Week 19 in the year of our Lord 2022

The wisdom of the ditches

12 minutes to read

You can read and share this email on the web: https://notes.itsgoodtobeaman.com/the-wisdom-of-the-ditches/

It’s true that there are no shortcuts in life…but there are more direct paths.

Sleep & ditches #

We need sleep.

Like many young men, we were both once fools, who thought running on as little sleep as possible demonstrated toughness.

Maybe so under certain circumstances—but as a practice it shows weakness.

It’s true that the slothful man sleeps too much. Proverbs 24 warns:

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man.

It’s good to not want to be this man. He is pathetic.

But, as with many things, there are ditches on both sides of the road when it comes to sleep.

Too much sleep is bad—but so is too little.

Psalm 127 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors.”

The man who sleeps too much presumes that God or others will make up for his slack.

The man who sleeps too little presumes that it is through his labors alone that his needs will be met.

Both are wrong. Again, Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

We need to work hard and rest hard.

God makes rich the hands of the diligent—but that diligence must be done trusting in his providence. That is what allows us to rest in His goodness. Hence he instructs us that he “gives to His beloved sleep” (Ps 127:2).

Sleep, brothers. Rest easy knowing that “He who keeps you will not slumber” (Ps 121:3).

Gender ideology ditches #

Functional egalitarianism divorces authority from ability and responsibility.

Hyper-patriarchy divorces ability and responsibility from authority.

Biblical gendered piety holds ability, responsibility, and authority together.

Speech ditches #

It is important and necessary that there be space for pastors to speak intensely about those who lead Christians astray—from within and without the church.

Consider a classic example of Paul in Philippians 3:2:

Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.

It is clear just from a straightforward reading that Paul is being far from polite here. He is being deliberately derogatory and even scathing.

Gordon Fee says of this passage that it is “expressed with powerful rhetoric, full of invective and sarcasm.”

F. F. Bruce speaks of the “parody,” “invective,” and “opprobrious language” used.

And Markus Bockmuehl observes, “The first paragraph explodes with a bitterly satirical attack on a group of enemies."

Remember, Paul also says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” And Jesus, at the appropriate times, used intensely “impolite” language, going so far as to call his enemies sons of the devil, children of hell, and little serpent-babies. So we have an example to follow in the apostle and in our Lord.

Politically correct speech is a tool the enemy uses to shame pastors into downplaying real dangers.

Souls are at stake.

We must recover the whole “tool belt” of biblical rhetoric.

But…we must do so without becoming shrill in our tone.

Don’t let the obnoxiousness of the “tone police” cause you to reactively believe that tone doesn’t matter. It absolutely does.

Proverbs 15:1 instructs us that a gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Jesus certainly models for us when harsh words are necessary—He was not afraid to stir up the wrath of the Pharisees. But Jesus wasn’t an edgelord either.

Stirring up wrath is a dangerous business for the sinful soul. It is easy to stir too vigorously, and become high on the fumes of one’s own soul. “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

We should be joyful when we are hated—if we are being hated for imitating Christ. But we should be very sorrowful if we instead find ourselves hated just for being jerks—and doubly so for justifying it by pretending to imitate Christ!

There is a ditch where Christians are always polite and agreeable. But when the pendulum swings, don’t be that guy who posts hot-takes on everything in the most shocking terms he can come up with.

In a similar vein, there is a fine line between using current events to talk about important issues, and being reactionary and tossed by the waves of the news cycle. Each is a ditch.

Before posting anything, ask yourself: Who am I trying to reach, and for what reason? Am I just spouting off because no one will listen to me elsewhere—or does this serve some strategic purpose?

Modesty ditches #

“It’s okay for women to wear yoga pants wherever they go including church.”

The pendulum swings.

“The height of feminine modesty is dressing like an extra from Little House on the Prairie.”

Church strategy ditches #

“Churches should be designed to be seeker sensitive and grow as big as possible.”

The pendulum swings.

“Our church is small because it’s holy, not because its social awkwardness creates a crazy high barrier to entry.”

Political theology ditches #

“The church is an a-political institution. The Bible does not speak to politics in anything but the most abstract principles. Theonomy is idolatry.”

The pendulum swings.

“If your pastor isn’t preaching about the lesser magistrate and civil disobedience every Sunday, he is a compromiser.”

Women’s work ditches #

“Women need to compete with men in all ways, especially vocationally. It’s good that women are overtaking men in higher education. It shows that anything a man can do, a woman can do better, and on a bicycle, and with a fish, and in heels. Paychecks are what validate us as human beings.”

The pendulum swings.

“Not only should we refuse to suffer a woman to teach men, but we shouldn’t suffer her to get a formal education. What’s she going to do with that anyway? Get a job? A woman who doesn’t spend all her time at home is functionally abandoning her husband and being a helpmeet to another.”

Children’s ministry ditches #

“Children should be discipled through children’s church, youth group, and Sunday school. It is the church’s job to teach the Word, and fathers can’t be expected to take on a burden like that without messing it up.”

The pendulum swings.

“All age-based ministries are wrong, and only fathers can disciple their children. Even if he is doing a terrible job, that’s none of the church’s business.”

“Children must be silent or leave the sanctuary. It’s too distracting having them there, and they’re not learning anything anyway.”

The pendulum swings.

“Multiple children loudly crying is the best thing ever, even though no one can properly participate in the liturgy, because what would it say if they had to leave!”

Why we use the word gender #

People sometimes ask us why we use the word gender given its origins in anti-biblical gender theory.

We made the choice to use sex and gender interchangeably in our work, because that is how they tend to be used by the average person.

This is in no way an endorsement of gender theory—just a reflection of common usage. There are often times when using the term sex is simply awkward, or would confuse instead of clarify. A good example is how we refer to the biblical view of sexuality as gendered piety. That is a self-explanatory phrase to anyone who understands what piety is. But sexed piety…not so much.

Must we forgive the unrepentant? #

This question comes up with relative frequency, which is not surprising given the fallen world we live in.

The reason people have trouble answering it tends to be because of the category of forgiveness itself. It’s easy to get tied in knots focusing on the specific act of forgiveness, and how it works out practically in a case where someone hasn’t repented.

Instead, they should be looking for the principle behind why we forgive at all.

This principle is is love. Biblical love is not a sentiment, but something that is perhaps best described as onetogetherness—rooted in the nature of the Triune God, who is Himself love.

The reason we have to forgive is because onetogetherness has been broken or violated, and can only be mended by letting go of the offense, and covering it. So forgiveness is oriented toward restoration.

But restoration isn’t always an option. God knows this, which is why He tells us to love even our enemies. We are to be oriented toward onetogetherness with those who hate us, even if we cannot effect that onetogetherness beyond a very limited point because either:

  1. It would break our own onetogetherness with God; or
  2. Our enemies themselves will not permit it.

When we understand this, we can reframe the question of forgiving someone who won’t repent. It is really better understood as a question of whether to love our enemies.

It is also often better understood as a question of whether to leave vengeance to God. There are many times when the reason we are confused about how or whether to forgive, is because we are still holding out for justice. We still desire the wrong to be righted, and we have a hard time letting go of this. When there is no consequence for some terrible sin against you, when people who know about it just don’t care, or when people don’t know about it at all, it is natural to want to take action, to force justice, to ensure recompense.

You want to make people care; to make the sinner face up to what he did instead of getting off scot-free. As Dabney says, this kind of resentment and outrage is actually evidence of a well-functioning moral faculty.

But…they will lead to bitterness when the wrong cannot be righted.

In situations like this, our counsel is as follows:

Everything about the life of faith starts with trusting, relying, and resting on God’s justice/righteousness (Scripture uses the same word for both). If we trust, rely, and rest on the Judge of all the earth doing what is right for our very salvation, how much more when we are wronged in this world? It is a natural part of the working of faith to bring such burdens to the Lord, knowing that He cares so deeply about them, that either He gave His only-begotten Son to die for them, or He will take vengeance on them in the fullness of time, with eternal and furious anger poured full strength from the cup of His wrath.

Faith relies completely on God to vindicate us. We cannot work to earn this. That is at the heart of the gospel of salvation. So, in the same way, we must give up our desire to work to earn justice on our own behalf.

God will vindicate. God will take vengeance.

If we truly trust His goodness, it is a great comfort to know what His vengeance will be far more perfect than ours could ever be. And it is a great relief to know that we no longer have to toil for justice on our own behalf.

In other words, forgiving someone who unrepentantly wronged you does not mean convincing yourself that the wrong should be forgotten, and that you should only think positive thoughts toward that person.

It does not even mean seeking restoration in perpetuity. There are many occasions where restoration is obviously impossible without a supernatural work, and it would be emotionally destructive to further attempt it. You should absolutely remove yourself from people who have made it clear that they intend to hurt and destroy you—especially if you have a family.

Rather, you may be angry and desire justice—but your posture should be to take that wrong to the Lord Jesus, so that you can divest yourself of that burden, and so that you no longer feel it is up to you to get the other person back for what they did.

Don’t try to use male humor with women

New content this week: #

Notable: #

Talk again next week,

Bnonn & Michael

This email is archived, but you can receive new ones free every Saturday.

Subscribe to Notes on Manhood

You’ll get the newsletter every Saturday morning, Eastern time.


You’re now subscribed to Notes on Manhood. You will get the next newsletter in your mailbox on Saturday.

You can safely close this dialog and keep browsing now.