Masculinity in the church
The world’s definition of a man is remarkably similar to the alpha male seen in many animal species, but adapted to humans. We let food, sex, and intimidation define us in many ways. Competition often trumps cooperation. It comes out in many blunt ways: violence, posturing, cheating, lying, womanizing. But it is more often expressed in subtle ways: driving an expensive sports car or wearing brand name clothing with logos in plain sight to be sure others know what a success we are; bragging about our athleticism or at least our knowledge of sports; putting others down behind their backs in the vain hope of lifting ourselves up.
But with Jesus as our leader and example of godly manhood, surely things look different inside the church. Right?
So how do we define a man in the modern American Christian church? Outwardly, its men’s groups and men’s retreats. Men’s work days and men’s mission trips. Men’s bumper stickers and men’s witness t-shirts. Do we consider the guy who shows up on Sunday morning in a shirt and tie wearing glasses and a pen pocket protector to be one of the guys? Or does he need to be wearing a football jersey or a t-shirt and jeans and dirty work boots that show that he has a useful, skilled labor job? If a guy wants to discuss the pastor’s message in the fellowship hall after Sunday service, is he as much of a man as the guy that wants to talk about his kid’s Pop Warner football team or his weekend riding ATVs in the desert?
I was sitting in a seminar recently and the speaker was talking about his faith and how it had informed and directed his business decisions. Although I was listening to a man share how much he loves Jesus, and how he has given away so much of his income, and all of the mission trips he’s been on and how none if it matters without Christ, all I could think of was that this super wealthy guy was a real man. He had a dream career and more money than he knew what to do with (literally). He traveled the world and didn’t seem to have a single care.
Am I really that conditioned by society to value his wealth and status and lifestyle over the amazing things he was doing with it all? How could I have missed all the signs of a true man, of a Man of God? The Man of God signs were deep and counter cultural. But the shallow and strongly cultural signs of manhood were oozing out of his pores, and that’s all I saw.
The first step in understanding our own masculinity is to understand all of the false messages our culture has fed us our entire lives, and to recognize the grip they have in our own hearts. Then, and only then, can God begin to redefine manhood, Biblical masculinity, changing our understanding of ourselves and the men around us. And possibly changing our understanding of the Father Himself.
Questions for thought
Do you see men in the church living by a different standard than the one the world sets for manhood? Do we look any different than everyone else?
Have you ever found yourself admiring someone for all the wrong reasons, like I did at first with my Christian business friend?
How would a new view, a Biblical view, of masculinity change your view of God the Father?
Father God, show us where our definitions of manhood are too much of the world. And fill our hearts with your definition. Amen.