Where are the men? That is a cry we are hearing with increasing regularity in society, the church and the home here in the 21st century. Since at least the 1960s there has been a growing spiritual leadership void — left because men seem to be abandoning the traditional roles that had characterized them in the past. We need to look no further than the newspaper or evening news to see the result of this abdication — crime is on the rise, illegitimacy is ram-pant and the fabric of society is badly frayed. Yet my purpose is not to point an accusing finger at the men and say shame on you. Rather I would like us to understand the reasons for this masculine leadership vacuum and then offer a biblical solution to this most vexing concern.
I am convinced the spiritual leadership void is a result of wounded men who have become unable to deal with their woundedness in constructive, biblical ways.
In his best selling book, The Road Less Travelled, author M. Scott Peck opens with this telling line: “Life is difficult.” And because we live in a difficult, sin-scarred world, people are going to be wounded by life. That is true for all of us, but I want us to focus on the men this morning. Because life is tough, men will be wounded.
Ted Dobson writes: “There is a tear in the masculine soul — a gaping hole that leads to profound insecurity.” That wound may be caused by a myriad of things — a realization that he will never become all he has dreamed he would be; a realization that his marriage is not a storybook fairytale (Cinderella wakes with morning breath); a nagging fear that he will be unable to provide for the needs of his family; the sinking awareness that his physical condition is growing weaker; an awareness that life is not turning out the way he planned. Compound this with individual wounding — divorce, lose of job, heart attack or cancer — and suddenly the strongest of men realizes that no one gets out of this world alive. “Consequently,” observes Dobson, “men do not know who they are as men.”
Woundedness is part of what comes with being a man. Life will wound us all to a greater or lesser extent. The problem is not the wounding but how we respond to it. There was a time when we were better equipped to travel along the healing road, today various factors are conspiring to exacerbate the wound and keep men from finding the way through the wilderness. I would highlight just three.
First is our upbringing. We have been raised with the notion that men don’t cry. We have been led to snuff our emotions; to bury our pain and to deny our hurts. As a result many men are walking emotional volcanoes. Secondly, our sexuality is under attack. The advent of radical feminism has left many men confused about the way we should relate to the opposite sex. Should we be strong or sensitive? Passive or powerful? Society is sending us mixed messages and we aren’t sure how to behave anymore. Finally culture itself seems to be working against us. Society is changing far too rapidly. And as one observer writes: “Men…have not developed the needed spiritual and psycho-social support systems to deal with the rapid rates of change in our society.” We don’t know sometimes which end is up.
Loneliness, anger and a sense of powerlessness sap any available energy that could be channeled into spiritual leadership. Many men are just too drained spiritually and emotionally to be leaders in spiritual matters.
To compensate or to cope with this loss of spiritual and emotional energy, more and more men are finding increasingly destructive ways of handling their woundedness. Some men throw themselves into their work — choosing to define themselves by what they do, who they know and what they own. Others fall prey to addictions: alcohol, drugs, sex or other things they believe will give them relief from day-to-day pressures. Some cope with powerlessness in society by wielding power in the home. Here is one root of abuse — physical, sexual and emotional. And some men just crack-up. I have dealt with some men who find a stay in the psychiatric hospital the last stop on the journey through the wilderness of wounding.
A way out of that wilderness of wounding is illustrated in the life of Peter. Peter is quick to open his mouth and insert foot. Ready, at least in theory, to confront any challenge. But we know how the story turned out that night in the high priest’s courtyard. Faced with the options, he denied Jesus three times.
So the Peter we meet in John 21 is the quintessential wounded man. His world had collapsed around him. He could have easily chosen one of the many wanderings we have looked at already. He could have withdrawn from everything and everyone, he could have drowned his sorrow in the wine bottle. He could have sunk into a deep depression that might have even made him consider Judas’ option of suicide. Yet I find three things here which lead Peter out of the wilderness of wounding and back into a place of spiritual leadership. Three things that will help today’s men find their way back to vital spiritual growth and service. In John 21, we see Peter reconnected, restored and recommissioned.
First Peter gets reconnected. Notice that Peter doesn’t withdraw from the other disciples. He gathers with them and shares his wounds. They, too, had abandoned Jesus when He needed them. This is an important thing for men to do today. We need to dispel that myth of the Lone Ranger. We need the support of other godly men, men with whom we feel comfortable sharing our wounds.
Following the breakup of my engagement I needed to seek out my friends for support. I flew out to New York to share with them my hurts and pain. I could have — in fact I wanted — to crawl away and hide, but they wouldn’t let me. By reconnecting with men who understood me, I was able to find a sense of balance in the situation. All of us need to find one or two good friends with whom we can share the deeper things with. We need to move beyond fishing buddies to spiritual companions. Men, we need to reconnect!
Second we see Peter restored. The walk with Jesus along the shoreline is one of the most wonderful stories in the gospels. Here we see Jesus offering Peter healing for his wounds. Three times (once for each denial) Jesus asks “Do you love me?” And Peter embraced the healing with the words “Yes, Lord.”
God offers us the same healing for our brokenness. We as men need to swallow our foolish pride and let God touch our wounds and bring healing. As Paul reminds us: God’s grace is sufficient for our needs. His strength is perfected in our weaknesses. Only God can heal our woundedness. Men, we need to seek restoration!
Third we see Peter recommissioned. Notice how Jesus responds to Peter’s statements of love. “Feed my sheep. Care for my sheep.” Jesus was calling Peter to reassume his place of leadership among the disciples and in the church. And we know from the book of Acts that is exactly what Peter did. Out of his brokenness, God forged a mighty instrument for the spread of the gospel.
That is a message men need to hear today. God can still use us in spite of or even because of woundedness. Once we have been restored by His grace, we are called back to places of leadership in the home and in the church. It is time for us to reassume the mantle of spiritual headship. We need godly men to bring our children up in the true knowledge of the faith. We need godly men who will assume roles of leadership in the church — as elders, deacons, teachers, and helpers. And we need godly men of vision who will take the deeper things of the Spirit into the marketplace of ideas. Men, it is time for a recommissioning!
Never has the need been so great as today. The need for men to bring their wounds to Jesus, the wounded healer, for restoration. The need to build relationships with other men of God for support and growth. The need for men to carry the banner of God’s truth into our homes, our churches and our world. Now is the hour to leave the wanderings in the wilderness of woundedness. Now is the hour when men of God need to stand up for what is right. Now is the hour to answer the question of Jesus: “Do you love me?” Men of God will we feed His sheep?

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