By Josh Harvey

Last night, Sylvester Stallone just missed out on the best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of Rocky Balboa in “Creed”. It is the seventh time he has played this character and it marked one of his career best performances.

In anticipation of Creed’s release, I revisited the first six films and was surprised by how much they still resonated with me. Film fans (like me, and indeed, my wife) still love the Rocky movies because they can relate to the character. We may not know how to box, but we understand the metaphor of “going the distance” and persevering through setbacks until the final bell rings.

During the third film, shortly before Rocky is soundly beaten by Mr T’s Clubber Lang, I was struck by the words of Rocky’s trainer, Mickey:

“The worst thing happened to you, that can happen to any fighter: you got civilised”.

One of the worst things that has happened to Christian men is that we have “got civilised”. We aspire to be “nice guys”: friendly, welcoming, inoffensive and well-liked. None of these things are necessarily bad, but as goals, they fail to grip and inspire us because we were created for something better: being Christ-like is our objective: He was friendly to those who needed a friend, but He was angered by injustice. He welcomed ostracised sinners, but He drove away religious people. He was loved by working men and working girls, but He was hated by the great and the good of the establishment. He was a marmite character. He was radical. He was not “civilised”. He was not a “nice guy”.

The Church generally, but Christian men especially, badly needs to rediscover Jesus’ radicalism. Dave McDowell, leader of Westminster Chapel’s Men’s Ministry, shares this burden and has asked me to explore the topic. Over the next few days, I am going to do this by looking at the first time Jesus cleared the temple.

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