When I was a child, I left my father’s hammer lying in the grass in the backyard. What happens when a hammer is left in the grass for a few days? The dew and the rain begin to rust the metal. When my father found the hammer he had four options of response:
1. He could ignore that it happened, hang the hammer back up in its proper place, and go on about his day as if it never happened.
2. He could clean the rust off the hammer, and hang it back up in it’s proper place, never telling me that he had found it in the grass and covering over my mistakes.
3. He could get frustrated or even angry with me and take it out with scolding and punishing words. Perhaps he would ground me. Perhaps he would spank me, or banish me from using the tools until I learned how to treat them right. He may even throw the hammer away in frustration.
4. He could respond by patiently teaching me about my mistake, the work required to clean up after my mistake, and how to avoid the mistake in the future.
My father chose the fourth response.
The first response is one of apathy or laziness. It believes that it’s easier to simply avoid the confrontation and it sees the hammers effectiveness with little enough value to care for the tool. This response would lead to more hammers being left in the grass by and a shortened life and effectiveness for the hammer.
The second response values the hammer’s lifespan and effectiveness more than the first response, but it still avoids the confrontation and work of teaching the one who left the hammer, thus leading to more hammers left in the grass in the future.
The third response values convenience more than the hammer or the one who leaves the hammer in the grass. It is a response that not only refuses to invest in and restore the careless person who leaves the hammer, it even goes so far as to cast this person aside as if they had no redemptive value at all.
The fourth response is one that values said hammer enough to do the work to restore it’s effectiveness and life, and one that values the person who left the hammer enough to confront, teach, and call to action for future care of the hammer.
My father knew that leaving the hammer in the grass was not disobedience or rebellion. It was simply a mistake. It was immaturity. Immaturity is defined as “the state of being under-developed.” My understanding of how to care for tools was underdeveloped.
My father took me to the hammer and showed me where I left it. Then he took me to the wire-brush grinder and taught me how to get the rust off the hammer. He didn’t leave me to do it all by myself, but he walked me through the process of cleaning it step by step. After that, he taught me about caring for tools by putting them back where they go. He had grace for my immaturity and used it as an opportunity to teach me.
If we are going to train men in our churches, we must have grace for immaturity. We will find men in our churches in different states of under-development. Perhaps they are socially, relationally, theologically, spiritually, or organizationally immature. It is our job as those training them to know the difference between rebellion and immaturity and then to teach them through the immaturity.
Train them how to engage in various social interactions. Train them how to have healthy friendships, marriages, and parenting relationships. Train them in right theology and how to put that theology into practice. Train them how to love Jesus. Train them how to lead others.
Training men means that you and I will spend much of our time wire brush grinders, chipping away at the rust of hammers left in the grass. Let’s do it with grace, using the opportunity to train men how to avoid mistakes as much as possible how to take responsibility for mistakes when they are made, and how to rest in the grace of our God through it all.