God’s Idea for Manhood . . . According to Metaxas

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Our culture continues to lose an understanding of what it means that God created humans “in His own image, […]male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). With gay “marriage” on the rise to normalcy and so-called transgender elementary school students allowed to use any restroom they want, it seems that the idea and practice of biblical manhood and womanhood are all but lost in America. But, conservative evangelicals can still make an impact. However far gone our culture appears, our families, our friends, our churches, and our communities still need to hear the truth from us about how God designed men and women and see how that design plays out in real life. I hope to write more on this in the future, but for now, here are some quotes on God’s idea for manhood from the book Seven Men: And The Secret of Their Greatness (Thomas Nelson, 2013) by Eric Metaxas.

Two false ideas about manhood:

The first false idea about manhood is the idea of being macho—of being a big shot and using strength to be domineering and to bully those who are weaker. […]

The second false choice is to be emasculated—to essentially turn away from your masculinity and to pretend that there is no real difference between men and women. (xix)

Both of these ideas are not the way to go. As Metaxas says, going down either road for a man leads to everyone losing out. Consider his argument:

God’s idea of manhood is something else entirely. It has nothing to do with the two false ideas of either being macho or being emasculated. The Bible says that God made us in his image, male and female, and it celebrates masculinity and femininity. And it celebrates the differences between them. Those differences were God’s idea. For one thing, the Bible says that men are generally stronger than women [….] God’s idea of making men strong was so that they would use that strength to protect women and children and anyone else. There’s something heroic in that. Male strength is a gift from God, and like all gifts from God, it’s always and everywhere meant to be used to bless others. […]

But because men have sometimes used their strength selfishly, there has been a backlash against the whole idea of masculine strength. It has been seen—and portrayed—as something negative. If you buy into that idea, then you realize the only way to deal with it is to work against it, to try to weaken men, because whatever strength they have will be used to harm others. This leads to the emasculated idea of men. Strength is denigrated because it can be used for ill. So we live in a culture where strength is feared and where there is a sense that—to protect the weak—strength itself must be weakened. When this happens, the heroic and true nature of strength is much forgotten. It leads to a world of men who aren’t really men. Instead they are just two kinds of boys: boasting, loud-mouthed bullies or soft, emasculated pseudo-men. Women feel that they must be ‘empowered’ and must never rely on men for strength. It’s a lot like a socialistic idea, where ‘power’ and ‘strength’ are redistributed—taken away from men and given to women, to even things out. Of course it doesn’t work that way. Everyone loses.

The knight in shining armor who does all he can to protect others, the gentleman who lays down his cloak or opens a door for a lady—these are Christian ideals of manliness. Jesus said that he who would lead must be a servant of all. It’s the biblical idea of servant leadership. The true leader gives himself to the people he leads. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. Jesus died for those he loves. That is God’s idea of strength and leadership and blessing. It’s something to be used in the service of others. (xix-xx, emphasis added)

I think Metaxas is reading culture well when he says that the denigration of strength among men leads to two kinds of boys: one that is a boisterous bully and the other that is a soft pseudo-man. Like Metaxas says, unfortunately everyone is losing out when an entire culture shifts in the direction described here. Men lose any sense of the biblical, masculine identity, and women receive less and less chivalrous aid (which they need from time to time) from men as they themselves lose sight of the biblical, feminine identity and exchange it for a power grab.

Ultimately, the best example we have (and have ever had) is Jesus. Jesus is no bully. Jesus is no wimp. While on earth c. 30 A.D. He spoke the truth in love and He willingly gave His life for those He loves. Yes, He turned over the money changers’ tables in the temple and called the Pharisees really serious names, but He also associated with the lowly and outcasts of society and talked to women openly (which was socially prohibited). Again, Jesus was all about speaking the truth in love and living in a way consistent with what He taught and what His heavenly Father instructed Him. Of course, Jesus is also far more than our best example. He is also the Savior of everyone who would turn from sin and turn toward Him in faith. I hope that we men who follow Jesus by faith would be more manly like Him.

Learning from the Lives of Seven Great Men

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Almost a week ago for my birthday, I was given from a dear couple at church a copy of the book Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness (Thomas Nelson, 2013) by Eric Metaxas. It looks at the lives of seven influential men in recent world history and examines the principles they held and lived out that made them so great. As it turns out, for a little while before my birthday I had been thinking that it would be neat to read an inspiring biography of a Christian hero. Now, I have just the book to read! And, of course, I would love to share a bit of it with you as I go through the book.

As a general idea of what Metaxas is hoping to accomplish by writing brief biographies of seven famous men, consider his words:

So this is a book that doesn’t talk about manhood […] but that shows it in the actual lives of great men. You can talk about right and wrong and good and bad all day long, but ultimately people need to see it. Seeing and studying the actual lives of people is simply the best way to communicate ideas about how to to behave and how not to behave. We need heroes and role models. (xiv)

I don’t think Metaxas is trying to downplay the importance of actually talking about what is right and wrong, good and bad. Rather, he recognizes the void that contemporary culture since the 1960s has had with respect to role models. Who has the authority to say or show what is right or good has been questioned. As a culture, we are largely skeptical of anyone who declares certain ideas or practices to be absolutely true. As a consequence, our children (and we too!) have settled for heroes and heroines who make them feel good regardless of the principles or lifestyles advocated. This is utterly sad. I think Metaxas is right when he says:

Can we really believe that certain lives aren’t worthy of emulation? And that others are cautionary tales? Are we really unwilling to say that we shouldn’t try to get our children (and ourselves) to see that Abraham Lincoln is worthy of our emulation and Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are not? (xvi-xvii)

So, as I read this book I am hoping that I can see on display the lives of men who are worthy to be emulated. As a young married man, I really do need good examples of what it means to be a great husband, friend, and man. Certainly living examples, but ones from the past discovered in literature can be very helpful too. Like the apostle Paul, for example, who said “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ“ (1 Corinthians 11:1). As I study in this book the lives of other Christian men like William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Charles Colson, I hope to find aspects of their lives I can imitate. And I pray that you can benefit from little nuggets shared here. All to the glory of God!

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