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hope for churches in stress


Sociologists describe a “guy code” in North America. According to their observations, the dominant cultural image of men is: stoic, not expressing feelings; macho and athletic; dominant in physique, wealth, power, or status; and leery of traits such as warmth, sensitivity, or empathy.

The apostle Paul gives a radically different portrayal of manhood. The aim of church leaders and workers is to build up the community of faith “until we all attain . . . mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . . (Ephesians 4:11-13, ESV).”

As true man, Jesus confounds every cultural depiction. In his final weeks, representative of his earthly life, Jesus faced suffering and execution with courage (John 11:7-10). He wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41-44). He exercised authority with humility (John 12:12-15; 13:3-17). He prayed with intimacy and fervor (Luke 22:39-46). He fulfilled every responsibility to his family (John 19:26-27). He forgave his executioners (Luke 23:34). He was obedient to the will of God to his last breath (John 19:30; Hebrews 9:14).

Jesus, not some skewed cultural image, is the measure of true manhood. And whether one is male or female, Jesus is the true measure of what it means to be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19; 4:13).

Such a high standard is beyond our reach, except for “the immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead . . . (Ephesians 1:19-20).”

In this staggering assertion, Paul piles up four different words for power. He uses nearly every synonym for power in the Greek language to communicate the immensity of the power that raised Jesus from the dead—and is now directed toward us who believe!

Without question, all of us are poor prospects for transformation. Whatever our brokenness, however, the darkness within cannot withstand the immense power that raised Jesus from the dead, the power now propelling us to full maturity in Christ.

So “forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, [we] press on toward the goal for prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14) to become fully mature, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:13, The Message).

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