How should we then live?
Introduction and background
This is the final part of our series of First Man Standing Bible studies. Over the past few weeks we have explore from the Bible themes of masculinity, relationships; including those with friends, our partner and children, and how we can change our society to challenge violence against women.
Today we finish the series with a Bible study on taking action. How should we live in the light of what we have learnt?
Aims of the study
To reflect on what the Bible says about taking action to follow up on our good intentions.
To discuss and agree an action plan so that we can make a difference in our relationships and in the wider world.
To think about how can we help each other to live our lives as First Men Standing. .
Icebreaker for groups: Creating a manifesto for change
This icebreaker sets the scene for the rest of the study. Imagine you are standing for a political party to build positive relationships and to end gender discrimination and abuse.
- Divide into pairs
- Decide the top three points in your manifesto
- Present these to the group.
Key Bible passages, reflection and questions for discussion
We will explore in this study:
- Why the Bible wants us to follow up words with prayer and action.
- What we can do in our relationships: to love and respect.
- What we can do in wider society: to challenge and be agents of change.
As part of this we ask every man who has been going through the bible studies to draw up a personal action plan.
1. Faith without works is dead
There is always a danger that if we learn about an issue, we feel that is enough, even if we don’t get round to doing anything about it. The Bible suggests otherwise:
“..faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”
The context of this verse is a person who sees someone without food and clothes, wishes them well but then does nothing to help them. In the same way, to the extent that we are aware of abuse and violence against women, we must act.
One word often associated with Jesus is compassion. It literally means to “suffer with.” Jesus was moved deeply by people that he met and his compassion moved him to action:
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14)
We are called to show compassion in the same way:
“Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness… “ (Colossians 3:12)
First Man Standing The First Man Standing campaign is built on three commitments:
Go to www.restoredrelationships.org/firstmanstanding to sign up if you haven’t already done so. And let’s see how these principles are worked out in the second and third parts of this Bible study.
2. Taking action in our relationships: love and respect
What is the greatest thing we can do to end violence against women? It is to be the change that we seek, to model love and respect to everyone we know and meet, and those we don’t. It starts with loving God. The Bible is clear that only in relationship with him can we develop hearts that have the capacity to reach out and love others.
We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)
God’s love to us overflows into all our relationships, with our wives, girlfriends, children, friends and work colleagues. As the Bible makes clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), it also extends to those we don’t know and even to our enemies.
“Love the Lord your God” (Mark 12:30
“Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 19:19)
“As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34)
“Husbands love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25)
“Love your enemies” (Luke 6:35)
“Love each other deeply” (1Peter 4:8)
The only things we are told not to love are money, the world and our own lives. As 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, without love we are nothing. Examine your heart to see how genuine your love is towards others.
It is not just people we know or come into contact with that we must love. To objectify and lust for a woman, we need first to deny at some level that she is a person - that she is a daughter, a sister, a human being as much as those who are close to us.
“Treat…older women as mothers and younger women as sisters with absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:2)
Spend some time in repentance and ask God to fill you with love and respect for all.
Living as a First Man Standing Restored has produced a resource called “Living as a First Man Standing” which explores how men can behave well towards women in the different contexts of their lives. Some examples are:
FAMILY MEMBER (SON, BROTHER, UNCLE ETC.)
3. Taking action in wider society
What does it mean to take action? A very familiar verse is:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31: 8-9)
Women affected by abuse are often hidden and deprived of a voice. Helping women to escape abuse may involve action at a wide range of levels:
- Campaigning for changes to the law or provision of services
- Supporting financially organisations addressing violence against women
If you are a member of a church, how can you help your church to be aware of issues of violence against women and to be a safe space for women affected by abuse. The Restored church pack (downloadable free at www.restoredrelationships.org/churchpack) gives lots of ideas from putting up posters and displaying information, to supporting local refuges and taking forward projects.
Restored Church check list
The Restored church pack (www.restoredrelationships.org/churchpack) has a series of actions your church can take. Why don’t you be the person to take the initiative to get them implemented? They include:
4. Being inspired and helping other men
What does good look like? We have highlighted the example of Jesus throughout this series as a man whom we can imitate and follow in all areas of life. Which other Biblical characters have inspired you?
We also need some role models in our own generation. That is why we have set up the firstmanstanding.com website:
firstmanstanding.com Restored has developed a website called firstmanstanding.com that celebrates all that is good in men. It includes stories of inspiring men and women who are modelling a commitment to gender equality and ending violence against women. It also has links to videos, talks and quotes that will encourage you on this journey.
The core of the website is a rolling wall of stories about ordinary men and women and those in the public eye submitted by members of the public. Why don’t you post a story on the website of someone who inspires you?
Other men need our support to work through these issues. We all need to have our attitudes and actions challenged. How can you share some of the things you have learned and help your friends to make progress on these issues?
“Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
For perpetrators of abuse, these issues are much more serious. They need friends who can challenge their behaviour, help them to repent and change and signpost them to places where they can get help. A good place to start is Respect (www.respect.uk.net).
Creating your own action plan So, what will you do? As you have been through these studies, what are the issues that have stood out for you? What do you think you could do to make a difference? Why not draw up an action plan with at least three points and a deadline for each. Here are some possible ideas:
Going deeper: Possible follow-up studies and action
Films and DVDs
Which are the films that inspire you to take action on behalf of the oppressed and those who are suffering? Some possible examples include:
Are there others you would recommend?
“Boundaries in Marriage” Dr Henry Cloud
“Scars across humanity” Dr Elaine Storkey (2015)