Image Bearing Mentoring

What is a real man?

A few summers back, I was the program director of a Summer adventure camp.  We had a program where certain "underprivileged" children could be sent to the camp all summer long on the states dime.  It was a great opportunity to invest in these kids (many of whom did not seriously follow Christ or even know him) in the hopes of leading them to Christ and giving them more than just a great summer.

One weekend, a new group of teenage boys had settled in and were getting to know each other in their ten person tee-pee.  I recieved word as the supervisor of all the counselors, that there was an "issue" about to happen at the teenage boys site and needed to get over there right away.  When I arrived, I witnessed something awesome.

A young boy was mouthing off to a slightly larger and older boy looking for an excuse to fight.  It was an obvious alpha male contest for posturing rights for the week.  A lot of "big talk" was flying around and a lot of self-agrandisement was in the air.  As I was about to ask what the problem was, one of the leaders walked over to my cart, picked up a water canteen and stepped right in-between the two boys and asked the provocateur  if he was a real man.  The boy, obviously caught off guard by the new, larger contender, didn't know what to say.

"Take off your shoes, "the leader said.

The boy stuttered a little trying to maintain his cool composure, "Yeah I know you could kick my *butt*."  He thought the counselor was challenging him to a fight.

"Not at all.  Just take off your shoes."

The kid took off his shoes.

Then the counselor told him to sit down and he knelt down and started to wash his feet.  As he did he told the campers that he had been in the military.  He had hunted men who were trained to hunt him.  He had fought in little skirmishes and he had seen terrible, terrible things.  He had lost men and he had saved other men's lives.  He had done things that any man would be proud of, or terrified by -and by the world's standards - he was a manly man.  If anyone wanted to contest it, they were welcome to.

But it didn't matter, because he would agree.  That isn't what made him or anyone else a man.

The squabble was over, everyones attention was on the counselor.

He continued to wash the teenagers feet, even wiping between his toes and rinsing them off gently.  As he dried them off, he told them about the night that Jesus responded to his followers argument about who was the greatest.  Jesus took off his garments in lowly humility, and on bended knee, washed their feet.  This was the man who was about to heal a broken world with his physical and very painful sacrifice after having lived a perfect life for 33 years.  This was the man who calmed storms, fed thousands, brought dead to life, and cared for the outcasts with power and authority.  This was Jesus.

You can't be more manly than Jesus.  The funny thing is, he didn't look like the manly man that today's cultures wants us to model after - quite often, even the Church culture.  God's Word is overwhemlmingly packed with examples of the weak or overlooked, the outcast or the lowly Jew being chosen over the strong, the verile, the most dazzling and outstanding.  He did this so that He might demonstrate His strength and goodness.

The problem is that we have presented a false dichotomy today leading people to believe that weakness looks like pathetic, that humble looks like feeble, and that kind looks like naive.  So we inadvertently direct others to look for what the world says is strong and manly in our own midst and for our own models.  Wordly strength...but Godly wisdom.  Secular looking...but spiritually set apart.

The counselor stopped drying the teenagers feet, stood up and asked them if they might like to know more about this Jesus and why a manly-man by all of todays accounts would want to follow Him.  Do you know what happended the rest of that week?  Friendship.  A few arguments normal to boys, but true humility and servitude.  And most importantly, life change - eternally.

I have a question.

Are we mentoring young men to be Image Bearers of Christ or a westernized middle-upper-class version of a 21st century manly Jesus?

I think we are failing.  I think we have a hard time seeing the true Jesus through all the hype and commericialization of Jesus through evangelistic attempts to make Him "more attractive" to men.

To me, this means my boys aren't seeing the real Jesus most places.  And they can't know Him if I first and foremost, and then other Image Bearers secondly, aren't displaying a Biblically informed Image of Christ minus today's tweaks.

Over the next several months, I will try to lay out my Biblical understanding of what is means to mentor Image Bearers in todays world.

It will include the following:

Image Bearing Men are the following:

Men who truly know Christ.
Men who pray for others.
Men who know how to use the Word of God.
Men who discern God's Leading and Wisdom.
Men who never mistake Kindness for weakness.
Men who never mistake Humility for ignorance.
Men who never mistake Joy for naiveness.
Men who serve God's Biblical agendas.
Men who steward well what they are entrusted with.
Men who know how to argue well.
Men who can protect without destroying.
Men who know where the fight lies.
Men who are utterly dependant on God, even though richly blessed.