Being Contrary for the Sake of Good

Why do we automatically stop to pick up a piece of trash, adjust a picture, close a door, or do anything for that matter? Could it be we do things because something is either out of order or will become out of order if we don’t act, and we perceive order as a good worth pursuing? Yes, we are the workmanship of God in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10).  Whether acting because we are conditioned to do so or we just inherently know something needs to be put in its place, we are often presented with choices to push back against the way things are. As men, we are made to be contrary, but if we are careless, we will hurt instead of heal or destroy instead of build. We are made to change paradigms by selflessly exploring, rearranging, and propagating good things to bring about order from chaos that will lead to flourishing conditions for our families, communities, and to the ends of the earth.

It is in our nature as men to bring about order and flourishing even when no one is watching by saying “yes” or “no” with our actions.  We are often the only ones who know if we maintained the status quo when we should have changed the course of a river or the course of a thought, a conversation, or a life.  This is personal to each one of us who calls himself a man. Individually, you are the only one who can adequately reflect on your decisions at the end of each day when you look your wife in her eyes, tuck your children in their beds, gaze at the man looking back from your mirror, or place your head on your pillow.  I am the only one who will know when I am supposed to be contrary by picking up a piece of paper or doing other things that matter. It will take intent for each of us to fulfill our purpose of becoming better husbands, fathers, and sons. Individually, you and I are the ones who choose to read, study, and pray in order to make ourselves useful by gaining discipline, knowledge, wisdom, and skill in order to make ourselves contrary to ignorance, foolishness, poverty, and passions. Individually, we will give an account of these things to our Maker (1 Timothy 5:8, 1 Peter 1:5).

As the current tech revolution continues to disrupt the way we practice being men, and even being human, it will be increasingly necessary for us to proactively attend to our motivations and avoid surrendering our masculinity to the endless flood of complacency, agreeableness, safety, and apathy breaching the walls of our society. Being contrary as men is more than an abstract concept and has real world implications. Society will experience abundance or death largely in response to how we answer the call to be what our Maker has created us to be. It is time to get really good at being contrary to the way God designed us to be, so we are equipped to stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30).

Men are made for more than what many of us are currently experiencing, and, sadly, society and government policies have been progressively devaluing the role of fathers, sons, and husbands for generations.  On top of that, our Western civilization of abundant food, safety, and anonymity makes it easier than at any time in history for us to be addicted, listless, lazy, and soft. It is little wonder we seek enrichment activities to alleviate our chronic boredom and find ourselves filling our free time with porn and mindless entertainment. Many of us feel like we are in a cage, are frustrated with the paradigm we find ourselves in, and we desire more confidence, direction, purpose, and respect that seem just beyond our reach. We want to feel good about our intimate friendships, social networks, and public policies. We want to know we are being faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us. We just want to know we are “doing it right,” and we want to know we are answering the call to “play the men for our people” (2 Samuel 10:12).

But how can we know when and if we are being contrary the right way? We can know we are getting it right as men the same way we know it is right to pick up a piece of trash or adjust a picture. Men leave things better off than they were before we showed up. We add value.  When men are being contrary the right way, there is evidence that we have been present, because aligned order has our fingerprints all over it. The way we conduct ourselves when faced with choices reveals something inherent in us. Men are contrary and disagreeable by nature, and we get to choose what to do with it. We will choose to cultivate our masculinity and use it for good or allow it to carelessly atrophy or, worse, become toxic and destructive, but we must make a choice.  We will be contrary based on either the natural man’s lusts and pride or on the gentle leadership of God the Holy Spirit.  If we submit to the Holy Spirit, He will lead us to become who we were designed to be (John 14:26).  He will show us how to use our masculinity for good if we surrender our hopes, dreams, and lives to Him.  He will teach us how to be men after God’s own heart when our lives and hearts are submitted to His Lordship.  When we do this, we will have the best opportunity to flourish and provide those around us with the best opportunities to flourish, because we will be on the path of righteously contrary men who have gone before us and like a tree planted by rivers of water, we will produce good fruit (Proverbs 4:23-27, Psalms 1:1-6).

A disciplined life submitted to the authority of Christ allows us to choose when and how to be contrary. This is especially true in the relationships that should matter most. Simply saying “yes” when our sons and daughters want to play outside when we would prefer to sit on the couch after a hard day at work is being contrary in a good way. When we choose to tune everything else out while giving our wives our undivided attention and time is being contrary in a good way. Investing part of our leisure time to become more competent by reading, writing, working on a skill, exercising, or meeting in a men’s group instead of thoughtless channel surfing is being contrary in a good way. Saying “no” to mindless or destructive internet surfing and “yes” to Bible reading and prayer is being contrary in a good way.  When we plan for, implement, and evaluate the use of our time, talents, and treasures, we are being contrary in a good way. It takes a contrary attitude to be a good steward of all God has given us, for the world has its own agenda (John 3:19).

If we are going to be consistently contrary in a “good way,” we must know what order looks like, before we see it, much like a sculptor envisions a figure in a block of stone or an artist his painting. Much of it is intuitive based on experience, but the order of things is not always obvious. Order for a crooked picture on a wall or trash on an otherwise clean path before us may be obvious and require a simple act. When the relationship between us and our environment is simple, the necessary level of contrary engagement to bring about order may be minimal. Complex problems, though, often require complex solutions. We have to know what the “right” thing is. Finding solutions often involves men being contrary when boys are running away or not even paying attention. We are made to question truth and reality claims. We are made to challenge the way things are. We are made to create, contend, and build. Light is contrary to darkness.  Love is contrary to hate and indifference. Gratitude is contrary to envy.  Joy is contrary to despair.  Life is contrary to death.

Think of all the stories in the Bible and of history that have been handed down to us.  Think of all the times men were called on to stand up and be counted, to be contrary.  Noah, Moses, Abraham, Job, David, Daniel, Isaiah, Gideon, and countless other named and unnamed Old Testament men were contrary. We celebrate men with last names like Luther, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Lincoln, Douglass, Roosevelt, Churchill, Wilberforce, Boothe, Reagan, and Graham because they were contrary.   Consider just how disruptive Jesus was as he mingled with the undesirables of His day, worked miracles, and taught with authority. He was contrary to hypocritical fig trees and Pharisees alike, demons that possessed men, storms that threatened His friends, and against all manners of sickness.  He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, willingly paid our sin debt on the Cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and conquered death through His resurrection.  Choosing Christ and living in obedient fellowship with Him will not mean we are always liked or understood, but demonstrating love for our Father by putting a relationship with Him first in our lives will equip and enable us with the audacity, knowledge, and wisdom we need to fight the good fight and keep the faith.  Let us choose to be equipped and pay attention as we move through our days so we can spot things out of order. Then, we can adequately respond when we are called upon to be strong, to be brave, and to be contrary.

– Richard Harwood from The Guild


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