Jeff Eagan reflects on what it means to be a Christian man when your family is in danger.
At 3 o’clock this morning, I was certain there was an intruder in my house. I deduced—in my somnolent state—that it was a homeless man who had wandered in from the street, as I often keep the doors unlocked. Oddly though, this homeless intruder was rasply laughing—perhaps he thought it funny that he was in my house. The laughing was rhythmic. My mind immediately jumped to the clown from “IT.” Yes, I was certain Pennywise the Dancing Clown was in my home plotting some sort of evil against my family.
I shot up out of bed, thinking about my kids sleeping upstairs. “What in the world is someone doing standing inside my front door just laughing to himself?”, I thought. I didn’t want to freak-out my wife, so I got out of bed and started towards the stairs.
In situations like these, men often think that the manly thing to do is to fight anyone who would dare mess with their house or their family. We rationalize this as Christians by pointing to God in the Old Testament, to Jesus clearing out the temple with a whip, or worse yet, Jesus returning on horseback, his white garments stained with the blood of evildoers. I think these images are off base. Jesus, more often than not, taught us that the truly manly thing to do is to love the evil out of the world.
So as I exited the bedroom, cautiously, I started thinking about how the inevitable interaction was going to look. After all, I pride myself on being a non-violent Christian man. How I handled this situation with the now homeless clown was going to be telling of my true character.
I took a few more steps up the stairs and noticed the front door was dead-bolted. Jessey, my wife, must have locked the front door. Then I observed that the back door was slightly open and I started freaking out. Two more steps up the stairs and I realized that the laughter was not coming from upstairs. It was behind me. As I was groggy—it was 3 in the morning—I shrugged and went back to bed. When I got back into bed, I heard the laughter again, only to then realize it was Jessey, snoring.
Even though there wasn’t a homeless laughing clown in my house, I kept thinking about how I would respond as a Christian man to a situation as extreme as an intruder in my house. I really wasn’t sure how to think about it. Non-violence is never easy. If there had been a creepy, It-like, homeless guy in my house, what would I have done and what would have been the right thing to do?
Jesus often implied and sometimes explicitly stated that fighting was the weaker option. The truly strong person chooses a higher road, one of non-violence. The manliest and most challenging thing that Jesus ever taught us to do is to love our enemies, and pray for the one’s who persecute us. To turn the other cheek. To walk an extra mile. To give to the one who asks something of us without expecting anything in return. Not to fight for our friends but to die for them.
I hope in the end I would have discovered that I love my family enough to resist evil by refusing to fight, even if it means to die for them. That I would have loved my enemy enough that I would refuse to do him harm. I want my children to grow up knowing the way of Jesus, and to be an example of his way for them. And his way, I think, is to do everything in my power to remain at peace with everyone, and to let God be in charge of the outcome of any situation.
I think the fake homeless man in my entryway taught me what it means to really be a Christian man. He taught me that the way of Jesus, submitting to evil even to the point of death, is the only way that anything will ever change. I am grateful for the fake intrusion this morning. It challenged me to be who I say that I am.
Photo via flickr/Loïc BROHARD