Is Grace Unmanly?
Last week one of my fellow staff members at Grace forwarded an article to me on five daily habits that Jocko Willink believes can change your life. Who is Jocko Willink, you ask? Willink is the retired Navy SEAL commander of the most decorated special forces unit in the Iraq War. After well-received appearances on Tim Ferriss’ and Joe Rogan’s podcasts, Willink began his own, which has become wildly successful. In addition to podcasting, Willink runs a business consulting and leadership development company called Echelon Front and has written a few books. He is a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. In short, he oozes credibility. Clearly, people — particularly men — are interested in what he has to say.
As the Training & Spiritual Growth Pastor at Grace, and also having some involvement in ministry to men, I’m intruigued by Willink’s approach to leadership and life. Why does his message of action, ownership, and discipline (Willink coined the phrase “discipline equals freedom”) so stir the hearts of those with a Y chromosome? My guess is that one key element of his success is that he challenges men and demonstrates, through his own life, the value of accepting that challenge. He taps into the desire of so many men to take the proverbial hill in an era when these same men’s lives feel a bit too safe — and then he shows them how good the top of the hill is.
In the Christian faith, we are right to emphasize the centrality of grace and the inability of works to merit justification. The trick is that we sometimes make an illegitimate jump from embracing grace to embracing inaction. There may be no permanent solution to this problem, for it is natural for us to say to ourselves, “If we can’t earn salvation, and if even sanctification is not driven by human effort (John 15:5; Philippians 2:12,13), then let’s make sure we don’t overdo the doing of things.” I get it; I really do. But when we minimize the importance of action in Christ’s mission, we may end up minimizing the power of grace.
Is it possible that we might lack zeal not because we’ve made too much of grace but because we’ve made too little of it? I’ve come to believe that the more deeply we understand Christ’s grace for us, the freer we feel to pursue true righteousness. Those who miss the sufficiency of Christ’s grace get stuck in the past, in the future, and in their efforts to justify themselves. Those who understand Christ’s grace come alive to the true agenda God has set for them (see Ephesians 2:8–10) rather than their own subtly narcissistic pursuits aimed at making themselves feel OK. “Getting” grace drops the weight off our back and enables us to walk and even run forward into the fierce battles we face (Ephesians 6:10–13), “not [being] slothful in zeal, [but being] fervent in spirit” (Romans 12:11). In the end, receiving God’s grace makes us not passive but strong in Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
What do you think? Does emphasizing grace make Christians weak, strong, or some combination of the two? Is the grace message antithetical to manhood? Leave us a comment below.
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Beau Stanley and his wife, Stacey, both grew up in the Columbus area and have been part of Grace Polaris Church for most of their lives. Beau joined the Grace staff in 2007 after theology studies in the Chicago area and in Phoenix (Phoenix Seminary). Prior to that, he studied commerce (University of Virginia) and worked in the financial industry, including a role as an investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs in New York City. Beau is a fitness enthusiast and also enjoys music and learning about diverse topics. Beau and Stacey have two young boys.