Courage Boys, Part II
My intention in these upcoming posts is not to beat up on men (or women). I also do not intend to give an apology for why men matter. I do not even intend to tell anyone how to get over or deal with bad men—though there are some and it would be several posts on its own. I simply hope to encourage men to “act like men”, to act as God has created and is redeeming men to act. Just as we need women who “act like women” God teaches that we need men to be men. The genders are not the same and they cannot be confused, denied, or homogenized if we are going to see God’s drama of humanity “bring the house down”, so to speak.
We turn to Paul’s advice in 1 Cor 16:13-14 to get our bearings on manhood. I am not saying that Paul is speaking just to men here, but his teaching assumes that there is something distinct to a man, or that there is a concept of manhood if you will. This is hidden in the NIV but appears clearly in ESV rendering: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” I also believe his commands provide good direction for men today when we inform them by the wider teaching of Scripture about what it means to be a man.
The first command is equivalent to the old “on guard!” Paul’s advice assumes that the believer is under spiritual attack. It also assumes a commitment to “the faith”, what is true about God, themselves, and the world around them--the subject of his next command (“stand firm in the faith”). It is God’s truth that provides direction for the believer as well as a grid through which to evaluate the voices calling for his attention and allegiance. I offer the following list of deceptive and destructive voices based on what we will talk about fully in our next post—what “the faith” says about manhood. So what are the attacks men are facing today? Or, to put it another way, what are the male-denying messages men need to guard against? There are many, but here are a few.
Most basically, be on your guard against voices that say: “You don’t matter as a man. There is nothing you have to offer that is positive to the lives of those around you. They can get on without you just fine. It would be better for them if you were not a part of their lives.” Not only is this an affront to the God who created “male and female”, but this is simply nonsense. Studies of all types are replete with reasons why men have something to offer as men. To cite just one, the authors of a study published in Acta Paedriatica (“Fathers’ Involvement and Children’s Developmental Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies”, 2008) concluded that: “An active fatherhood role not only reduced the frequency of behavioral problems in boys and psychological problems in young women, but it also had a positive effect on cognitive development, along with decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families.”
Don’t give in to any notion that you’ve blown it and can’t recover your role as a man in your marriage, home, workplace and neighborhood. You can’t change the past but you can become a different man today. This resolution by Jonathan Edwards still keeps me at it in the face of many a failure: “Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions (and, I might add, their impact on myself or others), however unsuccessful I may be.” I have blown it and will blow it, but I refuse to wallow, give in, give out, or give up. I refuse to accept that I am a victim. I will not disrespect Christ by suggesting that I really can’t do what he asks of me. I will confess my failure, own its consequences, and affirm with Paul that I can live a life that honors Christ and points people to Christ through the power that he gives—no matter the failures of the past (Phil 4:13).
Close your ears to the voices that say you need to apologize for being a man and operate from a position of pleaser, a beggar. Or, that the only way you can get respect is through inducing fear by coercion and threats. Both postures turn away from what God wants you to be and allows the culture around you to set the terms for manhood. The portrait of a pastor in 1 Tim 3:2-7 is largely nothing more than a portrait of a mature Christian man. It’s hard to read Paul here and think of a man as a passive-aggressive, whining, secretive, apologetic person who is twisting himself into a pretzel just to be allowed a place in his family, church or society. Nor can you read this passage and come away with a version of manhood that secures its place through inducing fear in those around him.
Don’t buy into those voices which say that God’s design for you as a man is oppressive and destructive to women, family, or society. Here, before we talk about just what God wants men to be, I want to encourage us to take up Joshua’s mindset: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Josh 24:15).
Fight those voices saying you don’t have what it takes to be what God calls you to be. “Your dad was a lousy dad, an absent dad, an angry dad, etc. How can you hope to do any better? You will screw up your family just like your dad did!” Be like Asaph in Psa 78. He knew that his past did not determine his future. In fact, he determined to break from the faithlessness of previous generations and set a new course for the generations to come. He wanted declare God’s “praiseworthy deeds” (v. 4) so that “the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands” (vv. 6-7).
Don’t believe that you can’t be the man God calls you to be because your wife, mother, society, etc. won’t let you or doesn’t want you. Lean in on Christ and lock arms with likeminded men (and women). Recognize that the only one you can change is yourself. Brace yourself for opposition. Trust God for the fruits of faithfulness.
Finally, here is a grab-bag of types of “men” that we need to walk away from: the couch potato, the ESPN junkie, the perpetual adolescent, the hard-a**, the user and abuser of women, the man who puts bros before…, the body-obsessed “spornosexual”, the bible-basher who wields it to manipulate and coerce in the name of God….
Paul tells us to be on guard. To be God’s man we will need courage to resist the siren calls of the Evil one. And we will need courage to fully and continually submit to Christ’s created expectations and saving call.
So what are the voices that you need to guard against? Where are you vulnerable?