Men and Anyone Wishing to be One,
Get a grip.
One fairly consistent fruit of the Spirit is self-control. You would hardly know it by looking at the church today. Christians rarely exercise any more self-control than the rest of society. We are an indulgent culture and little interested in denying ourselves anything that we mildly desire.
Take fasting, for example. Jesus seems to assume that His disciples will fast in His comments on the Sermon on the Mount. He gives some right and wrong reasons to fast. Today, however, most Christ-followers seem to have taken a fast from fasting.
I am not advocating for mandatory fasts or any mandatory piety at all. Rather I wish to encourage all Christians, and especially men, to practice self-control at all times.
Saint Paul writes in I Corinthians 9:27, "I discipline my body and keep it under control." Near the end of the letter he admonishes them: "...act like men...". (I Corinthians 16:13) I believe that these two ideas are tied together.
Part of our issue today is that most of our masculine role models exhibit rather little self-control. Musicians, actors, and athletes often make the news for having little to no control over their emotions or impulses.
We have learned to value men who "put it all out there," men who wear their emotions on their sleeve. We think men should be passionate dreamers who are driven here and there by their current desires. We idolize the man who follows his dreams, even if it is to the detriment of his family. All we require is that one is "true to himself."
If it is incumbent upon men to be leaders, both at home and in the world, then we must learn self-control. This means being disciplined ourselves in every walk of life.
Self-controlled religion involves learning theology, actually listening to the sermons, attending Bible class, and singing (yes!) the hymns.
Self-control gets a man out of bed in the morning to go to work, drives him to be home with his children, or pushes him to help his wife. Self-control in the life of the single man means using your time wisely to serve God and neighbor, not waste it on parties and video games.
Self-control means avoiding sin where we can, taming our tongue to serve good and not evil, and helping others even when it is inconvenient.
This does not mean there aren't times of "cutting loose", times when we can simply rejoice and enjoy the good things God has given. The times of celebration, however, are made even more pleasant when they are bracketed in by times of self-control. Who needs a vacation from self-indulgence?
Jesus tells his disciples to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow him. Today we are far more comfortable indulging ourselves, taking up the computer (or iphone), and ranting and raving, taking up a chicken wing and stuffing our face, or taking up the remote and taking a nap.
Following Jesus means, in part, disciplining ourselves with His Word, attending worship, fleeing evil, and rejoicing in truth. Lets try that for a change.
[Other posts in this series: One, Two, Three.]