I love NFL football. Right now rookies are in training camps and preseason games, with their heads buried in the team's playbook.
This has always fascinated me, because it's always the same with the rookies making the jump from college to the pros. If they don't know the plays they're tentative on the field. If they have to think too much about what they are supposed to do, it slows them down. A player can have all the talent in the world, but without knowing their plays and assignments they can't go full speed.
This is like where we're at as a culture right now in regards to manhood. We have lost what it means to be a man. We have the tools and everything we need is wired within us, but since we don't know confidently what it means to be a man, we move slower, tentatively.
We don't know the playbook well.
Society has taught us a million things about what is means to be a man. We've lost track of God in all of it, and as a result, we've lost track of who we are. We were made to be men of God, adopted sons of the King of Kings. This should be reflected in everything we say and do.
One of the ways we've gone off track is that we have a false idea of what it means to love your neighbor.
Love Your Neighbor
We live in a culture of relativism. This is the belief that there is no universal truth, and that truth differs from person to person.
As a result, 'loving your neighbor' has become more of a general accepting of someone for everything they choose to be and do. This idea is summed up as the great 'virtue' of tolerance. On the surface, it seems like a great and honorable ideal. Everyone can do what they want without being judged and nobody hurts anyone else’s feelings.
Yet we find something radically different in the biblical vision of love. In the gospel of John, Jesus says 'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends' (John 15:13).
Love is tied to responsibility to others; we should desire to lead our brothers and sisters to Christ. Jesus didn't say, 'No one has greater love than this, to accept and support every action and choice your friend makes.' It's not just about our personal journey to heaven.
We are the Body of Christ and as a community we are our brother's keeper. We should always live with heaven as our goal, and desire it for those around us.
Love is Bold
2 Timothy 1:7 says 'For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice (timidity) but rather of power and love and self-control.'
Let me tell you about a high school student name John. The summer after he graduated from High School he was working construction with his best friend. John was also dating a girl behind both of their parents’ backs. She had just finished sophomore year. Near the end of the summer they had decided to have sex. John was 18 so he reserved a hotel room in another town and had planned the whole evening, including how to lie to their parents.
The day before this was going to happen, John decided to mention it to his best friend at work. They both went to Church but neither was really trying to follow God at that moment in their lives. So when John told him his plans he expected some support.
However, instead of the support John had expected, his friend quickly turned, “You’re being stupid and I will NOT let you do this!” He said it so strongly that John was shocked and angered and they got into a huge argument. They were in each others’ faces screaming and cussing at each other. The last straw came when John shouted at him, “And just how do you think you’ll stop me?!” His friend replied calmly, “I’ll call your mom and tell her.”
John told him that he would not be his friend any longer and he replied that he was fine with that. That he would rather lose John's friendship then stand by as he sinned by having pre-marital sex. John walked away very angry and their relationship was strained. John left for college and things were not ever the same. John did not follow through with his plans that weekend.
Was it worth it?
The best part of this story though is that four years later when John was standing at the altar of a church, watching his bride come down the aisle toward him in her white dress, he knew he had that friend to thank for being so willing to love him boldly back in High School.
That friend was a groomsman in the wedding party so John was able to thank him personally. If not for him, John wouldn't have been able to give the gift of his virginity and his entire self to his wife.
John would later become the youth minister that changed my life forever, introducing me to Jesus Christ and the beauty of the Catholic faith. My life has never been the same since.
You never know how much good you can do by calling on your brothers and sisters to the greatness they were created for. Love isn't timid. Love is bold, especially when it's messy. Sin (and it's consequences) doesn't just affect one person. It affects their family, future spouse and children, and in my case, a future teen who needed to hear the Truth.
'There is no place for selfishness – and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice' -Pope John Paul II
Don't be afraid to fail. It's better to be a man of action and face the loss of a friendship than to be a coward and let someone fall. Our brothers and sisters deserve nothing less from us.
With the grace of God, we all can become the men of God we were made to be. Pray for an outpouring of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life, so that you can recognize the times God could be calling you to speak to someone around you.
As St. Peter warns, when you do speak, speak with 'gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil' (1 Peter 3:16-17).