I find fascinating how perceptions of masculinity can drastically differ from culture to culture and sometimes from person to person. Manliness is such a broad concept and some has been connected to everything from excelling as a chef to hitting the gym every day to owning classic cars. Many men are adamant that manliness is found in what their respective thing is and those who lack that characteristic are anything but manly. In churches this strange phenomenon is hardly different despite the reality that scripture indeed describes true masculinity in objective ways. Sadly, the attributes of real men (or Godly men) are almost never considered to be among the masculine characteristics when popular definitions are considered. A consideration of true masculinity is needed for all men and through study of scripture we can be helped a great deal. Though much can be said (and has been said) on this topic, I hope to briefly address only a few Biblical aspects of masculinity to make this article accessible to the busy working man.
The vast majority of Biblical guidance on pursuing Godliness is given not specifically to men or to women but given to all Christians. If you do a Bible word search on passages with commands given to men, even still the majority of these are general commands for all people. Several passages are nonetheless targeted at Biblical manliness in particular and three of the most overt are found in Paul’s letters. The most broad of these is 1 Timothy 6:11, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (ESV). This is a command to the pastor Timothy but it’s framed as an appeal related to his standing as a man of God, though it should be noted even here this text speaks to women as well. Paul first asks Timothy to flee the love of money as a man of God. This so strongly contradicts a prominent understanding of masculinity which considers rising to the top and having an abundance to be a sure sign of manhood. The Bible not only does not support this idea, it actually sees the restless pursuit of such things as disastrous and a weakness. Instead, real men pursue Godliness, loving others above self, Biblical truth, spiritual consistency, and gentleness. These are not ways that real men save themselves, for men of God realize they can only be saved through the righteousness of Christ who took their sin. Real men in general seek to live lives that serve God before themselves according to His word and they do this by consistently glorifying Him in the day to day and by regularly putting others before himself.
The question then is how a man puts others before himself and who is he most responsible for serving in the Lord. Fortunately the Bible answers those questions quite clearly. Ephesians 5:22-6:4 and Colossians 3:19-21 are two passages that essentially address the same topics with different degrees of depth and both answer this question for men of God. Paul in both passages lays out principles for Christians households and some of his strongest words are given to men. In Ephesians 5:25 Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In Colossians 3:19 Paul shows how a Godly gentleness plays out, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” We at WBC have preached on these texts and for greater detail than I would provide, I encourage men to listen to those. To be brief these texts show that men are called to love their wives as Christ loves Christians and train up their own children.
Real men with families lead their families by sacrificing of themselves and giving up their own desires to serve their wives and bless them. True men will be quicker do the dishes or pray with their wives than meet their buddies at the bar. Biblically manly men sacrifice what they want so their families can be faithful to the Lord and so they may better bless their wives and children.
Our texts show us real men are also the men that don’t pass the buck on the discipleship of their own children. In our day teaching religion to children is often seen as the job of mom or sometimes grandma. While real men of God encourage their wives to teach the children of the Lord, they seek to take the chief role in this important task. Some of the manliest things ever are helping a child think through things Biblically or leading the family in family worship after breakfast. Manliness is often found in seeking every way possible to point our own children to the Lord. There is some truth to the mentality that manly men are brave and strong. They are especially brave to turn down that overtime when they are having a hard time finding time for consistent family devotions. They are especially strong when they are strong in the Word so they can help their wives learn the Bible.
We have seen a few of the ways the Bible defines being manly and how they contradict the values of our culture. Men, you are right to want to be seen as manly but make sure that manliness is true manliness. Be manly by serving the Lord and your family. Be manly by sacrificing many of the measures of manliness in our world. Be manly by being a man of God.