Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, was s tough, demanding coach, who brought the best out of his players. But he also cared for each of them. He pushed them to reach their potential as men and football players . He also saw the need for pro football players to care for each other as a team. He talked about “love.” “You’ve got to care for one another. You have to love another. Each player has to be thinking about the next guy. The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these players have for one another. Most people call it team spirit. When the players are imbued with that special feeling you know you have yourself a winning team.”
Often you hear players use terms like “the brotherhood” or even “the family” when they talk about their teammates. This is evidence of genuine affection for each other. This kind of a culture is cultivated over a period of time by a relationally aware coach. Real “team chemistry” happens when the players stop being simply individuals and begin to care for each other as a teammates. These “bonds of a brotherhood” can take a team to victory in the midst of adversity. The bonds can be the difference between victory or defeat. College sports can make a man out of a boy, through the bonds of brotherhood.
Paul spoke of having “a fond affection” for those with whom he shared the gospel. “We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleasing to impart to you not only the Gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” ( I Thess. 2:7-8). The Phillips translation says, “Our attitude among you was one of tenderness….because we loved you.” “Fond affection” describes the tenderness between a mother and her nursing child. Paul, the strong, courageous apostle uses the language of the nursery and child care to express his fond affections for the believers in Thessalonica. Paul was not afraid to show his heart-felt affection. The Message tells us Paul was not “patronizing, never condescending.” It was genuine and heart felt. His attitude communicated affection.
This is the language of tenderness, rather then being seen as soft. There is a difference. Strong men can have a tender heart. Men, we can connect from our heart, and not be seen as a feminized, wimpy man. I remember reading Robert Bly’s description of a “soft male.” “The sensitive man of the 90’s is fine tuned, ecologically superior to his father, sympathetic to the whole harmony of the universe, unwilling to start wars or hurt anyone; yet himself has little energy to offer. Too often he is life preserving but not exactly life-giving.” I knew then, that I wanted to be tender, but not soft. I wanted to project masculine energy that was life-preserving, not a timid, apologetic, a so called “sensitivity” presence.
In the past, I have felt the disapprove of women, who have interpreted my firmness as being harsh and condescending, in my role as pastor. I felt judge for speaking as a man. But I knew, even though I had to be firm, that I was speaking from a heart of love and concern for my sisters in the Lord. I refused to be a soft male.
Men, I want to encourage you to check your own heart for any negative attitude you might have toward women, especially in your family and church. Then speak from your masculine heart. Ask the Lord to give you the affection that Paul talked about.