What does it mean to be a man?
I recently came across a website called “The Art of Manliness”, now while I cannot say I agree with or endorse in totality all they present on the site (as I have not read all that is on their site); and I also will readily admit I do not particularly care for some of the subject matter of the various topics they cover; I will have to say that I find the concept of the website itself needful. We are in an age were increasingly men are remaining children far longer than what is intended and even those who seem to enter adulthood appear to be at a loss concerning what it is to be, what can only be described as, a man.
I found this quote from The Art of Manliness especially relevant towards explaining where I am coming from, it is from the sites about page;
“Many men today feel adrift and have lost the confidence, focus, skills, and virtues that men of the past embodied. In an increasingly androgynous society, modern men are confused about their role and what it means to be an honorable, well-rounded man.”
As I was casually perusing the site I initially thought some of the articles were meant to be a joke or parody, however upon reading several blog entries I realized that though lighthearted, the authors were serious in their writings. As I continued to read these articles, which on the surface appeared hokey, I realized they are actually honest and frank commentary on a very real problem we are experiencing in our society.
Just as the quote from their about page stated, there is a great deal of confusion among men today on what it means to be “a man”. Somehow we have lost the sense of what it means to be a man and more specifically a man of God and in so doing we have left behind that thing which defines true manliness; what it is, and why we need it. What are the requirements to manliness? What are the responsibilities inherent in fulfilling the role of being a man? What expectations should we have concerning men being men, especially Christian men?
Why does it matter?
One reason it matters is- we are commanded in scripture to be just that, men. One specific place is where Paul plainly tells the men of the church of Corinth to man up as it were;
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong”. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
Quit you like men… I like this translation, there is something soldierly or battle-hardened about it as if Paul were an officer standing before his men who about to enter into combat and he is relaying an order from the high Commander for the men to go forth with valor. (And honestly he is) The NASB, while not quite so poetic does speak the meaning rather plainly by wording the verse thusly, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong”.
Act like men. What does it mean to act like men?
A.M. Faibairn, the Scottish theologian and apologist (1838-1912) spoke on the subject:
“Be men. What is it to be a man? It is to bear God’s image. Let the young man dare to be a man, let him, face to face with temptation, look to Him who only hath the power to save. Lost in the multitude, men in the multitude lose themselves. “Quit you like men.” Dare to be innocent of vice, shut up the impure book, close the paragraph that speaks the unholy thing, and to be virtuous in thought, in speech, in feeling, knowing this, that the man who keepeth his own spirit pure is the man most approved of the Father.”
How utterly alien his description appears when compared to our modern concept of what makes a man!
Paul gives us some characteristics that define what makes a man, a man, within the verse itself. The first is a charge for the man to watch- Be on the alert. To convince someone to be on the alert or to be watchful they must first believe there exists something worth guarding, secondly, that there truly is a need to be on guard, and third, the person watching must be willing to respond correctly when a threat does present itself. For someone to do either of these there must exist within that person a maturity that willingly offers commitment and self-sacrifice, which brings us to Paul’s second directive, “stand firm in the faith”. Here lies the secret, that forgotten thing regarding truly being a man, surrender.
Real men, men truly men are so because they have surrendered to God and His authority.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
To be able to fully realize what it is to be a man we must be empowered by the Spirit of God which requires being surrendered to God, this comes only by faith and trust in God. It is only once we enter into right relationship with God, (through Christ) that we can actually leave childhood- its selfishness, and silliness behind, thereby entering into manhood.
1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
Yes, I know that Jesus declared that we must receive the kingdom of God like a child, or else we would not enter in (Mark 10:15). And it is so, we must come to God as a child in our trust, in our obedience, and in our surrender, but after this there is an expectation of growth and maturation.
1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.
As we grow in our understanding through prayer, and study, and Christian fellowship we develop into mature men, in our spirits and in our lives. This is not optional, but is a result of Christ in you, if you are obedient.
Ephesians 4:11-16 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Peter reaffirms what Paul writes;
2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
To be men, and especially God’s men we must heed and apply the word given.
1 Corinthians 16:13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
We Christian men are watchful;
• Because we have been enlightened by the light of Christ in this dark world.
• We watch because we are commanded to do so.
o Matthew 26:41 Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
• We know danger lurks as we have a very real adversary.
We Christian men stand steadfast, because;
• We submit to our faith in God, believing that He is, and He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him.
• We appreciate the gift in Christ and attempt to recompense its value.
o 1 John 4:19 We love, because He first loved us.
• We will, through Christ, resist the enemy submitting ourselves to God.
As Christian men we are strong;
• In experience and purpose- The Lord is on our side!
o Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not
tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
o Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.
I will close this with a modified quote from John Lyth found in the Biblical Illustrator.
As a Christian man ever growing in the knowledge of what it is to be, a man we learn that Manly Christianity;
• Guards against temptation.
• Holds fast your principles.
• Acts with courage.
• Perseveres with constancy.
• Does all in the spirit of love.
Men, Christian brothers, let us pray that God make us truly men, His men; that we might bring Him glory and honor for having made us the men we can be.