- Damon Cinaglia
- 2003 13 Jun
Modern research has concluded that the transition from childhood to adulthood in the United States is often unclear, resulting in additional stress for both youths and the older population who must accept them as adults. Unlike other cultures, which often have distinct markers for this transition, such as bar mitzvah's and various other types of rites of passage, Americans have no clear indication about when a young person finally becomes "grown up." Our markers are usually gauged by age; at 16 you may obtain a license, but you cannot vote or join the military until you are 18. Yet another marker is the ability to legally purchase alcohol at 21, and you must be 25 in order to rent a car. The age you may get married varies depending upon the state in which you live.
Further confounding this issue are the ideas about manhood and womanhood. In today's decidedly liberal culture, we are bombarded with notions of what it means to be a man or woman. Beer commercials are some of the best examples of these types of suggestions. The media, our school system and political groups continually try to define and impress upon us their own ideas, but what does Scripture say about the subject? Today, with so much emphasis on defining what it means to be a woman, it is difficult for men to know their role. What we need is a fresh perspective of biblical manhood.
In Robert Lewis' book, Raising a Modern-Day Knight, he discusses C.S. Lewis' notion of two essential qualities found in the knights of old; fierceness and gentleness. It is these two qualities that can be found in perfect harmony in many men in the Bible, including King David, the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ Himself. The balance of these qualities is vital. Were one to outweigh the other, the quintessential idea of manhood would be lost. Someone who is strong and powerful without compassion is a tyrant, while one who is gentle and tender without firmness cannot adequately lead others. In Scripture, men of God consistently possessed both strength and gentleness in equal supply. Witness the warrior and poet David as he fells the giant Goliath, yet tenderly provides for Jonathan's descendents, or the apostle Paul as he affectionately looks after his "spiritual son" Timothy, yet harshly rebukes the church in Corinth. Jesus Christ, our best example, wept openly over Jerusalem and in the garden of Gethsemane, yet drove the money-changers from the temple and called the religious leaders of his day a "brood of vipers."
One thing is certain: Biblical manhood entails leadership. God did not call men to be followers, rather to be leaders. Indeed, this was a special office that God has delegated to men. Adam failed in this regard when he stood idly by and not only allowed Eve to be tempted by Satan, but allowed himself to be lead astray as well. Eve did not lead Adam into sin, rather he sinned on his own when he abdicated his position of headship over his wife. In Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. states, "In the partnership of two spiritually equal human beings, man and woman, the man bears the primary responsibility to lead the partnership in a God-glorifying direction." He goes on to say that a distinction must be made between male headship and male domination. Male domination would be an example of strength and power without gentleness, whereas true male headship requires both.
Another quality of Biblical manhood is speaking the truth, specifically the Word of God. The term "man of God" in the Scriptures is most often used in reference to Moses, Elijah, Elisha and Timothy. Moses spoke on behalf of God in communicating the law to the people, and Elijah and Elisha spoke as God's prophets. I Kings 17:24 says, "Then the woman said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.'" Timothy is called "man of God" by Paul as he exhorts him to pursue the qualities that warrant him being called so. "But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness." (I Tim. 6:11) Once again we see the call for both strength (godliness) and tenderness (gentleness).
Finally, Biblical manhood entails work. II Tim. 3:16-18 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." A man of God is familiar with God's Word so that he may be adequately equipped to do the work of the ministry: building up the church through leading others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and discipling others to do the same. This task begins first with his own family (a man's primary ministry) and then extends to those God has placed around him in his life.
The call of Biblical manhood is clear. A man of God is strong, yet his strength is tempered with tenderness. He is a leader, self-controlled and pure, who speaks the truth as God reveals it to Him according to His Word (the Bible) and leads others in that truth. He seeks God's will on behalf of the people in his circle of influence and works diligently to meet their spiritual needs in Christ, bringing up other young men behind him. We must reject the idea of manhood portrayed to us by the media and embrace once again the ideas put forth by the One who created us. As His children, we need to understand the roles He has established for us and strive to fulfill them.
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