Loving Men

Thirty men came from all over the USA to a secluded ranch in the wooded hills of eastern Oklahoma. No one knew everyone. Some knew a few. Others, no one. They gathered for one key reason; to hear from Jesus. To listen to the Holy Spirit speak truth into their lives. To disrupt complacency, to restore brokenness. To validate and champion souls. 

Spring Valley Ranch- Oklahoma

Few Men Truly Love

Most men rarely, if ever, gather as these men did. Over the course of those four days, there was tons of laughter, brotherly jesting, focused listening, long periods of silence, and yes, tears. Men praying together. Listening to each other. There is something about being heard, about being known. Few men these days go through life with such depth. 

Worth Knowing

My own manhood journey began in early adolescence feeling as if I was in the way, an inconvenience and not worth knowing. It explains why I had only one date in high school and by age 25 concluded no woman would ever want to marry me; I wasn’t worth knowing. Oh, how I was deceived. The Enemy knew how to deter this otherwise glorious heart. 

Love one another with brotherly affection. Romans 12:10 ESV

Lost Affections

One of the lost qualities of genuine male relationships is affection. Our culture has so sexualized any form of man to man affection that we conclude two men engaged in physical contact are automatically homosexual. Several years ago, I was in Athens, Greece, playing tourist in the Plaka District, just below the Acropolis. One souvenir shop was filled with reprints of ancient Greek art. A closer look discovered most of it was ancient male homosexual pornography.  Men having sex with other men. Men having sex with adolescent boys. (In ancient Greek culture, it was considered an older man’s duty to show a boy coming into his own sexual development how to have sex by having sex with him.) It was on coffee mugs, t-shirts, wall paintings, even in a bowl of condoms at the cash register. No, I hadn’t stumbled into an X-rated adult store. This was a Greek souvenir store with plenty of other non-homosexual souvenirs. The entire experience opened my eyes to why Paul wrote what he did in his letters to Corinth and Rome. 

Plaka District- Athens, Greece

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians (Corinth is just west of Athens), and to the Romans, telling them that Jesus-followers are to love each other with “brotherly affection”, he was fully aware of the homosexually-drenched culture they lived in. Brotherly affection was a radical move that meant deeper bonds between men that surpassed the sexualized understanding of male-to-male relationships. The reason?  Jesus. 

Supernatural Bonds

How is it that 30 men who barely knew each other can gather from all over the States, spend four days together and come away loving each other more?  The earthly diversity of these men screams animosity, disunity, and factions. Scripture is clear that there is far more going on than meets the eye. The reason these 30 men grew closer to each other in merely four days is because of the bond they shared in Jesus. This is not some tongue-in-cheek cliche. This is all about a deep spiritual reality few men latch on to; even in the church. God, in Christ, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit living in these men. That doesn’t infer perfection, but a level of hope that most men long for, but rarely find.

Words and Hands of Affirmation

Vulnerable Manhood

At the close of the retreat weekend, men were encouraged to speak words of affirmation directly to another man. They were to speak of something God used the other to speak into their life. Every man was called to speak. Words were passed back and forth. At one point, a middle-aged man broke down, thanking another man for speaking truth and love into his life. The two stood and embraced. Pats on the back. Affirming words. 

A while later, after several other men spoke directly to another, a younger man spoke of his fatherless adolescent years. His longing to be affirmed, validated in his early manhood. About then, an older man stood up and approached this young warrior. “Stand up.” The two embraced and the older man spoke words of affirmation. 

“I am incredibly proud of you. You are being shaped by God. I love you, like a son. 

You mean so much to me”

The young man, with tears, embraced the older man harder and said “I love you too.”

The other 28 men in the room applauded. A voice in the back of the room shouted out “Of all my years of counseling men, of being involved in men’s groups, I’ve never seen such vulnerability as I have this weekend. Men, you just saw the level of vulnerability that is seen in real manhood. You can’t get more manly than what you just saw.”

What Your Soul Longs For

Don’t kid yourself. Set aside the posing, the posturing. Admit it, deep in your soul, since you were a boy, you’ve longed to be known, to be loved unconditionally. As Jesus so aptly showed us, true love comes when we choose to be vulnerable. 

Jesus, help me love other men the way you do.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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