The Man of God
When the Lord was ready to depose King Saul from the throne over Israel, he sent his servant Samuel to Bethlehem where a farmer named Jesse had eight sons (see 1 Samuel 16). The Lord told Samuel that He would show him which of Jesse’s sons to anoint as the new king. Beginning with his biggest and oldest son, Eliab, Jesse paraded his first seven sons before Samuel, but God said no to each one. Samuel was beside himself because each of these boys appeared to have all the makings of a real man, someone who could be king.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
With all of the false notions of manhood circulating in our culture, it is imperative that we look to the Scriptures for guidance on the real meaning of masculinity. Christian bookstore shelves are stacked with publications on Biblical masculinity. They call upon every text from Genesis to Revelation to show us God’s plan for men. And every male figure in the Bible is used as an example of what to do, or not to do, to be a man.
But it seems to me that the first place we need to look as Christ followers to find an example of godly manhood is Jesus himself. Now, an exhaustive investigation of the character of Christ is well beyond the scope of today’s devotional thought, but it may be useful for us to meditate on some of the traits our Lord displayed that point us to His plan for manliness. As the wise bumper sticker says, Real men love Jesus.
Jesus loved the Father. He admired, respected, honored, and obeyed Him above all else, even to the point of death. It’s easy for us 2,000 years later, having romanticized the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, to dismiss his unconditional devotion to the Father as a given, as something simple for Jesus since, after all, he was God. But the Biblical account of the hours before his arrest and conviction suggests that the Lord was in agony over what he knew was coming. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he told his disciples (Matthew 26:38). He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (26:39). His unwavering devotion to the Father came at a very high price, but one he was willing to make: “Yet, not as I will, but as you will” (26:39). Few of us have followed very closely in these footsteps.
Jesus also loved people. And he told us that loving people was almost as important as loving the Father. When the Pharisee, trying to catch Jesus in a misstep, asked him to recite the greatest commandment, not only did Jesus give the “correct” answer, to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength,” he added to it an insight that many of the religious people of the time had overlooked. He said, “and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12). Loving one another not only covers a multitude of sins, something we could all benefit from, but it fulfills God’s perfect law.
Jesus was also gentle and kind, but never wavering from his message, even when it meant confrontation. The apostle Paul later interpreted this as “speaking the truth, but with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). In his book Wild at Heart, author and speaker John Eldredge tells us that we’ve misunderstood Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek1. We’ve taken this passage and envisioned the Lord as a pushover, a whimp, and a generally nice guy who lacks any convictions or guts. Eldredge reminds us, though, that Jesus knew what power he possessed, and turning the other cheek meant restraining that force. He could call down the heavenly hosts onto his enemies and take control by force if he wanted to. But that wasn’t manhood. That wasn’t his calling. Like Jesus, we are called to restrain our strength at times for the sake of righteousness.
Jesus was a complex man, sometimes submitting humbly to worldly authorities, while other times standing up and rebuking them. He tells us that he came to bring a new covenant based on grace, but then tells us that he did not come to abolish the law. The letter of the law still stands, but the spirit of the law is superior. More than anything, to follow Christ in his manliness requires that we live by the Spirit. Trying to find a formula to follow may take us as far off track as letting the fickle ways of our culture tell us what it means to be a man. Our only hope is to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:19).
Questions for thought
Who has been your role model, consciously or unconsciously, for being a man?
Do you see Jesus as a manly man, or as something softer, something less than a man?
How would your life as a man change if you intentionally looked to Christ as your role model for masculine behavior?
Father God, our perspective on manhood has gotten off track, following after the whims of the world to define who we are. Bring us back to center, Lord, back to your Son who you sent to change us from the inside out. Show us through Jesus and by the power of your Holy Spirit what it looks like to be a man. And then enable us to model that for others. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
1 Wild at Heart, John Eldredge (2001)