There’s been a lot of press around Mark Driscoll lately and the resurfacing of some of his comments about the weak nature of men in America, particularly in the church. While I do not agree with his stance, I do want to approach the critical question he poses: what does a man who is following Jesus called to look and act like? Does he become a tame, domesticated man like Driscoll believes most of the church has become? Or does he have to be an angry Christian with machismo tendencies? Like most things, what gets the press are the polarized opinions of a small few. I by no means think my thoughts are the perfect middle, but I want to throw in a few thoughts on what manhood looks like for those trying to follow Jesus.
This concept of manhood and masculinity is a critical question for each generation of male Christ followers to grapple with, and while varying degrees of cultural influence will cause each generation to have a slightly different perspective, there must be a Biblical foundation upon which we can build that can be utilized from generation to generation. So in order to do this, let’s look at the supreme example: Jesus Himself. This is by no means exhaustive, but here are a few key elements one can see from the life, ministry, and relationships of Jesus that I feel embody what a man following Jesus should take heed of:
1. Jesus’ identity was found and affirmed by His Father. We start here because this is of the utmost importance. Most men are trying to find their identity in a myriad of places. You find a lot of men in the gym trying to get ripped because that is what culture dictates is the pinnacle of manhood; to be a physical specimen. Others, whether they know it or not, are letting their identity be formed by past experiences and hurts or daddy issues. If God is not the source of your strength and identity, then you will search elsewhere and allow others to shape who you are and how you live your life which will get you off course faster than anything else.
2. Jesus was no coward. There was never a time that Jesus backed down when the situation called for Him to rise up. Jesus was no coward; He had a backbone of steel. It didn’t matter who was coming against Him; he did not flinch, stutter, or concede any ground when He was taking a stand. Whether it was standing up to oppression, national rulers, religious leaders, or any kind of opposition, it mattered not. Jesus was no doormat. The only time people trampled on Him was when He allowed it for the Father’s glory (Matthew 27:27-31, John 18:33-36) which in my mind takes more confidence and more of a man to know when to back down rather than to pick a fight with anyone and everyone.
Jesus did not abuse His power or look at His strength as the source of His masculinity however, which is a mistake men often make. That came from the Father, not from some machismo disposition that He used to constantly size Himself up with others to prove that He was a man’s man. What a stupid and foolish thing to do… yet for many, this is the measuring stick of masculinity, which only goes to show how off you are when this is the way you try to measure up. (For help, please see #1)
3. Jesus was humble. Despite the fact that He would go toe to toe with anyone anywhere if He felt the need to prove a point that would ultimately reveal more of God to those around Him, He did not flaunt His strength in arrogance, which is another common mistake men make. If you have to make a big to do about your alleged strength and manhood, it must not be that strong in the first place. Let’s be honest. It is like a man having to say, “I’m the leader of this house!” If you had to say it, then it is probably not true or you are doing such a poor job that you have to declare it verbally instead of being followed willingly. Jesus always deflected the glory to the Father and was okay not being in the spotlight. In fact, He often ran from it (John 6:15 for example) yet so many people use the spotlight to validate them as significant. His purpose was the Father’s purpose and when that is truly the case humility comes.
4. Jesus was not afraid of love, compassion, or affection. Ok, so how many guys do you know can have dinner with a bunch of dudes and then afterwards have someone who is referred to as “the disciples Jesus loved” rest on His chest and it not be considered socially awkward? Jesus could. Why? Because He was so confident in who He was, so secure in His position with God, that affection did not scare Him. He wasn’t afraid to tell people how He loved them. (I wish fathers could get this: your kids need to hear that you love them.) Jesus took it farther than just His blood relatives. Love emanated from Him and all who were around Him sensed it. Barriers were broken because of the fierce love He showed.
Real mean can do this.
Real men love well. Real men brush their daughter’s hair. Real men can weep and not deny his tears or think this will somehow emasculate them. Real men show affection to their wives. Real men can tell another man who is a platonic friend, “I love you bro” like David and Jonathan did in the days of yore. If you can’t, then you are buying into the lies society and culture are telling you and you are simply cultivating the vicious cycle of the fallacy of what it means to be a man.
When it comes to masculinity, scratch all the garbage you’ve been fed by the media and our culture. Get back to the ultimate archetype, Jesus, and then masculinity starts making a whole lot more sense.