Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34 HCSB)
A friend of mine made a statement the other day that I REALLY disagreed with. He made a statement to the effect that the reason homosexuality was so rampant in our culture was because of a lack of masculinity. His illustrations of masculinity? Films like Gladiator and The Patriot. His Biblical tie-in? Jesus at the temple turning over tables and hitting people with a whip.
I have many problems with this statement. For example, I think that if homosexuality is a result of something (and I don’t know that it is), it isn’t a lack of Gladiators, but rather an abundance of them. Men are not generally “nice guys” in our culture. Otherwise, we would not have a cliche like, “Nice guys finish last.”
But I don’t even think this is the case. I think that the kind of homosexuality we have in our culture is similar to that of Sodom, and is a result of that kind of sin. What was their sin?
She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things… (Ezekiel 16:49b-50a TNIV)
I want to dwell elsewhere today, though, and the issue I want to undertake to address is the definition of masculinity.
When you read the Bible, there is no one verse that tells us, “A man shall be…” followed by a list of qualities. The only place we see with a list of this sort is in Proverbs 31, and that is about the “wife of noble character.”
No. There is no set list of qualities that we can say are the way a man, in general, should act. The best we can do is look for examples. So what should we do? Who do we look to as our example? Well, we should look to the ultimate man: Messiah Jesus.
Jesus and Manhood
When you look at the life of Jesus, you never see a gladiator. The only time, outside of the second coming, that Jesus shows Himself as a warrior is when He overturns the tables in the temple. But you can’t take one moment and make it the definitive stance of a person. The bulk of the gospels, even the apocryphal ones, show Jesus as a more sage-like individual; a peaceful teacher. In fact, Jesus even states at one point in His ministry,
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9 ESV)
So Jesus showing and teaching a gladiator manhood is simply wrong. To then say that God wants men to be fighters and dominators is also simply wrong.
So what is it then that Jesus would have us do to show our masculinity? How does Jesus show what manhood really is?
Real Men Show Compassion
This is shown in the Luke 13 passage that I quoted above. If we are to be men as Jesus wants us to be men, we must be willing to show compassion. We must, with broken hearts, open our arms to a suffering world, fully willing to hold them against us while they cry. But we must not use force to get them there. Jesus says here that He wants to protect them like a mother hen does her babies, but, He tells them, “You were not willing.”
God’s grace may be irresistible, but it is not forced.
Real Men Seek for Peace
Then [the men who came to arrest Him] came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place…” (Matthew 26:50b-52a ESV)
If the nice guy mentality is to be shunned, as our culture and a certain Christian author would suggest, then we must shun the way of Jesus as well. Jesus was rarely a fighter. And when He was, the circumstances had to be very special. But the way He taught His followers to live was a life of peace.
When Jesus was being arrested, one of His disciples even went to fight for Jesus and what did Jesus do? He chastised him. He told him to put his sword away. If Jesus’ teachings are to be obeyed and his example to be followed, then we must do likewise. And if Jesus was the ultimate man, then what right do we have to act differently? And wouldn’t that mean that, acting differently than this, we would not be real men?
Real Men are Submissive
Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. (Luke 22:42 ESV)
Jesus showed us a life of submission. Real men are willing to submit. There really is no plainer way to say that. Jesus never once sought out His own good but rather that of others. The only way to really seek out the good of others is to give yourself to them. That is submission.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28 NAB)
And guess what. This is exactly what Paul commands husbands to do in Ephesians 5.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (Ephesians 5:25 ESV)
And this leads me to my last example of real manhood.
Real Men Die
Just as Jesus gave Himself up for the church, so a husband is to give himself up for his wife. But that isn’t all. A real man will submit to death, “even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8), that good may prevail. Isn’t that what Jesus did? And since Jesus died on the cross rather than calling down 12 legions of angels to defend Him, what gives us the right to act differently? Real men don’t kill for what is right, they die for it.
It All Comes Down to This
Being a man like Jesus is a lot harder than being a man like Maximus. Cutting men down is a lot easier than building them up. It takes considerably more testicular fortitude to shake a hand, seek and make peace, take a bullet rather than shoot one, submit to others, and show compassion for our fellow person. It takes more strength to love your enemies than it does to nuke them. And only with God’s Spirit dwelling within us can we even begin to put flesh and bone to what Jesus meant when He said,
If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24 ASV)