The Corinthian Man-Creed
- Friday, February 02, 2007
The scripture board on the wall of my two-and-a-half-year-old son reads:
“Be on your guard, stand firm in faith, be a man of courage, be strong; do everything in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Years ago, long before my son was even an inkling, I came across that verse as I was sending my own father one of many letters I composed over the years to share with him the message and importance of salvation, and the value of life in Christ. My sister, mother, and I came to know the Lord in 1980, but it took another 17 years, seven months, and 26 days worth of praying, heart softening, and brokenness for Dan McEvoy to surrender.
And it wasn’t this letter or the above verse that pushed him into it. No, this letter I was writing simply to tell him how blessed I was to have begun dating a woman (who eventually became my wife) for whom faith came first, and I was giving God all the glory and credit and all that good stuff, and probably telling him how God delights in blessing those who trust in Him.
With the letter I enclosed a quick-and-dirty page of graphic art involving the aforementioned verse from Corinthians in some fancy font, with a clip-art picture of a sailboat, kind of as a visual aid to my letter, indicating, I suppose, what it was like for the man of God to live in this world under the Captaincy of Christ.
Well, so. After he died in 2001, I found that letter and piece of “art” in my father’s desk, looking as if it had been read and glanced at often. Something in me knew then that if I were ever to have a son, I’d commit to raising him to manhood under these same five principles:
Be on your guard. Be ready, be alert. Expect God to be involved, expect Satan to attack. Let the wonder of creation still catch your eye.
Stand firm in faith. Be unmoved because you know intimately that of which you believe in. Become biblically literate.
Be a man of courage. Fear is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7), so go your way boldly. The worst that can happen – even death – still ends in victory and glory for the Christian.
Be strong. Physically, yes, let’s take care of ourselves, and present our bodies as holy. But remember that the Lord is the strength of the strong (Ephesians 6:10), and that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Do everything in love. Here’s your motivation, because he that doesn’t love doesn’t know God (1 John 4:8), and the world shall know you by your love (John 13:35).
So when Jordan was born, and we had the dedication service at our church, that’s the verse we selected to have read. My sister-in-law’s sister-in-law (confusing enough?) had previously painted a scripture board for our niece’s nursery, and graciously consented to create one for us as well. And there it has hung in Jordan’s room for 31 months now. From time to time, I’d mention it to him, and read it aloud.
Two weeks ago, he started reciting it by memory. Well, the first two phrases, anyway. He asks me to read it all the time, and do the arm/hand motions he made up (an arm curl for “strong,” arms crossing heart for “love,” etc.). He has me calling it our “Man-Creed,” which I think is completely awesome. When I get home today, he’s going to smile at me and ask if we can say our Man-Creed, and my heart will swell with fatherly pride.
But here’s the secret, which Jordan doesn’t know…
These couple verses from the closing of Paul’s first letter to Corinth aren’t for him… they’re for me.
Have you ever had the experience where, for example, you’re hearing a great sermon in church, and all you can think about are the people you know who really need to hear this? You start coming up with ways to tell them so as eloquently as the pastor is now? You consider reserving a copy of the sermon tape to send to them? You take the tape home, listen to make sure it’s as good as you remember, get out your Bible to follow along, and without even knowing what happens, you suddenly come to the red-faced realization that, oops, this message is for you. Not Mom, not husband, not good friend going through a rough patch, you.
Heh heh. Yeah. And in this case, being caught “off my guard” in that respect gains a tinge of irony since here the very verse is preaching about being on my guard. I was more than happy to tell my own father how to “be a man,” and perfectly willing to raise my son to be one according to the Word.
But how, I wonder, did I intend to do so without living out the credo, making it my own? The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible comments upon the 1 Corinthians passage thusly: “[Paul] shows that they ought to make their hopes of salvation to depend not on Apollos or any other teacher; that it rests with themselves.” Yes, and on how I am willing to live, or better, whether I am willing to let my life be of greater worth than my words.
The Commentary Critical adds: "’Be on your guard:’ for you are slumbering; ‘Stand’: for you are like men tottering; ‘In the faith,’ which was assailed by some; ‘Be men…be strong’: for you are effeminate; ‘Do everything in love,’ not with strifes as at present” (Language updated).
That’s a great reminder of all the ways the Church is starting to come back into understanding what it means to be a man of God. John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, and Paul Coughlin's No More Christian Nice Guy, among others, have educated and inspired many regarding the forgotten masculine side of Christianity. There are whispers everywhere that men’s ministries are on the upswing.
I don’t know about the other guys out there, but it definitely helps me to have something to live by, something to recite, something to write on my heart, ponder the meaning of, and connect to other scriptures as I strive to be a man after God’s own heart. And it doesn’t hurt that this creed I now follow is affecting its third generation in my family.
So please allow me to recommend teaching your child – no matter how young – to recite a Bible verse that reflects who they can and should be in Christ, and make it real in their lives. But while you’re doing it, “be on your guard.” It may just become your own credo.
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