Hey, Christian! Leave that man alone! (pt. 1)

THE SCENARIO: During a time of congregational singing in a Sunday morning service a young man leaves his seat, makes his way to the front of the room, and kneels to pray. His praying appears passionate but not overly emotional.

QUESTION: What do you do?

ANSWER: Nothing—at least not immediately.

This scenario played itself out in one of our worship services recently. Two things came to mind upon further reflection, the first anecdotal the second pastoral.

First, gender differences play a (big) part in the way we respond to spiritual phenomena. More than one of our women commented on their desire to see someone (i.e. a man) go down to assist the young man. As the situation was unfolding, one of our women came and told me to “go put your arm around that man.” After the service another woman commented on how hard it was to watch the man kneeling alone as she resisted the urge to join him. At least one more wondered aloud (but not to me) why, being so close to the action, I would just sit there like a bump on a log.

Nothing like this was heard from the men. One of our men assisted the young penitent after a couple of minutes & another commented that God was evidently at work in the service but that was the extent of the masculine response.

Now it can be tempting to equate the feminine impulse to help with spiritual sensitivity. Conversely, we might label the unresponsive men as testosterone-laden dullards who wouldn’t recognize the Holy Spirit at work if He knocked them to the ground & made them bark.

But what if the women weren’t acting according to the Spirit but according to their nature? Maybe the women were just being women—showing empathy, sharing an experience, offering comfort, etc. In that case the typical woman would be no more or less spiritual in her yearnings than the typical man would be in his (supposed) aloofness. Further, if the reaction is “natural” mightn’t it also be wrong?


Disclaimer: The author understands that this post draws on gender stereotypes and that stereotypes are not universal laws. Not all women are equal in their emoting; not all men are equal in their cold, callous disregard of human feeling. The ruminations in this post belong to the author alone and should not be attributed to any church, denomination, or faith. –The Administrator


Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Lead pastor at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian, theological Luddite, and long-suffering Atlanta Falcons fan. A student of one book.

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