On Being a Man (1)
My workdays are spent in a DEI world. The buzzwords Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are everywhere, as is conversation about gender and identity and preferred pronouns. In this world—the world that some of you grew up in—it’s easy to talk about what is expected of PEOPLE, and virtually impossible to talk about what is expected of MEN and WOMEN . . . especially in contradistinction to one another.
It feels subversive in our culture to even suggest that there’s value in talking about what it means to be a man. But our society has lost its way, and the church itself has gotten confused.
I grew up in a rural community in an agrarian world. I drove trucks and tractors, felled trees, cut brush, split wood, and plowed snow. I played games that men play; I rowed boats and paddled canoes and fixed engines and cut hay and did things that had an element of danger in them. Unfortunately, that’s mostly not the world in which I raised my boys—and though I miss it with every fiber of my being, it’s not the world I live in now.
I don’t drive a muscle car and don’t have a motorcycle in my garage. (Truth be told, I don’t even own a garage!) Like many of you, I don’t drink Scotch whiskey, smoke Cuban cigars, or even change my own oil. I don’t have a wood stove and it’s been a long time since I’ve known the pleasure of splitting dry hardwood.
What’s a man to do?
That’s a great question!… precisely because being a man has never been about WHAT we do. It’s always been about WHO we are.
I love to work, and get my hands dirty, and play ball and leave it all on the field. I like to sweat, and lift heavy things, and drive a little too fast, and throw a steak on the grill and wash it down with a Pilsner. I’m drawn to journeying stories, and movies where people come through against all odds, and rooting for the underdog.
But none of that makes me a man. Being a man is less about what we do and more about who we are.
And who exactly is that?
I’ve had a song stuck in my head lately. It’s a Charles Wesley number that fell out of favor a long, long time ago. But just because it fell out of favor, doesn’t mean it has nothing to teach us. In fact, maybe we need it more, precisely because we don’t sing it anymore. Here’s the first verse:
Soldiers of Christ, arise and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son;
Strong in the Lord of Hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.
This is not a song about joining the local militia, and it has nothing to do with physical strength. It does, however, call us to be men who step up and join the battle and recognize that it’s not our strength that matters, but the strength of the Lord of Angel Armies. And while we naturally trust in ourselves and do things in our own strength, the man of God who makes a difference in this world is the one who has learned to trust in Jesus and tap into His provision.
So, if you’re trying to figure out what it means to be a man in today’s culture, start by reflecting on these words of Paul from his letter to the Ephesians:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12
“Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.”