help us be who we are through faith in you. May we trust you as King, laying down our false crowns and sinful, selfish ways to gain you. May you make us Godly men who trust and follow you. May you come quickly.