By Mike Chapman
You’ve heard the rumblings, “Men hate going to church.” David Murrow even wrote a book about it to try and explain why. The cover of Biola University’s Connections periodical not long ago boldly announced, “The Feminization of the Church.” Inside the author attempted to show why the church’s “music, messages, and ministries are driving men away.”
I remember these claims when I read about one of the first people to worship Jesus. She was a woman. We meet her in Mark 14.
Jesus is reclining at a table in Simon of Bethany’s house, most likely with his disciples. The unnamed woman enters, breaks open a beautiful jar of very expensive perfume, and pours it out on Jesus’ head. The value of this perfume is later identified as being worth more than a year’s wages. It may have been a family heirloom or perhaps the woman’s dowry. This was an extravagant sacrifice. The fact that she broke the jar shows she was holding nothing back. What an act of worship! What an expression of love! What emotion!
And I’m uncomfortable with it!
What preacher or Bible teacher has not used this example to tell our listeners that we should respond likewise in gratitude for what Jesus has done? But be honest with me, men. Don’t you feel a bit uncomfortable with the breaking of the jar? Could you do it? Would you do it? In a crowded room?
Women seem to have this ability to overflow in affection, or love, or at least in the expressions of the heart. Yet, we guys are more reserved in our expressions. A handshake would have probably gotten the job done, don’t you think?
Maybe that explains why lots of women get good PR in the Bible. This woman who poured out the perfume. The widow who gave all she had. The women who cared for the body of Jesus.
Then you have the dimwit guys. The rich young man who was unwilling to trade eternal life for a few trinkets. The man on the Jewish ruling council who couldn’t figure out how someone could enter back into his mother’s womb a second time. All the disciples who ran scared when Jesus is arrested.
Maybe the problem is abandon is necessary to express real faith. Not that Christianity is purely an emotional sport, but it is more heart than head. More intuitive than empirical. Maybe that is why churches are filled with more women than men. It comes easier to them.
The woman’s act of love was an act of extravagance. When a guy thinks of extravagance, he thinks of buying a DeWalt drill over one of lesser quality. The extravagance comes in buying the combo pack with circular saw and floodlight. What was Sears’ worst campaign slogan ever? “Come see the softer side of Sears.” You don’t go to Sears to buy bedsheets. You go there to buy a power washer, lawn mower, or something by Craftsman.
So the women who read this story are thinking, what a beautiful thing! But the guys who were there weren’t thinking that. They rebuked the gal. “Why this waste? It could have been sold, and the money given to the poor. We could have put a new roof on the widow Johnson’s house with that kind of money.” Is that pragmatism or what?
Extravagance? It doesn’t come easy for guys whose wardrobe consists of various shades of black, gray, and brown. Extravagant expressions of love? They don’t come easy, even when we do love someone. Maybe that’s why there seem to be more memorable accounts revolving around women; they were able to express their love and faith, and so move the heart of God.
Men, how do you show God you love him? I suspect it is more like Peter! When asked about his love for Jesus he simply said, “You know I love you.” Though it took three questions and three responses, Jesus must have been convinced of Peter’s love. No perfume! No tears on the feet!
Extravagant expressions are not the only suitable way to love or worship. Unfortunately, in our churches, we notice and reward extravagance. Some stand in worship with their arms reaching up to the Father in an embrace of affection. This is a completely valid form of worship that surely delights the Father. But is it any more legitimate than standing stark still with a quiet resolve that nothing will move you from your faith and hope?
When guys don’t show up for the serving of funeral dinners, we as church leaders question their commitment. When did serving dinner to the grieving ever become more spiritual than hammering together a handicap ramp for someone who just lost use of his legs? (Now that is something guys will show up for.)
The wonderful thing about God is he made us all different. Granted, it is a scary thing to emphasize masculinity for fear it may upset many of the graceful, dedicated women who serve in our churches. But should we allow a gender to be overlooked simply because they don’t fit the mold of sterile sanctuaries, pretty flowers, and songs declaring “I could sing of your love forever?”
Extravagant love is expressed not only in the beauty of sweet smelling perfume poured out on a living Lord. It is expressed in the heart-wrenching blood poured out from a dying Savior. It is expressed in terms of feminine compassion and masculine resolve. Look at the way they love . . . differently but love nonetheless.
The Bible makes it clear, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” It just doesn’t say how. So, do what you can! (Mark 14:8). Someone said, “Extravagance is marked best by the depth of our love, not the expression of it.”
Mike Chapman ministers with Linton (Indiana) First Christian Church where he began a men’s outdoor ministry revolving around activities such as hunting, fishing, and sports.