John Vanier, co-author of "Living Gently in a Violent World."
For most of my life I found the story of Adam and Eve perplexing for a number of reasons. Beside the talking snake, the seemingly silly command of God not to eat from a tree, or the woman being made out of Adam's rib - one of the most puzzling elements to me was our forebear's first response to sin. The first response wasn't to hide, to repent, or to run. Their response was a recognition of their nakedness. Talk about a weird story. But as I've learned more about the Bible, I have come to recognize that these odd details are often some of the most important details, because they indicate something profound. Such is the case with the nakedness of Adam and Eve.
Most Christians, and those who live in "Christian societies" are familiar with the ten commandments. Don't steal, don't murder, don't covet, etcetera. But the ten commandments are just a small representation of the Bible's laws. You may not know that the Old Testament actually contains over 600 laws for the people of God to follow. In the New Testament, Jesus does us a favor and condenses all of the laws to two: love God and love your neighbor (Mt. 22:34-40). If we simply do those two things, then we'll never break any of the other 600 commandments. If we loved others, how could we murder them? If we loved, how could we covet what another has instead of being happy for them? If we loved God, how could we choose to avoid Him by not gathering together with other Christians to worship Him? Love is absolutely central to the Bible and to followers of Christ. In fact, Jesus tells us that it is a Christian's love which will distinguish them as a true follower of God (Jn. 13:35).
John Lennon, singer and song writer for the Beatles, was one of the most popular musicians of all time. But Lennon didn't just write music. He was a lyricist who incorporated his philosophy into his music. On the topic before us today, love, one of Lennon's more popular songs entitled "All You Need Is Love" declared just that. All we need is love. Lennon wrote another very popular song entitled "Imagine," which was a vision of how we could build a world saturated with the love Lennon thought we needed. Lennon says, "Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try. No Hell Below us. Above us, only sky... You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us. And the world will live as one." In Lennon's mind, religion was an impediment to love, not a conduit. If we could just get rid of religion - if we could just get rid of the division religion causes, then the world could finally be free to love.
Unfortunately, Lennon was a far better musician than he was a philosopher. But despite his poor philosophy, his beliefs have been peddled to hundreds of millions of listeners throughout the decades, and his beliefs have unfortunately gained popularity. Like Lennon, many today believe that love would be in a much better condition if we could just rid it of the burden of religion. However, I am here to tell you that without religion - specifically without a religion like Christianity which has a relational God at its center - love is dead.
Masculinity. That's a term I don't really care too much about. I don't care very much right now about definitions, cultural shifts, political agendas, or anything else out there in history, or out there in the modern world which is being used to dismiss injustice. Like Adam, we Christian men are far too good at shifting the blame, and all of the aforementioned areas are places which are all too easy for us to use in order to avoid the negative spotlight. We desire our egos stroked, we seek praise, we seek accolades - but God forbid we self-reflect and find truth. So men, forget about any other moral agent or agenda that exists right now and simply focus on yourselves.
But really, such a condition of self-absorption isn't a man's condition alone. It's a woman's condition as well. Like Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and failed to take responsibility for herself. Like Adam, Eve became a self-centered being as well. Self-preservation and self-acclaim are not something unique to any gender. However, men are currently beginning to come under the microscope in our culture (and rightly so), so I want to take a look at the human condition and human responsibility from a man's perspective. Just know that these applications can be applied more broadly to all humans in their differing power structures and situations.