Love is not merely an emotion. Love is not an abstract theory. Love is not harmless niceness. Love is not permissiveness. Love is aggressive and concrete. In fact, love is as aggressive and concrete as a bloody cross with the incarnate Son of God hanging on it. The most familiar verse in the Bible clarifies the aggression of love: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16a).
In 2 Corinthians 5:14, the apostle Paul declares, “For Christ’s love compels us.” The idea is that Christ’s love so completely dominates Paul that he has no option but to act on it by preaching the gospel. When Paul asserts in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,” it is a call to gospel-fueled action in every aspect of life. The church at Corinth was mired in countless theological and ethical dilemmas, but Paul makes clear that the root of every problem was a lack of cross-centeredness.
At the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he charges the church, particularly the men of the church: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor 16:13-14). Notice, Paul’s call to courageous manly action is a call to love. There is no contradiction between bold manliness and letting all you do be done in love. Christ-fueled love is self-sacrificial and others-centered, which means that courage and mission are essential ingredients for men to put love in action.
The great Scottish preacher and hymn writer, Horatius Bonar, wrote about 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “No can’t, no whining, no simpering, no effeminacy, no sentimentalism. Let all about you be erect and manly. Be manly, yet calm; be manly, yet gentle; be manly, yet polite and courteous. A true Christian should be the manliest of men…. the love makes the might the mightier, and the might makes the love more loving. Love one another. Love the brethren. Love all men” (“The Apostolic Trumpet-Blast,” Light and Truth: [London: J. Nisbet & Co., 1883], 77-81).
You do not need a seminary degree, money, status, power, or a prestigious family name to love Jesus from your gut and to teach your children to do the same. All you need is your life. Your life is your strategic ministry opportunity. No one else can be you surrendered to Jesus. The call to act like men in Jesus’ name, is a call to live on gospel mission displaying the aggression of love. This loving, others-focused, gospel aggression, is what it looks like when masculinity is redeemed.