One of the greatest tragedies I see today is the absence of candid, loving relationships between guys.
If you’re a guy, I’m pretty sure you cringed, raised your eyebrows, or became a bit confused or taken aback, because I certainly winced when I wrote the words out.
The sad reality is that in the past few decades, our culture has been increasingly more hostile to men being openly affectionate towards each other. It’s only legit to give a “man hug” and even that lasts for only a couple seconds. Whenever you say “I love you” to a guy, you have to quickly add “no homo!” to make sure they don’t think you’re attracted to them or desire them sexually or whatever weird thoughts people have when a guy hears another say “I love you” to him. Many people have also adopted the term “bromance” which, in my opinion, does not capture the honest, loving relationship we should have as brothers in Christ.
This can be really damaging. For one, some guys need to hear those three words, or receive a long hug. Perhaps they don’t feel loved by their family. Perhaps they struggle with a need for male affection, acceptance, or affirmation. I’ve been in contact with these guys who, through chats and posts and all sorts of other subliminal messages, try to convey to other guys, “hey, I need to know that you love me. I need to know that you’re here for me, that you’ve got my back. I need concrete evidence! Spending quality time with me, giving me gifts, it just isn’t enough for me to truly understand that you love me. I need to hear the words. I need to feel the hug.”
I admit that two guys hugging or looking into another guy’s eyes to tell them that you love them is enough to make a guy explode or cringe in awkwardness and embarrassment. But that’s how the world has trained us to think. Because homosexuality is becoming more of a hot topic and widespread issue, guys are more conscious about how they interact in love with each other.
Consider the story of David and Jonathan. The two were so close, so open about their love for one another. But there’s a catch — they didn’t love each other out of themselves, but with the love of God. Agape love. Brotherly love. Of course homosexuality wasn’t that big of an issue back then, as it is today, so they felt more free to express themselves, but I believe we brothers need to adopt the same mindset. Be filled with agape love for one another, and not ashamed to hide it. Be willing to give long hugs to those that are broken, who are having a hard time and need a shoulder to cry on. Be willing to say “I love you” and mean it in all sincerity and purity, because when you say those words to a brother you’re really saying “I love you with the love of God.”
We often talk about showing God’s love. For some people, they sometimes (only sometimes, because too much is emotionally unhealthy) need to hear it and feel it. God’s love can really be quite the abstract idea, leading many people to say “I’ve never experienced God’s love.” Laying aside all the arguments of how God’s love is clearly visible “in nature, in the cross, in fellowship”, some guys just need to feel it overflow from their brothers from time to time.
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NASB)
It will take time to transition. You may get laughed at. At times it will feel awkward. But you can slowly ease these practices into your life. Including “I love you” in an email or during a farewell after a long talk, hugging someone when they look depressed or saddened by something. If you can say say “I love you” to your dad or brother, then I’m sure you can extend that open love to your family in Christ. If you can’t (and also if you can already) ask God to give you that heart of love. It is hard, but sharing God’s love will be worth it all.
We must be wary, however, to continually point out that we love with God’s love, that He is the only one who can truly satisfy our longing for love. We are mere channels for His love, you could say we try to make His love tangible. It is extremely important that we understand that since God is the one who made us long for love, He is the only Love that can satisfy.
Don’t go overboard with the affection. Show it only when needed, or on a periodical basis with a reasonable amount of time in between. And always, always point to God.
I now leave you with a picture that partly inspired this post: