So I went to a men’s conference recently. This was a big one – over 3,000 men all at one place looking to get recharged, refocused, and recalibrated. The worship team was amazing and to end the day with a few thousand dudes echoing the words of Holy, Holy, Holy sent chills up your spine.
These are guys from all walks of life but the day feels very unifying. Great community. An opening session, four workshops, and a closing session made for a very full day.
There were several highlights of the day and things to be remembered. You get done with these one-day conferences and feel as if you have been drinking from a fire hydrant and definitely need time after just to process what you heard and see where change needs to happen in your life.
One of the things I cannot help thinking about further was one of the main sessions where we were all together. The topic was about racial reconciliation – a very hot topic in our culture today – and what Jesus calls us to as believers when we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. Some great takeaway with high energy from the speaker. I appreciated his passion to reach out and help us see the 3,000+ other men around us as brothers. And not just in the viewing but in the actual behavior between us. Regardless of the race, we all are made in the image of God, and that fact alone calls us to interact with others with the same unity and intimacy that the Trinity enjoys as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That opening session definitely felt like a call to us as men. The gauntlet had been thrown down and we were to take new action. He opened with a very interesting story about the Knights of the Templar, a monastic order who swore to protect travelers and pilgrims. The church would baptize the knights, but it is told that the knights would hold their sword up above the water while the rest of them would be immersed. It was their way of saying that what they did with their sword was of their own doing and not submitted to God.
It was a moving session.
My concern did not lie with what was said but more what was not said. And please understand this post is not a rant. This speaker loves Jesus, spoke with passion and clarity, and I am not here to critique him. I just wish there would be been more of an emphasis of how we change as men in truly loving those around us, regardless of race or status. Otherwise one could come away with a wrong set of “next steps.”
Remembering what generates authentic change
Because what we were left with was a great charge. But there were not any closing statements attesting to the fact that unless the gospel intervenes dramatically in my life, there is no lasting change in me. Because the truth is that I cannot change my affections or desires toward others. I cannot wake up one day and choose to love all races of people as I ought. If I could, I really would not need the transformational power of Jesus. Jesus performed because I cannot and could not.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
This is why Jesus in John 15 reminds that that without Him we can do nothing. We cannot love as we ought to love and we cannot have joy in others as we ought to joy unless the fruit is birthed of Him. Without this integrated truth, change can easily become a moralistic message where we try harder to do better to love other men as brothers instead of enemies. I am not accusing this speaker of not believing in the truth of the gospel, but that message concluded with me wishing more had been said.
We as guys love to perform and do. If we need to change something, we just exert more effort next time. The problem with this is that our performance will never lead to authentic change. I cannot love others as my brother unless God takes my lesser affections and replaces those with His. It is the only way this Christian life will work. The. Only. Way.
The gospel is the means by which we have racial reconciliation. The gospel transcends our own brokenness and changes what we cannot – the heart. And the gospel is the most foundational display of reconciliation as holy God reached out to me to reconcile a rebel to Himself.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18)
I hesitated to write this because I never want to use my platform to beat others down or to make my point look better. I hate when others use their platforms for that and I will not use mine for that purpose. I chose not to name the conference or the speaker because my post is a “don’t forget!” message and not a criticism. The day was awesome and refreshing and I am grateful to those who gave their time to speak into the lives of men.
My point is that we have to be cautious that we approach change with a full-on gospel mindset. Only Jesus changes hearts. Only Jesus helps me love all men as brothers. The best I can do is a short-term modified behavior.
And that will never bring about any reconciliation.