I asked my good friend Cameron Koehler to share his recent experience at Man Up 2012 Conference. He is one of the brightest guys I know, and more importantly, he loves the gospel and is a committed follower of Jesus Christ. If you’re a man striving to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself, I think you will find Cameron’s words extremely valuable. Thanks again Cam!
Most of the words that have real value in this are not my words at all. First and foremost, they belong to the Lord. Beyond that, though, they belong to the great men of faith who spoke at Man Up 2012.
When Brett asked me to write about my experience at the Man Up Conference, I thought about a lot of different angles that I could take in writing it. It was a Friday night and Saturday that were jam-packed with some amazing speakers, talks, experiences, and some sweet Christian rap. It’d be simple to just give you the information that I took away from it in the form of the notes that I took. I could go through the schedule of the weekend and talk about how each different session applied to my own life or how it should change the way we approach our faith. I could talk about the 9 “at-risk” middle school kids that we took with us to the conference and how it impacted or could impact them. I could even go beyond that and talk about how I can apply this to the 5 classes of “at-risk” students that I teach at my current job.
Because I just rambled about all that stuff though, I’m obviously not actually going to talk about any of it. The biggest impact I’ve seen since this conference has actually been within myself. It’s pretty tough to get a complete picture of that without giving you an entire rundown of what my life was before and what it is now, but you don’t want to sit through that. Trust me.
Luckily, though, I tend to be a major procrastinator. Many people think of this as a bad thing, and I guess it probably is. But it benefited me greatly when I decided to put off writing this for a good two weeks after Brett asked me to. Had I not waited to do this, I wouldn’t have been faced with the challenge that I was faced with over the past two days that can best illustrate what this conference truly meant to me.
Was it necessary for me to take this long to get to the actual story I want to tell? Absolutely not. But you made it this far, so here it is.
A couple of days ago I got an e-mail from one of my best friends and former college roommates. To give you a little background on our relationship, I got the e-mail from him because he, our other two roommates, and I take turns e-mailing each other every week to give updates on our lives since the four of us currently live in four different states across three different time zones. He’ll be getting married this summer, and I’ll be serving as the best man in the wedding while our other two old roommates will be groomsmen. To say that the four of us are close would be an understatement. Our relationship was one that was born with one thing in common: a love for Jesus.
So when he sent this e-mail to the rest of us, it came as quite a shock. He had been struggling with something for a while and told us that he had finally given in and committed the sin he had been wrestling with for so long. The problem was: none of us really knew about it. We didn’t even know about the struggle.
I immediately started thinking about the things I had learned while at the Man Up Conference and the things that I had been trying to put into action in my own life. One of the biggest takeaways of that weekend was the idea of passivity vs. compassion. Normally, people would not consider those two things opposites; however, the speaker at Man Up gave us two definitions that would prove that to be true. Passivity, as it was described, is the love for ourselves crowding out our love for others. It blows my mind how true that is and how necessary it is for us to realize it. People often look at passivity as a good thing – it means someone is meek, gentle, etc. In reality, though, it just means that we as men and as Christians are too scared of what someone is going to think of us to actually do something. To be compassionate means that we couldn’t care less what someone thinks of us, we just do what is in the best interest of others.
So in a situation where I knew my best friend did something wrong, I had to choose between being passive and being compassionate. Yesterday, I made one of the most difficult phone calls of my life. I called him to tell him “I’m not OK with this, and here’s why.”
When something has been done already, there’s not really much to do about it. So I could have easily just let it go. But, as I told my friend, I would not feel comfortable calling myself his “best man” if I could not be totally honest with him, especially when it came to our faith.
I said that I totally disagreed with what he had done, and I didn’t want him to be OK with it. Yes, we all mess up, but it doesn’t mean that messing up should just be taken lightly. While I was telling him this, though, I let him know that it was only because I loved him way too much to not say it. I felt like for one of the first times in my life, I had displayed true compassion. I told him that he could be mad at me and hate me all he wanted, but I was not going to be OK with keeping my mouth shut.
But if we all mess up, what makes it so wrong? This was something that I shared with him as well, and something that was so well articulated at Man Up. Jesus died for our sins, and I like to think that my Christian friends know at least that much. But for people who are so unworthy of being saved and so unworthy of God’s grace, Jesus put value in us when he died for us. As we struggle with different sins, we often get to the point where we just have to decide whether or not we are going to do things. There are definitely things that just kind of slip, but that is only through making that wrong decision over and over to the point where it becomes “normal” for you. When we make that decision to sin, though, we are saying that we have no value in Christ. What he did for us meant nothing to us. We are claiming to be worthless even though he has put worth in us. Who are we to say that Jesus doesn’t know what he’s talking about?
And while Jesus is fully God, he was also fully man. That means that the temptation that we face and feel are ones that he had to face and feel in the same way. As a man. Don’t take this the wrong way, but sometimes we put too much stock into the “fully God” part, and we ignore the “fully man” part. A man resisted every temptation he faced, and all we do as men (and women) is chalk everything up to “Everyone makes mistakes” and “Nobody’s perfect.” Someone did not make mistakes in his time on Earth, and someone was perfect. He was the ultimate example of compassion over passivity, and he has put value in us and our attempt to do the same. If I could sum up the conference in three different big ideas, it would be those.
It was exciting to me to be able to apply this to my actual life, but I can’t say I wasn’t scared to actually do it. After I told my friend all of these things, though, he could do nothing but thank me. He had written us that e-mail in hopes that someone would call and say that we did not approve. One of the last things he said in that conversation was, “Thanks for saying all the hard stuff.”
While the conference was a great weekend, it’s the ways I can play it out in my life now that show how much it actually meant. It is so great to feel the Lord working through me, something that I never really got to experience as a passive Christian who denied his value in Christ. It’s definitely a challenge, but a challenge that’s worth accepting.