It may be a little late for Father’s Day, but “Mandles” still make a manly present for any manly man in your life:
All satire aside, what does it mean to be a man today? Differing viewpoints offer competing answers, and it would seem that any true definition of “manliness” finds itself deeply layered in controversy. Which is the correct one, however?
Commonly portrayed in contemporary movies and television shows is the first type of male: the soft and feminized man. In touch with his “feminine side”, he is passive, non-confrontational, and often just plain “nice”. For fear of offending, he never speaks up or voices his own concerns. His own opinions are secondary to those of everyone else. He is timid to lead and often willingly submits himself to the domineering authority of a strong female figure.
For the better part of 40 years, the American culture has been breeding men of this fashion. Raised by women, they are virtually women themselves. Dad was nowhere near to offer his stabilizing influence. If that weren’t enough, millions of youth have been bombarded with the endless stream of messages reinforcing this mentality. Furthermore, they are told that opening doors for women is sexist and that any 95-pound woman can beat up a man three times her size. Men and women are no different, so distinguishing male traits must be categorically removed (mind you, female characteristics are okay to leave in place). The ultimate result of this is a sort of androgynous person, who in all but biology is neither male nor female.
In a gross and over reactive backlash, a second type of “man” has boisterously reasserted himself. This is the type of man the video I’ve posted tongue-in-cheek makes fun of: the “manly man”. As the hunter of wild boar, elephants, and great white sharks, nothing fazes this towering man-beast of raw power and courage. He climbs mountains and manages to plant 100+ pound fire-hydrants at their summits. He’s capable of bench pressing a semi. I’m exaggerating, of course. However, the push for men to be “manly” in this sense is almost as strong as it is for men to be feminized. The backlash is just that powerful.
Before I became a Christian, I avidly listened to radio host Tom Leykis. I am deliberately choosing not to link to his website because I am that disgusted with him now. In his routine tirades against “sissy” men (I will not employ the same crude term he used), he advocated men treat everyone around them like they were trash. Men are supposed to be rude, condescending, arrogant, and uncaring towards anyone but themselves. In doing so, any man following this advice becomes a “real man”. Incidentally, Mr. Leykis instructs his listeners that this is the behavior that will win over women. Anyone not embracing these ideals remains a wimp of a man, not worthy of the least amount of respect.
Which one of these types is the “right” one? Do any alternatives exist? Fortunately, one does: the Biblical definition of manhood. I should note that entire books have been written on what the Bible says about how men should be and act, so my hope is that this post will at least do a little justice to the topic.
Dozens of qualities mark the Biblical man. Foremost, he is to be humble. Colossians 3:12 says, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (NASB). This humility simultaneously represents counting oneself as lesser than others and unquestioningly submitting to God’s will. We are to acknowledge our complete dependence on Him for all things and put aside the desires of our selfish flesh. Men are to be humble before others and even more humble before God.
In a similar fashion, God calls men to be meek. In Galatians 5:23, Paul tells us that meekness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 11:29 that He is “meek and lowly in heart” (KJV). The Greek word for “meek” is more modernly translated as “gentle”. Today, this word is usually understood to imply a form of weakness. In some sense of the word this is correct (as God represents our true strength), but ultimately gentleness or meekness refers to a power that is brought under control. Not only is this the exercise of self-restraint when offended or hurt, but also of a compassionate heart towards those who are weaker physically, spiritually, and emotionally. In this form meekness is a strength, not a liability, and is the exact opposite of the kind of haughty, prideful attitude which places the self before all.
Being meek requires self-control, which is another quality that God desires men would have. Self-control is quite simply the act of denying oneself for the sake of God and others. After Jesus fed the five thousand, he spoke these words: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NASB). The true meaning of this expression is lost on many today. The cross was a brutal and grisly form of execution reserved only for society’s worst criminals. Jesus was instructing His listeners that one must die to themselves daily. In a practical sense, this means turning aside drunkenness, anger, lust, sensuality, pride, sorcery, idolatry, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21). It also means willingly sacrificing of oneself for the benefit of others, which Jesus ultimately demonstrated Himself when He submitted to death by crucifixion.
Besides exercising self-control, God calls men to be unabashed speakers of truth, which sharply contrasts with today’s soft and post-modern culture. This does not simply mean not lying or telling falsehoods, but rather being unafraid to speak the truths of God (2 Timothy 4:2). This is to be done boldly and without shame. The defenders of God’s truth are also made to be “good servant(s) of Christ Jesus,” because of what they do (1 Timothy 4:6, NASB). In an age where boldness and straight-forward speaking are unacceptable vices, real men speak the truth in love, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
In what may seem to many an even more dangerous character flaw, the Bible requires that men love others as they love themselves. This is not some sort of superficial love based on warm and fuzzy feelings, but rather a self-sacrificial love. What God calls for is both a choice and an action, and this love places the needs of another above the needs of oneself. Even a man’s enemies are to be beneficiaries.
Perhaps the one of greatest ways to demonstrate this aspect of Christianity is in marriage. The Apostle Paul, specifically, commands that husbands are to hold their wives in such high regard that they love her as Christ loves the Church. Ephesians 5:25 reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” A man is to love his wife like he loves his own body, since indeed the Church is part of the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:28-32). How does a man treat his own body? With the greatest amount of care, not withholding any necessity. No one has ever hated his own body.
The second part of Ephesians 5:25 further highlights the profound task given to husbands: complete self-sacrifice for the benefit of the wife, even to the point of suffering and death. Indeed, this is precisely what Jesus did: die for his “bride”, the Church. However, self-sacrifice does not just mean being ready to give up one’s life for another; it means a willing servitude in all aspects of life. Christ says of Himself in Mark 10:45 that the “Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (NASB). Since the man plays the role of Christ in the marriage, the husband is to adopt the same servant mindset.
The second and almost-as-important duty of a true man of God is leadership, most specifically in the home. As Christ is the head of the Church, the husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23). He is in no way greater or more valuable than his wife, but God has placed the man in ultimate authority over the matters of the home. He is to exercise that authority with love and gentleness.
The authority God has given the husband is never to be abused and represents a loving and serving form of leadership. Jesus never took advantage of His authority over the Church, but rather used His authority for the benefit of those He loves. In marriage the husband is to lead his wife the same way. God does not want husbands to domineer their authority and strength over their wives but rather to protect, nurture, provide for, and serve them.
The wife is not merely the cooker, the cleaner, and the partner in bed – she represents the Church, whom Christ desires to sanctify and bless. She does not exist to serve the husband, but rather he is to serve her by giving of himself for her benefit. She is to be cherished above any other person, save Christ Himself. Her needs are paramount, and the man in marriage is to meet them without hesitation. That is what being a man in the context of marriage is about.
In a timeless fashion, the Bible advocates a different kind of man than what is purveyed by today’s society. He is strong, but gentle; tough, but tender; both a leader and a servant of others. Above all, he is humble before God and willingly submits to His desires. In contrast, modern culture has horribly skewed the ideas of manhood and masculinity. Only through the reading of Scripture and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit can men be men.