What We Really Need for Father's Day: The Wisdom of Serpents
- Thursday, June 15, 2006
I don't know which is worse: When Sunday services fail to acknowledge Father's Day. Or when they do.
When it is acknowledged, it tends to done in one of two ways. It's treated like a line-item in most church bulletins (right below "Needed: More Diapers in Nursery"). When this Rodney Dangerfield of days becomes the subject of a three-point sermon, it's used to "fix" men, who we've been told are the more crooked gender that needs to soften and sweeten up, like the nice-but-fictitious Jesus of countless Sunday homilies.
This day is a powerful reminder about social norms, traditions, and yes, prejudice. We see just how uncomfortable parts of the church are when it comes to a man's nature, how often they are compared to a woman's nature, and how men are deemed more sinful.
On this day, many men will be given the wrong medicine for what really ails them. They will be admonished to become like the Nice Nazarene. This invented Jesus is always patience, never inappropriate, dangerously nice, never says an unkind word, doesn't argue with or question the motives of others, incapable of anger, and was the most pleasant fellow who ever hush-puppied across Planet Earth. Jesus as Eternal Folk Singer and Surfing Bud.
I was told for decades to emulate this naïve and Gumby-like Jesus. And unfortunately for me and others, I succeeded. My life and ability to bless and lead my family suffered for lack of insight, power, and wisdom, among other profound virtues. I was what others might call a pliable "nice guy" but not what most would call a strong and wise "good guy." I needed to change and unfortunately I didn't find the help I needed from church or men's ministry.
That's why this Father's Day I'm encouraging ministers across the globe to give guys what we really need so we can really follow God into the dark corners of their hearts and the mysterious land of their faith: The shrewdness of serpents and all this ominous phrase represents.
For those unfamiliar with this somewhat cryptic statement, it's what Jesus told his original twelve disciples to acquire. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16).
Jesus commends shrewd behavior as found in the Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:8). The Message provides a clearer insight into this challenging parable: "Now here's a surprise: the master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way — but for what is right — using every adversity to stimulate you in creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you'll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior" (emphasis added).
Almost sounds blasphemous, doesn't it, not just getting by on good behavior? Isn't that what being a Christian is all about? According to Jesus, in his own words, no.
Why do I emphasize the virtue of shrewdness and related ones such as wisdom, ingenuity, and the right kind of cunning? Because Christian men are continually preached to about the importance of personal piety, or what Jesus referred to as the innocence of doves. But when I ask during my workshops to Christian men how many have ever heard a sermon based upon the wisdom of serpents, no Christian man to date has raised his hand.
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