Meek and Lowly Jesus

Looking at the book, Wild at Heart, and wondering just who we are to follow? Jesus or movie characters?

We are in the second chapter of Wild at Heart, written by John Eldredge 20 years ago. Though written two decades in the past, the concepts written in this book influenced Christian men and embodies what some call Muscular Christianity.

In This second chapter, Eldredge paints a picture of a god who looks much like the way he describes himself in chapter one: an outdoorsman who loves danger, risk, and beautiful women. As he paints this picture, he emphasizes men being made in this god’s image, all in a chapter aptly named, “The Wild One Whose Image We Bear.”

Eldredge denies he is advocating for Muscular Christianity, he says,

“Now, let me make one thing clear: I am not advocating a sort of ‘macho man’ image. I’m not suggesting we all head off to the gym and then to the beach to kick sand in the faces of wimpy Pharisees. I am attempting to rescue us from a very, very mistaken image we have of God - especially of Jesus - and therefore of men as his image-bearers.”

The issue, though, is not muscles or besting “wimpy Pharisees.” It is a question of what we are called to do, who are we to emulate?

He asks,

“Be honest now - what is your image of Jesus as a man? ‘Isn’t he sort of meek and mild?’”

What is the image you have of Jesus? Whatever that image is, it does not matter. What matters is what image does he give us himself in the Scriptures? Jesus himself says, “I am meek and lowly of heart” (Mt. 11:29). Jesus praises those who are meek. He willingly lays down his life for those he loves, not in a violent battle in which he sacrificed his life, but actively surrendering to the enemy upon the cross - and he calls us to take up our own crosses!

“Telling me to be like him [meek and lowly Jesus] feels like telling me to go limp and passive… I’d rather be told to be like William Wallace.”

John Eldredge loves his movies, as we know from chapter one. It is surprising he readily admits he wishes to emulate a movie character (a person in real life fictionalized on screen) that to follow a “meek and lowly” Jesus.

However, this is exactly what we are called to do:

“Blessed are the meek…”

“Love your enemies…”

“Put away your sword…”

“Do not repay evil for evil…”

Jesus himself says he is meek and lowly, and we should take on the same yoke, shouldn’t this be enough?

Paul exhorts us to “Let your gentleness be evident to all…” (Phil. 4:5). He also teaches gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). One who is led by the Spirit will be meek. If they are not meek, they are not being led by the Spirit, but by the flesh. Those who are led by the flesh are not children of God.

In this book, Jesus’ discussions with the Pharisees are portrayed as Jesus “picking fights” and are likened to the violence you see in movies. Also, the violence in the Old Testament is used to justify having “A Battle to Fight.” Eldredge tries many verses and angles to paint God as the rough, tough risk taker who fights with violence and lives for adventure.

The chapter ends with Eldredge arguing God is not only seeking a beauty to unveil but also as a beauty to unveil. Men and women both bear the image of God, therefore, God must be like women: made for the pleasure of man.

“There is also something wild in the heart of a woman, but it is feminine to the core, more seductive than fierce.”

Eldredge continues from chapter one, painting a grim one-sided picture of women as sex objects, the “naked woman’s body” to be sought and won. He argues if a woman becomes too fierce, or a man becomes too tender, “something is deeply wrong.” This false dichotomy for humanity is toxic to the kingdom of God, where there is neither “male nor female.” Men and women bear the image of God together, not one more than the other. If God is fierce, so can be men and women. If God is tender, so too are men and women. To say one has more fierceness or tenderness by nature denies the gifts that God has given both sexes.