Courage Boys, Part III: Hold on to What God Says about Men
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love (1Cor 16).
After advising the Corinthians to be “on guard”, Paul encourages them to persistently hold on to the truth—the things about God, themselves and the world that must be understood, trusted and lived. In fact, though second in order, this command is foundational for understanding and obeying each of the commands. An understanding and embrace of the truth is key to everything called for in this set of commands.
Speaking about courage, William Bennett, former Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan, emphasizes this point: “The mere inclination to do the right thing is not in itself enough. We have to know what the right thing to do is.”
What truths must I, as a man, hold on to “as if my life depends on it”? In other words, what truths are absolutely necessary to understand, trust and live if I am to be the man God created--and is redeeming me--to become? Along with all the virtues that every Christian is to exhibit and pursue, I suggest that these truths include at least the following three areas.
First, from Genesis 2:15 we find that God made men to work/provide: “The Lord
God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” As men, we go to work to provide for ourselves, for our immediate family (if married), our extended families (1 Tim 5:8), and those in need (Eph 4:28). As we are able, we don’t expect someone or some institution to do what God has called us to do. This is what Paul means in 1 Thess 4:11 when he tells believers to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life”. A “quiet life” is a life that makes no claims on other people’s money. I keep my hands out of other people’s pockets and shut up about how they must use it. Rather, this life takes responsibility for working to provide for itself (see also 2 Thess 3:6-15). In addition, we understand that “work” is good for us and a way for us to love our neighbors. There is something about how God has made us that doing something “useful” with our “own hands” protects and fosters human dignity (again, Eph 4:28). Work is not just something that keeps us busy or keeps the lights on and food on the table. Work is something that helps us experience what God created us to be. It lets us take what gifts and abilities God has given us and bring them to expression in the work of our hands for the blessing of our neighbor and for reflection of glory to God. In his book, Luther on Vocations, Gustaf Wingren gets at this point in his summary of Martin Luther’s view of vocation.
In his vocation man does works which effect the well-being of others; for so God has made all offices. Through this work in man's offices, God's creative work goes forward, and that creative work is love, a profusion of good gifts. With persons as his "hands" or "coworkers," God gives his gifts through the earthly vocations, toward man's life on earth (food through farmers, fishermen and hunters; external peace through princes, judges, and orderly powers; knowledge and education through teachers and parents, etc., etc.). Through the preacher's vocation, God gives the forgiveness of sins. Thus love comes from God, flowing down to human beings on earth through all vocations, through both spiritual and earthly governments.
Second, Scripture teaches that God made men to protect those who are vulnerable or less physically powerful-- spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
1 Timothy 3:2-5 is really little more than a description of a mature Christian man with a few pastor-specific add-ons. It describes a man transformed by God’s saving work so that his strength is not wasted or used to dominate and destroy. Rather it is directed toward furthering God’s saving purposes in those around him.
"Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?"
We see this again in 1 Pet 3. Peter instructs husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
Men, God wants us to use our strength to promote the blessing and flourishing of those around us--men, women and children. We need to be men who can be trusted to protect children—by staying engaged in all ages and stages; by not avoiding discipline; by setting boundaries; by loving their mother; by encouraging and teaching. We need to be men who are woman-safe—by keeping our vows; by refusing to objectify (pornography); by refusing to manipulate, threaten, or coerce (by being passive aggressive, by whining, by physically threatening, etc.); by respecting and being honest with the women in our lives.
We need to be men who stand against those who prey on the vulnerable. We need to stand up, step in and speak out when danger is afoot—even if it is unpopular within our homes, or churches, or the public square.
Finally, God intended that men take responsibility to be servant-leaders—by life and word—to those in their families, churches, and neighborhoods. We are called to serve them by lovingly using our influence to encourage them to embrace what God yearns for them to be. We take the risks to make ourselves vulnerable for their sake—we reach out, we ask out, we look out, we step up.
As men we are called to give our attention to those in our sphere of influence. We need to figure out what they need from Christ and how we can best bring it to them. We also speak to sin in our relationships at home, work, and in society even as we model an alternative vision by life and word. We do not abrogate our role of being fixed points of compassion to confront, warn, and, in the case of our children, discipline. Yet, as we offer what Christ wants to give them by life and word and as we set loving boundaries, we realize that we can only truly take them where they want to go. We don’t coerce people spiritually or force Christ upon them. We model and commend Christ.
In short, men are to give their lives to promote God’s preferences, purposes and program in their sphere of influence. We need to become men who yearn for ourselves what God yearns for us to know and be. And in doing so, we become men who yearn to promote what God yearns for in the lives of others.
What truth do we need to reclaim?
 The Book of Virtues (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993): 442.
 (Evansville, IN: Ballast Press, 1994): 27-28.