Another day, another murder. Another report of random violence. ISIS. “The Knockout Game”. It makes me wonder; why does it seem like evil is being advanced without a fight? Without fear of reprisal? While I am sure there are many reasons, one rises to the surface for me: Our society has succeeded in removing the influence and diminishing the necessity of what George Orwell called ‘rough men’. What are rough men? Simply put, they are a breed of man that does not suffer fools or foolishness, the kind of man that evil men fear. And they have been put into short supply by a society that abhors masculinity, preferring the clean shaven, suit and tie diplomacy that causes evil to snort in dismissive derision. Orwell said, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” That is absolutely correct. There is a violence that puts fear into the heart of evil like nothing else will, causing it to think twice before committing atrocities, knowing that the reprisal just might. not. be. worth. it. These men aren’t always on the bleeding edge of violence; no, indeed, they desire to be men of peace, so long as it depends upon them. But when evil raises its ugly head, rough men are ready to crush that head underfoot, with fierce intentionality and firm resolve; and there are forms of evil that will shrink back from nothing else.
There are certain types of evil that simply will not accept grace on the front end; in fact, certain forms of evil see ‘graciousness’ as weakness. However, if you picked a fight with a man, and when he turned, you discovered that you had picked the fight with Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Ali in his prime, or a Navy Seal, you might be far quicker to accept any offer of grace they put forth. Why? Because you’d know full well that they could kick your teeth in with little effort. In other words, many times the threat of force from someone proven to be able to dispense it is enough…for thinking people.
Yet there are those who just won’t reason, and for those, that threat of force must BECOME force, and the kind of force that is unrelenting until the lesson is learned. That is where rough men come in. They do not wish to fight, but they can, and realize that sometimes they must…and when that time comes, they lean into it with a firm resolve to push forward until the evil they fight is either placated or eradicated.
But our society has deemed this kind of man as incompatible with goodness and rightness. Our society could not be more wrong. Violence is never preferrable, but it IS necessary in the world we find ourselves. And only rough men stand ready to do what is necessary to keep evil not only at bay, but underfoot.
Alas, as CS Lewis so aptly put it in his wonderful book “The Abolition of Man”:
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
Lewis wrote this piece in 1943, an irony, really, since that was the time in which the generation we call the Greatest Generation earned its moniker, triumphing over Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan. These men carried with them the honor, intestinal fortitude, and the courage to be what they needed to be, and do what needed to be done, in order to drive evil back into its dark abyss. Yet even in this time, societal elites scoffed at these rough men. In truth, there have always been those who see no need to act like any more than sheep, even as the wolves are tearing at the door. Men like CS Lewis knew this, and called it for what it was. In this, one of my favorite scenes from one of the best westerns of all time, Charlie Waite knows it too, and puts it a little differently:
Truthfully, in every age since the dawn of man, societies have tended to look with a wary eye toward the rough man. That is, until society needs them. Allow me to relay to you one of my favorite stories, from the pages of scripture, to illustrate my point.
Jephthah the Gileadite was one tough warrior. He was the son of a whore, but Gilead was his father. Meanwhile Gilead’s legal wife had given him other sons, and when they grew up, his wife’s sons threw Jephthah out. They told him: “You’re not getting any of our family inheritance—you’re the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and went to live in the land of Tob. Some riffraff joined him and went around with him.
Some time passed. And then the Ammonites started fighting Israel. With the Ammonites at war with them, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. They said to Jephthah: “Come. Be our general and we’ll fight the Ammonites.”
But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead: “But you hate me. You kicked me out of my family home. So why are you coming to me now? Because you are in trouble. Right?”
The elders of Gilead replied, “That’s it exactly. We’ve come to you to get you to go with us and fight the Ammonites. You’ll be the head of all of us, all the Gileadites.”
Jephthah addressed the elders of Gilead, “So if you bring me back home to fight the Ammonites and God gives them to me, I’ll be your head—is that right?”
They said, “God is witness between us; whatever you say, we’ll do.” Jephthah went along with the elders of Gilead. The people made him their top man and general.- Judges 11, the Message
I love Jephthah. His story reminds me of several things:
First, Jephthah was “one tough warrior”(gotta love Eugene Petersen!). That’s the very first thing God wants us to know about Jephthah. Not that he was ‘there every time the doors were open’. Not that he was a 10%+ tither. Not that he led bible studies. Nope. God’s first description is that Jephthah was a warrior. Jephthah’s reputation came from the trenches, not the temples. There’s something very important to see there, I believe. Jephthah wasn’t a warrior because he’d been to warrior classes and gotten his ‘warrior badge’. Jephthah was widely known as a great warrior because he was always the one neck deep in battle, neck deep in muck, fighting for his tribe, his men, his family.
The second thing that is mentioned is that Jephthah was the son of a whore. Now why would the writer see the need to put THAT little tidbit right in there, right after praising his prowess on the battlefield? At any rate, Jephthah’s warrior status was completely overshadowed by his ‘son-of-a-bitch’ status. Yes, that’s what I meant to write. That’s what his tribe saw him as. His own flesh and blood. His family cast him out because of his father’s indiscretion. Incredible…or is it? Is it really hard to believe that people could overlook what is good about a man, in favor of the shadow that man carries? Do we not see this all the time?
The true essences of men have been well known since the dawn of time. In more modern times, those virtues of men, those core things to a man have been overlooked, even looked down upon, and rough men have been increasingly treated like ‘sons of bitches’, and have been told to leave, or leave their manhood at the door.
So we, like Jephthah, have been cast out of society. Society no longer seems to want men the way God made them. They want soft men, ‘nice’ men, complacent men, hairless men. The silver screens, both in theater and in the home, trumpet the soft, effeminate man, and pounce fiercely upon the real men. Any channel surfer over the last several years can tell you that very few programs made popular by women contain any real, good, men. The men are paraded around in tar and feathers, a walking, talking, fumbling, bumbling gag. A joke.
But something happens. War comes to the tribe of Gilead. War is upon them, and the first thing they do is go and find…Jephthah. The SOB. The outcast. Now, NOW they want, no, NEED, a fighter, and Jephthah is on to them:
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….let me get this straight here: You kicked me out, you HATED me, and now-NOW you want me to get YOU out of a jam? Really?”
In times of either peace, or just perceived peace, warriors aren’t welcome. They stink, they’re a little too barbaric for all the ‘civilized’ folk. Heck, the Roman Empire forbid the soldiers of Rome to GO to Rome, for pity’s sake! Why? Well, because they upset our delicate little facade, that’s why! But boy, oh boy, the civilized sure do want the warrior around when the fit hits the shan. It’s a wonder any warrior does what he does.
But a warrior fights. It’s what a warrior was born to do. Bred to do. And thank God that there are still real Warriors out there, who don’t give in to the push to civilize them. That fight regardless of what ‘civilized’ folk may say about them. Who fight for their people even while their people hate them, shun them, and shame them.
Because to be a warrior is to see the larger picture. To understand that we are a world at war. From the dawn of time until now, the world has been thrust into a War of the Ages. Some have chosen not to acknowledge the battle raging around them, choosing to close their eyes and believe…whatever they want to believe. Bad luck. Rough day. Just the way it is. Or God’s mad at me.
No, Warriors. We know the Truth. And the Truth has truly set us free. We fight, because some things are worth fighting for. We fight, because our Father fights. And we love our Father. We fight for His Heart. We fight to protect. Even those who hate us. Because even if they don’t see it, they need the warriors.
Maybe you don’t see yourself as a warrior. Maybe you’ve been groomed since childhood to be a toothless, nice little boy who never defends himself. And you hate yourself. You can’t even begin to understand why you do, you just do. You blow up in anger for little to no reason. You bottle up violence until violence explodes in a way it was never designed.
You’re not alone.
Millions of men feel the same way you do. A growing number are beginning to see the ways they’ve been lied to and deceived about who they truly are. And those men are finding freedom in what God made them to be. Warrior Outcasts.
Warrior Outcasts. Be proud of the name. The Lord is a Warrior, after all. And the Lord knows what it feels like to be an Outcast. He’s got the scars to prove both.
He was a man misunderstood, maligned, and dismissed. He was brutalized, cast out, and murdered by a kangaroo court. But the Warrior fought back. Not against the men and women who demanded his execution; not against the Romans who carried it out. No. Christ knew where the battle lay, and he went there. To the pits. And there, he showed himself fierce, bold, and unyeilding. Without mercy or compromise, he fought the one who had brought hell and death to earth, and he won. He pried the keys of death and hell out of the hand of a tremendous foe, and struck fear into the heart of the underworld.
We are of that glorious stock, dear men. We have his aura, his manhood, stamped on us. Darkness fears you. Hell can’t stop you. But it can lie. It can make a very logical argument that, as history has proven, will trap you in a prison made from those lies.
Men: You know those characters, those historical figures, those mythical men that bring something out in you when you read about them? When you watch them in your favorite movie? The reason their heroism moves you is that you ARE that man. You’ve just forgotten who you are.
“Simba, you have forgotten me.”
“No, Father, I could never forget you!”
“You have forgotten who you are, and therefore have forgotten me. You are my Son, and a true King. Remember who you are…remember…remember…”
My all time favorite scene from one of my all time favorite movies, the Lion King. Do yourself a favor tonight, or whenever it is that you read this. Read the scene out loud. Write it down. But do this: Put YOUR name in place of Simba’s. And remember.
It’s a shame what’s happening to our society.
We can do something about it.
But, you say, I’m just a businessman. A plumber. A college student. A preacher.
You’re men, aint’cha?