We are raising our boys in a sexually and gender confused world. Men and women are confused about their roles and now even about gender identity. In fact, some parents are raising “gender-neutral” children.
They referred to their child as "The Infant" and only allowed him to play with "gender-neutral toys. For the first five years of his life Sasha (a gender neutral term) alternated between girls' and boys' outfits … Sasha wears a ruffled-sleeved" girl's shirt as part of his school uniform, and has been banned from wearing combat trousers … [but] the youngster is also encouraged to wear flowery tops at weekends. 1
There is specific confusion today about what it means to be a man. Hollywood and our culture promote several false stereotypes of manhood.
- The macho, often violent type. In the 80’s it was the Rambo character. Today it would be The Rock - Dwayne Johnson.
- The suave, womanizing, and invincible James Bond.
- The clueless goof, the husband and father who needs his wife and children to make up for his ineptness and cluelessness.
- The sentimentalized, overly sweet, borderline effeminate “Jesus” of Hollywood, and sometimes by Christians. This “Jesus” is nowhere found in the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible was man enough to be humiliated and to volunteer for suicide duty in being tortured to death without a word of complaint. He made the ultimate sacrifice to accomplish his Father’s mission of saving us. That takes a real man, not the soft-spoken and overly effeminate “Jesus” portrayed by Hollywood.
Each of these are distortions of authentic manhood. Interestingly, the Apostle Paul gives us several examples of what a man is to be. Paul tells us to:
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (I Cor. 16:13-14)
The instructions preceding and following his command to “act like men” help define what it means to be a real man. Men are to:
Act like men
Act in love
Men are to be Watchful of their Souls and of Others
Like a sentry guarding the fort, men guard against the enemy of their souls who seeks to destroy them and others. Peter tells us:
Be sober-minded; be watchful.Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Men are to Stand Firm
Standing firm means to be unwavering, not influenced by the world’s stereotypes and values. Men show courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to overcome fear, for example, when facing the fear of rejection and ridicule to do what is right. It is the courage and strength of character to do right when pressured and ridiculed by others to do wrong, or to ignore the wrong being done to others.
Real men stand like players on the line of scrimmage, they hold the line to protect what is good, honorable, true and beautiful and to protect others when they are being attacked personally verbally, socially, or physically.
Men are to Act Like Men
Men are to be manly. As Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary, men are to act the manly part:
Act the manly part, firm, and resolved part: behave strenuously, in opposition to the bad men who would divide and corrupt you, those who would split you into factions or seduce you from the faith: be not terrified nor persuaded by them; but show yourselves men in Christ, by your steadiness, by your sound judgment and firm resolution.
Men are to be Strong
We cannot be spiritually or physically strong unless we exercise. There are no shortcuts. It is not easy to consistently exercise. Every day I have to make a decision to hit the treadmill. Exercising our souls is no easier, in fact, it can be harder. But unless we exercise our souls they will become flabby. Flabby souls are not strong enough to hold the spiritual and moral line of scrimmage!
Being physically fit is important and good. Men should strive to be as physically fit as possible to protect and provide for those for whom they are responsible but being spiritually fit is more important. Paul says:
While bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)
Men Act in Love: They are Gentle-Men
Manliness and love go hand in hand just as God’s omnipotence and love are united. In fact, God is equally omnipotent (all powerful) and IS love. (1 John 4:8)
When I think of the two-fold responsibility to be both strong and loving, I am reminded of a word we seldom hear today: gentle-man. The urban dictionary defines a gentleman as: “A man who does not cower to outside forces, he is strong and true to his word. He does the right thing, even if the right thing does not seem the popular thing.”
The best example I can think of is King David. He was:
A man after God’s own heart.
A musician, poet, and dancer.
A warrior who killed thousands as a soldier and as a young teenager cut the head off of Goliath and presented it to the king. He was no wimp!
Honored those in authority. He had such high regard for authority that he felt guilt for cutting off a corner of King Saul’s robe, the man who was trying to kill David.
Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’ ” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. (1 Samuel 24:3–7)
Men are watchful for themselves and protective of others.
Men protect their character and reputations, and the character and reputations of others.
Real men never bully and never tear down others.
A gentleman intervenes to protect anyone being bullied verbally, whether in person or through social media. A man steps in to protect others and never participates in harassing or abusing others, online or off-line.
Men stand firm for what is right and do what is right even when made fun of, ridiculed, criticized, or put at risk.
Men risk themselves and their reputations to protect others and to do what is right. One of my favorite quotes, unfortunately I don’t know the author or I’d give proper attribution, is: “A good man does not ask the way in which is the most pleasant walking, but what is the right way.”
Men oppose evil, they do not participate in it nor promote it.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1–2)
Men are strong.
Men take care of their bodies and their souls. They pray, they read the Bible, and they worship. They also take care of themselves so that they have the physical strength to fulfill their responsibilities and to care for and protect others.
Men act in love, not selfishly, indifferently, or aggressively.
Real men seek the welfare of others above themselves. They focus not on self fulfillment and self-authentication but upon their duties, another word we seldom hear, and on caring for others.
In short, real men are gentle-men.
In a world that seems to have lost its collective mind, Christian educators have the opportunity and duty to be salt and light in this world by teaching our boys what it is to be a real man. Not one defined by Hollywood or by our confused and debased culture, and not one that is gender-fluid and confused but rather, one that in his biblically shaped masculinity bears one aspect of God’s image; like God who is omnipotent and loving, our boys are to grow to become gentle-men.