“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” (James 4:10 MSG)
I can’t tell you how much the phrase “Man up” irritates me. It encapsulates for me that Dumbed-down, Pseudo-Macho, Reduced-to-a-Headline style of talking that evades precision in a blurry of Boo-Yah.
And yet, there’s something there, something that Eugene Peterson’s marvellous paraphrase seems to pick up in this passage from James 4. It conjures up memories of B.J.Baracas (Mr T) saying “Quit yer whinin’, fool.”
Because it’s time for the plan to come together.
It’s time to get belligerent about the sin in your life and the salvation-life that God has prepared for you.
But what happens when you decide to “man up” for Jesus? It’s the premise of that film God’s not Dead, when a straight-forward and intelligent Christian student refuses to accept the secular norm of his Philosophy class. He “stands up,” only to lose his girl, his grade and his social credibility. The film’s happy ending is not always mirrored in life, of course, but that’s not the point.
The point is: will you do it? Will you “man up”?
The passage describes both process and consequence.
It means allowing God to “work his will” in you, like working yeast into a batch of dough until every part of you is affected and ready for change.
It means “ a loud NO” to the Devil and “a quiet Yes” to God. The one action infers the other. As the actual text puts it: “Submit to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” The Devil is portrayed as a yapping dog that distracts rather than dominates. Don’t even waste your time (as Churchill sort-of-said) throwing stones.
And saying “NO” is not just an emotional moment. It means “Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field.”
This is like a blank line where you have to write down all the junk and foolishness that has cluttered your own life. It’s like a room that you never get round to cleaning, and bit by bit it has got cluttered up until you can barely move.
Time for a spring clean.
“Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.”
This is what repentance looks like. It means a serious self-examination and an honest appraisal of what you really see when you look in your own moral mirror.
If you really want to “man up” then “ Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.”