Man is a Worshiping Soldier

As we move, within our model, from the center to the 3 secondary roles, you’ll notice a few things.  First, we will discuss how each of these 3 secondary roles relate to the core role of worshipper.  That’s important because if any of these become unmoored from the center, then not only is our understanding of manhood going to be warped, but we are also going to increasingly injure ourselves and others around us.

Second, I will highlight a key characteristic of each secondary role.  Could more characteristics be added? Sure, but my hope is to identify the characteristic at the heart of that role and focus there for simplicity.

Third, I obviously want to show that these are, indeed, roles assigned to men in the Scriptures, so we will explore that in a variety of ways, perhaps through the exposition of a passage and/or perhaps through observing the example of one or more persons in the Bible.

So, then, that brings us to the first of our secondary roles.  I don’t want the order in which we proceed to seem to suggest a priority here, but one of them has to be first, so we’ll start with Soldier.

Men are meant to be Worshipping Soldiers.  What does that mean? Well, it doesn’t mean that we are men of violence.  I don’t use the word Soldier to in any way refer to actual fighting, so please don’t go out and take up boxing because of me.  Our struggle, our mission, our battle is not against flesh and blood.  So, don’t picture the Crusades here with “christian” knights going out to conquer the invading armies of the Saracens. Then, what do I mean?

A soldier is someone under orders.  A committed soldier follows those orders.  Even in some cases, whether because of devotion to cause, country, or commander, we read of soldiers with such undying commitment that they follow those orders with great joy and wouldn’t choose any other path.  The man of God is like that latter example. Because he delights in God, he is happy to follow God’s lead. He’s not obeying to earn anything or avoid anything. He obeys for joy! If you’re looking for a short book to stir your joy in the Lord, I’d recommend Mike Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity.  I’ve also had Sam Storms’ The Singing God highly recommended to me.

The danger of being a soldier without being a worshiper should be clear.  It would mean having our own mission instead of the mission of the God we so adore.  It would mean using our courage and strength for unholy purposes.  It would mean trudging through life somehow thinking that our efforts earn us something, be it praise, adoration, acceptance, forgiveness, money, or love.  We call that kind of soldier a mercenary.  He’ll fight anyone if the pay is good.

Not for the Christian the man!  No, we love Jesus.  He is the chief of ten thousand in our eyes.  He’s lovely and more to be desired than all this world.  So, it is with JOY that we say, “Jesus, you are Lord.  You are in charge.  I joyfully embrace your call on my life.  I gladly follow you wherever you go and whatever you are doing.”  Read the Gospel of John, notice how joyfully Jesus goes about the Father’s mission.  That is our example, and that is what we’ll look at in the next post.

Advertisements

The Image of God and Real Masculinity

In the last post, we saw three things that help us understand masculinity: that God is real, that He created out of love and not out of need, and that He is intentional.  We saw that those things shape what a real man is and does.  Let’s dig into three others now.

God remains involved in the world He made

In Christ, Paul says, “we live and move and have our being (Act 17.28).”  And in Colossians 1, “For by him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  He didn’t make us then abandon us.  No, we exist “in Him,” meaning that our existence is sustained by His power.  And that’s the clear declaration from Colossians 1.17: in him, all things hold together.

He hasn’t left us to fend for ourselves.  He hasn’t left creation to crumble around us.  He is here. He is sustaining all things. We see this in a really intimate way in Psalm 3:5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.”  You wouldn’t even wake up in the morning if the Lord wasn’t actively involved in keeping you alive.

And so, real men have staying power.  That doesn’t just mean that they don’t abandon their families, though that’s certainly true, but they also bring a sustenance to those around them.  They aren’t just present, but they are involved in such a way that life flourishes around them. They hold things together. They are a safe place in which others can live and move and have their being.

God takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be

Lamentations 3.37-38 asks, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”  Talk about responsibility. Good and bad…that covers everything. The Most High is in control. He is actively involved, and he doesn’t shirk His responsibility. And when mankind questions His intentions or His righteousness in what He does, He doesn’t run away, but He answers them.

He comes to Job in a whirlwind to show how good and right He has been in everything that occurred in Job’s difficult circumstances.  He comes to Habbakuk when that prophet questioned whether God knew what He was doing. After hearing from the Lord, all Habakkuk could say as he watched devastation surrounding God’s people was,

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

We look at the world and think, “man, this place is a mess.”  But because He’s fully sovereign, we can declare, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8.28).”

Therefore, real men take responsibility.  And if you’re married, you take double responsibility.  Jesus took upon himself responsibility for all the sins of His bride, the Church.  And so men, even when it’s the fault of your wife, it’s still your responsibility.  You own it, you address it the way Jesus did, by giving all of Himself.  We’ll talk more of this in a later chapter.

I’m made in God’s image

You are made in the image of God.  That could actually be translated “as the image of God.”  You are meant to image forth God in the world. People should look at your life and know something true about God.  Perhaps they see your kindness, your self-sacrifice, your tenderness, or your bravery. And even if they don’t recognize it, they’ve seen a reflection of the attributes of God.

Genesis 1.26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So, one point about the image of God is that it plays out in how humanity leads creation.  It is representational.  You are the image of God, therefore, have dominion.

Of course, God’s dominion is a loving, self-giving rule, not a dominating, smash-and-grab sort of rule.  So, the image of God isn’t just about our representation of God in our actions, but it also includes the idea of relationship.  He made man in His image – MALE AND FEMALE.  It wasn’t good for Adam/Man to be alone.  Why?  Because a single, solitary individual couldn’t reflect a God that is 3 persons united in love.  So, when man and woman (two people) become one flesh, they image the God who is Father, Son, and Spirit (three persons) who are one God!

So, those made in the image of God rule, but they do it in a fruitful way.  They are meant to bear fruit. Why? Because that’s what God is like. He gives life.  He overflows. He is a bright, shining Sun who warms the world. He’s a fountain that can’t stop spilling over. So, being made in the image of God requires multiplication.  That’s why it took male and female to really pull it off.

So, men ought to have dominion – a self-sacrificing, servant-hearted rule.  A my-life-for-yours reign. And it should be fruitful and life-giving. What would our relationships look like if men lived out the reality that they are made in/as the image of God?

So, at the heart of every real man is a delight, a relishing, in the God – the Triune, true, and living God – of the Bible, who made him and all things. If that is missing, nothing else in the Model will work.  He is the foundation of what men were always meant to be.  So, again, our the core component of masculinity, then, is authentic, happy worship of the God of the Bible.

Reacting to Toxic Masculinities

We saw in the last post that currently, in our culture, two pictures of masculinity are being promoted, both of which are truncated, even toxic.  Here’s how peoples in the culture and in the Church are responding.

Reactions to Marlboro Man

As I write this, it is the year 2019.  There has now been a several years long attempt by much of society, at large, to devalue or redefine manhood.  They believe that they are achieving progress in leaving old stereotypes of gender behind.  Recent news exposing the rampant sexual abuse that has occurred throughout sports, Hollywood, and even the Church seem to demand a new definition of manhood.  They wonder how we can make men be less violent and less sexual.

And because of that, some Christians also wonder if 2000+ years of teaching on gender differences should be jettisoned so that we can have a masculinity that is a little more gentle, a little more relational.  And when men who hold to some traditional form of masculinity walks in the Church, they find that they are not welcome. Watching the news of abuse, we can understand the desire to snuff out bad masculinity, but we believe that this approach starts from and ends up in the wrong place.  They are reacting to bad masculinity by advocating a different, but still bad, masculinity.

Reacting to a Feminized Masculinity

Others in the culture reject the feminized picture of masculinity.  Perhaps it’s because of their own upbringing, where generation after generation of men lived out the ideal of machismo.  Maybe it’s cultural. Perhaps it’s subculture, passed from military father to military son. There are non-religious reasons for wanting to guard the image of Marlboro Man.

But others in the Church is guilty of promoting a false picture of masculinity as well.  In an attempt to stem the cultural tide, pastors and other Christian leaders have often slipped past Biblical masculinity into forms of patriarchy or downright misogyny.  Some haven’t necessarily tried to fight in the arena of ideas on this issue, instead they’ve opted to start literal fight clubs within their churches.  Nothing is as manly as punching another guy in the face, I guess.  Instead of calling men to a robust picture of masculinity, they’ve settled for roughhousing.

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

We meet two brothers in the book of Genesis destined to compete.  One brother, Esau, was a hunter, an outdoorsman of great ability. Jacob was described as “a quiet man, dwelling in tents.”  While not quite “nancy boy” or “girly-man,” the description is intended to show that in contrast to Esau, an animal of a man (even covered in hair as thick as a goat), Jacob was much more at home, actually, at home.

Here’s the thing, neither man was a good man.  Neither exhibited traits of mature masculinity.  They were both BAD examples of manliness. Because manhood isn’t found in things like temperament, facial hair, interests, personality, athleticism, or preference.  It’s found in Christ-like character that results in Christ-like behavior.  Esau was rash, petulant, and selfish.  Jacob was a liar, a cheat, and a thief.

Right now, some in the culture and Church are trying to sell Jacob to us.  Likewise, people inside and outside the Church are promoting Esau.  But those are both bad choices.  Both are toxic options. Don’t sell out to either truncated picture of masculinity. They are selling us a house on bad foundations.  If these two men fit, so well, the descriptions from each of these camps, and yet are bad men, then the definitions must be wrong.

That means it’s not about how much you cry or how much your bench press.  It’s not how deep a voice or how effeminate a voice is.  Don’t choose Jacob or Esau, choose Jesus.  He made man, His Word instructs us as men, and He lived the perfect life as a man, showing us what a real man is.

On both sides of these stories is the decision between being, seemingly, not manly enough or not womanly enough.  That’s a false dichotomy. Let’s leave that behind and move into robust, Biblical masculinity.

Two Popular and False Views of Manhood

Before we can dive into understanding God’s view of manhood, we need to understand that we already have our own view of it.  Likely, we didn’t formulate this understanding after methodical reflection and study. No, chances are you were given your philosophy of manhood by others.

For some, it happens in an instant, perhaps when a parent or other relative decides it’s time for you to “understand how things work.”  For others, it’s a slow development, pieced together over time through what is said by family, teachers, schoolmates, at home, in the classroom, and on the playground.  Along the way, perhaps, you reject some pieces you hear and synthesize the others into a composite picture of manliness.

In one set of circumstances, the picture that may emerge, especially for young men who really enjoy sports and other outdoor activities, and from a family that does as well, is that of the Marlboro Man.  A self-sufficient, adventurous, unemotional, rugged man’s man. There are some good things about this man. He’s reliable and hard working. He’s brave and knows how to get things done.  And yet, something’s missing.

When this masculinity is taken to extremes, it can become misogynistic.  It can be cold. It’s hard for those around this man (and for the man himself) to know how he feels at any given time.  He’s an emotional guessing game for them.  By the time you realizes that he’s overwhelmed, he’s half way to a divorce or a mid-life crisis.  And he may not truly feel like a man unless he’s doing something that feeds the image he has of himself.  So, changing diapers takes a back seat to fixing up an old car. This is a truncated masculinity. Some of it is true and beautiful, but it is insufficient.

In a completely different set of circumstances, a boy may be given a picture of manhood that looks strangely foreign to Marlboro Man.  Perhaps he is raised by a single mother and/or his grandmother. Or perhaps he is raised in an environment that is simply trying to blur (or erase altogether) the lines between boys and girls, between masculinity and femininity.  The picture he acquires looks strangely like the picture of a female in his life. She’s kind and gentle. Relationships are important. Her interests aren’t sports or machinery, but shopping and coffee dates.

Perhaps this boy only has women role models in his life, perhaps he naturally gravitates to areas often thought of as feminine, or perhaps he’s been told explicitly that boys and girls are the same OR that boys should be more like girls.  However it happens, he comes to see that real men behave like real women…that there’s no such thing, really, as masculinity. This, too, is truncated – partially wonderful and partially destructive.

Both of these pictures are toxic.  In the next post, we’ll look at how different people are reacting to them and start to see a way forward.

Manhood 1: What is a Man?

“Am I a man?”  From my teenage years well into my thirties, this was a constant question for me.  There seemed to linger, somewhere deep in my soul, the fear that I wasn’t a man. That I didn’t even know what it meant to be a man.

Let’s be clear, the question isn’t, “am I male?”  That was determined about four decades ago thanks to my parents.  What I’m talking about is manhood, or you might call it mature masculinity.  What does it mean to be a man? What characteristics, qualities, and skills befit one so labeled: Man?

Sure, there were cultural markers meant to illustrate when a boy had crossed over that invisible line from child to adult, from a mere boy to manhood.  Every generation has these false markers. Most seem pretty childish to me now, like smoking your first cigarette or drinking your first beer. Others point to experiences that certainly should require a mature masculinity, but neither delivers it nor demands it, such as sex, a first job, getting married, and having a child.

No, this is certain, none of those things make a boy into a man.  We can all think of people who have crossed those boundaries, flown past them even, without acquiring one ounce of maturity in the process.

The older I get, the more I realize that I’m not the only guy asking this question.  In fact, the more men I talk to about these things (manhood, masculinity, maturity), the more I find that there are, in fact, very few men who feel like they have a firm grasp on what it means to truly be a man.  This isn’t just those who grew up without a father. Even those who would describe their father as a “pretty good dad,” say that the topic of manhood and maturity now seems to have been woefully neglected in their upbringing.

They still find themselves asking, “am I a man?”  It’s a powerful question.  It’s also a sad question.

The most fortunate can at least remember having “the talk” with their father.  You know the one, something about birds and bees. I say “most fortunate” with tongue in cheek, because it is a stinging indictment on fatherhood when the only conversation required to be a “pretty good dad” is one about sex.  What an even sadder statement about manhood – is sex really the only thing a man needs to know to be a mature man, a GOOD man…and are you sure you can cover it all in 10 minutes?

Well, from time to time, I still ask this question: am I a man?  But now, it’s different. I am beginning to understand what it means to be a man, a good man, a Christlike man.  I can see with greater clarity the qualities, characteristics, and skills needed to be what God has created me to be AS A MAN.  By His grace, I’m starting to see other men discover who they are meant to be as well, and we are walking together towards greater maturity.  And I hope this series helps you do that as well.

The series is shaped around a “model” for masculinity.  It will provide a visual picture of mature masculinity, and as we unpack it, we will begin to understand what manhood is meant to be.  You will see that the model is really an attempt to show us what God’s good design is for manhood. It is an attempt to see how He has instructed us to live as men.

And here’s the really important part, you’re going to see that the way God has designed manhood is based on something even more foundational, namely, His own character.  Manhood is the way it is because God is the way He is. Your mature life as a man is meant to reflect to the world the truth about God. And only when you understand the truth about who God is and what He’s like, will you begin to understand who you are meant to be and have the desire and ability to live it out.

And when you start to live out of that, that’s when everything changes.

A Model of Biblical Masculinity – Expanded

Hello friends, if you were around about a year ago, perhaps you saw me post something titled “A Model of Biblical Masculinity.”  One of the real burdens on my heart these days is manhood, especially Biblical Manhood.  I was excited to see David Murray announce the launch of his Christian Man Academy.  I also felt it was a good time to start sharing some more on what I’ve written on this topic.  So, below is a slight revision of last March’s post, and I’ll be expanding on some aspect of this model every few days.  So, enjoy!

A Model of Biblical Masculinity

At our church, we host a quarterly time for men to get together and pursue God’s vision for Biblical masculinity, so I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic.  I wanted to share a little “model” with you that is my attempt to capture, in visual form what Biblical masculinity looks like, as well as some description (as short as I could bring myself to it) of how it all functions together.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A MODEL OF MASCULINITY

I’m a visual learner. I love charts, graphs, maps, and funny cartoon clippings. I also am a big-picture person. I struggle with details, but if you can give me a compelling overview, then I can begin to dig into the details in a way that keeps me from getting overwhelmed. So, when I began to ask, “what makes a good man” I quickly found myself trying to create some type of visual aid that would help me understand the big picture. Out of that, came the above Model.

While we could say much about the different pieces of this Model, I want to show how they all fit together here.

CORE IDENTITY OF WORSHIP

The Model consists of a core identity; namely, living in a loving relationship with the one, true God as a worshipper – one who delights in, who enjoys fellowship with the Triune God.

At the heart of every real man must be a heart of worship towards God. Not just any god will do, however, because we will become like what we worship. So, if the god I worship created mankind because he needed them (ancient Greek gods for instance), then I will become a needy, self-serving man who demands that others exist to fulfill me. If I worship a god who created mankind, but now keeps his distance (the god of Islam, deism), I will be a detached man who produces something (perhaps work, a child, a family) but then stands apart from it as if it must now continue without me. If I believe creation comes from an accident (new-age spiritualism, most forms of evolutionary theory, Gnosticism), then it doesn’t matter how I live. In this view, the fact that I’m a man is an accident any way. Finally, if I believe that creation isn’t a reality (Buddhism, Hinduism), but is a mirage, a façade, then my life isn’t real either, so the best thing I can do is ignore reality and spend my days seeking nirvana – whatever self-actualization plan I prefer. I will check out on my responsibilities because I don’t really believe in reality.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, who is real, who created with intentionality, who created not out of need but out of love, who created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world, who takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be, and if I’ve been made in His image – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference. At the heart of every real man is a delight in the God who made him and all things. If that is missing, nothing else in the Model will work.

3 SECONDARY ROLES FLOW OUT OF WORSHIP

There are 3 other roles that every man must fulfill, represented by the outer circles of the Model. Every man must be a Shepherd, Soldier, and Sage. The core characteristics for these roles are Love, Courage, and Wisdom respectively. Certainly, each man will gravitate towards one of these roles more than another, but he is called to develop in and live out of all three.

And all three need to be tethered to Worship. Because God’s Wisdom, God’s Courage, and God’s Love are completely different from the world’s wisdom, courage, and love. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” If we start from any point other than the God of Scripture, we are hopeless. Our best love, courage, and wisdom, conjured up somewhere other than from the power of God, are faulty, weak, and foolish. And so to move out from that place spells doom. Soldiers will become dictators, Shepherds will love sporadically or with sappy sentimentality, and Sages will use their wisdom for their own good or for no one’s.

FIDELITY TO GOD’S COMMUNAL LOVE, KINGDOM MISSION, AND DIVINE TRUTH

In fact, these three roles are really responses to God. They exist because God exists and is who he says he is. God is love. That is the core of who he is, and so as those made in his image, we too are called to love (Shepherd). He is community, the Trinity, and so we were created to love in community. The Shepherd role reflects the appropriate response (relational fidelity) to God’s communal love.

So too, God is King of a Kingdom, and he is on a mission to establish that Kingdom. As citizens of that Kingdom and co-heirs with Christ, we are drafted into the Kingdom mission. We are His vice-regents. The Soldier role reflects the appropriate response (missional fidelity) to God’s Kingdom mandate.

Finally, God is true. Though every man be found a liar, he will be found true. And he not only knows the truth, but knows what to do with it, so he is also all-wise. His wisdom makes even the wisest man look like a fool. And so, He has given the Spirit of God to each of us, in short, he has given us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12-16). The Sage role reflects the appropriate response (theological fidelity) to the truth of God.

THE BALANCE OF THE 3 SECONDARY ROLES

Not only must they flow out of the heart of a worship, but these three roles also help balance each other. For instance, a Soldier who doesn’t use wisdom (Sage) will lose the battle, and one who doesn’t love (Shepherd) might win the wrong battle or win the right battle wrongly, believing that the ends justify the means. Similarly, a Shepherd who allows love to trump truth (Sage) has actually departed from real love. And a Shepherd, busy loving, who forgets his mission (Soldier) leads the sheep into danger or away from true blessing. Finally, a Sage who loves knowledge and wisdom, but forgets to employ that wisdom for the good of God’s people (Shepherd) and for his Kingdom (Soldier), fails. All three need each other.

THE INTERWOVEN BEAUTY OF THE 3 SECONDARY ROLES

And when they are working together, we see beautiful and critical activities flowing out, illustrated by the 3 outer rectangles. When courage (Soldier) and love (Shepherd) combine, the result is service – sacrificial, humble service to God, His Church, and humanity. When love (Shepherd) and wisdom (Sage) combine, the result is cultivation – that is, space for the things that make life beautiful and bountiful, from poetry to farming to government that is just. Finally, when courage (Solider) and wisdom (Sage) combine, the result is Christ-like leadership, resulting in the people of God wisely and boldly fulfilling their purpose.

This is just an overview.  I will seek to unpack these primary and secondary pieces in the days ahead, so stay tuned!