Did you see that Gillette ad yet?
If not, you missed the commercial that’s getting more attention than the Beatles walking through a shopping mall.
If you have seen it, you might have either (1) gotten choked up by a needed cultural message or (2) purged your bathroom of every product with Gillette’s name on it.
Or maybe you just rolled your eyes at the latest outrage in our quick-to-rage digital age.
Just so we’re all on the same page, the new ad is about confronting men who allow/encourage violence, bullying, and sexual harassment. Whether Gillette implied that such men are rare in our society or the immoral majority is what the internet is currently debating.
And, trust me, they are debating!
So, what should Christians do? Should we jump into the digital fisticuffs and throw a few jabs in the comment section? Should we throw out our razors (and post the trash can pictures as proof)? Should we buy more Proctor & Gamble stock?
As Christians, I would suggest we approach this controversy (and all the controversies that are sure to come) from a uniquely Christian angle, something that sets us apart. Something that looks like light in a really dark time. Or tastes like salt in a world gone bland with constant criticism.
That angle might resemble these three passages:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
As God would have it, the team at Time of Grace studied this passage just minutes before I first heard of the commercial. We noticed the words “take note” (meaning this is easy to forget if you don’t jot it down on your heart), “everyone” (bloggers, commenters, toxic men, godly men, and you), and “quick to listen” (which is SO hard, isn’t it?).
As a guy for whom empathy does not come naturally, I have had to learn to be quicker to listen to people who have experienced things that I have not. Interviewing members of the LGBT community for a previous sermon series was one of the most powerful things I have done in ministry, an experience that I recounted in my book Gay and God. And hearing stories from women at my church who have been victims of godless men has opened my eyes to a great evil that lurks in too many families, businesses, and even churches.
I thought of those women when I first saw the commercial. I flashed back to their memories of men in their lives who left them deeply hurt and aching for men who were different, who were better.
So, before you react or comment, could you ask five women how their dads, brothers, boyfriends, husbands, pastors, and coworkers treated them? Whether Gillette is spot-on or dead wrong, you and I (and “everyone”) should be quick to listen.
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7).
The weaker partner? Sounds like pure patriarchy, doesn’t it?
What at first might seem like the ugly problem Gillette was trying to solve might be the answer to the problem itself. Women are, statistically, weaker than men. Not intellectually or emotionally or spiritually weaker (notice the “heirs with you” part). But when it comes to size and strength, the Center for Disease Control has reported that men, on average, are 6 inches taller and possess 27 pounds more of skeletal muscle.
(Note: I recently almost lost an arm wrestling match with a female friend who is a foot shorter than me and 50 pounds lighter, so there are plenty of exceptions!)
What does that data mean? That if the average man wants to, he can hurt the average woman. He can turn his size into a sinful advantage. No wonder Peter commands husbands to be considerate. No wonder he reminds them that they are heirs “with you” and not “beneath you” in God’s family. No wonder he threatens those men with hindered prayers if they mess with our Father’s daughters.
My point? Gillette is spotlighting something that the Bible itself addresses. There are inconsiderate, disrespectful, patronizing men. Even in the church. And they need to change.
Brothers, many of us need to change.
I don’t know about you, but when I look back at the culture I grew up in (1980s/1990s America), I am embarrassed by my behavior. Sexist, racist, and homophobic jokes were common. I heard them, laughed at them, even repeated them. For that, I feel ashamed. Even more, I feel mortified that the women who overheard those jokes might have known I was a Christian.
So, maybe Gillette’s ad is like a piece of fried chicken. There might be a bone of exaggeration in there that can choke you up. But there’s also some good meat for us to chew on. So, will we get angry about the bone? Or will we chew on a truth that God wants us to believe?
“So [Jesus] made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables” (John 2:15).
Jesus was a man. A real man. I can’t picture the Jesus of John 2 being too concerned about getting the smoothest shave.
Jesus was tough with the men who picked up stones to judge the woman caught in adultery. Yet tender with the little girls whom he blessed from the crowds.
Jesus was tough with the woman he forgave and then told her, “Stop sinning!” Yet tender with the man who wept like a little boy after denying his Lord three times.
Jesus was tough when he called both men and women to repent of their sins. Yet tender with them all when he hung on a cross so that our sins wouldn’t hinder our prayers.
Jesus’ hands, calloused from carpentry and scarred from going to war against the devil, will be the same gentle hands that will wipe every tear from our eyes.
Frankly, I don’t care if you grow the manliest beard on the block or if you shave your face smooth with a Gillette product. I don’t care if you boycott the company or like the YouTube ad.
But I do care if you are quick to listen, quick to love, and quick to run to the man who was also God.
That’s the best we all can get.
Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 in Madison and, most recently, at The CORE in Appleton, Wisconsin. He will also serve as the new lead speaker for Time of Grace after 2019, where he will share the good news about Jesus through television, print, and online platforms. Mike loves seeing people grasp the depth of God’s amazing grace and unstoppable mercy. His wife continues to love him (despite plenty of reasons not to), and his two daughters open his eyes to the love of God for every Christian. When not talking about Jesus or dating his wife/girls, Mike loves playing soccer, running, and reading.
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