Without wise filters and guidance it’s easy to get our cues from the world around us. What’s the right way to look at this topic? ◊
A sensitive topic today in the culture is the issue of masculinity. In some circles male behavior is even labeled as toxic and damaging to woman, children and men themselves. Certainly there is ample evidence in the world today as well as over human history that male behavior can be rife with anger, aggression, greed, power-seeking, and selfishness.
Sounds like bad form or normal, everyday sin to me.
But that doesn’t let us men off the hook. How should a man really act? What is healthy masculinity? What is the right way to manage ourselves and our behavior in our relationships with our wives, children, friends, and fellow-mankind?
And who is the arbiter of right masculinity? Is it our cultural leaders, or government, or university professors, or media, or corporations? Is there an ideal model of masculinity that we or anyone can hold up?
Jesus and Masculinity
It’s strange that Jesus is not often what people think of immediately when looking for an ideal model of masculinity. Images of Jesus we have in our minds are from classical Renaissance art paintings or modern religious story books. Of course, there were no photos or accurate artistic renderings of Christ from the first century. Often Jesus is depicted as passive, carrying a lamb, sitting with children around Him, or hanging helplessly from a cross.
It’s not a classic, masculine look.
But we all know that true masculinity goes well beyond physical looks and appearances. There are kind and sensitive actions, gentle and supportive responses. But even these attractive personal behaviors are not getting to the real essence of male masculinity.
So what’s the right perspective and how does Jesus represent that?
The Masculine Model: Adam vs. Jesus
In Genesis 1 and 2, God created and gave the first man, Adam, a free will, with a greater will than his own to obey. God gave man work to do: to oversee and cultivate. Then God gave man a woman to love, a companion for intimacy and fellowship.
And it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
But Adam, this first man, chose poorly. He chose disobedience and passivity. Jesus, the “last or second Adam,” (1 Corinthians 15:45-47) chose obedience and strength in purpose and resolve. Men all through human history walk in the shadow of one of these two male role models.
In light of this, the most compelling description I’ve seen of true masculinity is by Dr. Robert Lewis in his Men’s Fraternity Series.1 There are 4 keys that draw from comparisons of Adam and Jesus.
And for any man, Jesus is the ideal model:
- Masculinity Rejects Passivity – Adam was passive in the garden (Genesis 3:6); Jesus rejected passivity. He is our model of strength in both mind and willful obedience. “Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-9). And as a man on a mission, Jesus was bold and deliberate in all things.
- Masculinity Accepts Responsibility – Adam failed while Jesus succeeded in the 3 specific responsibilities that were given to him by God. 1) a will to obey – Jesus said “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34); 2) a work to do – “I glorified you (God) on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4); 3) a woman to love – “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
- Masculinity Leads Courageously – Adam failed to lead his wife. Jesus led by providing direction, protection, and giving His life for others. “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). He said “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). In Jesus there is a sense of purpose and resolute strength, even in the midst of dark circumstances.
- Masculinity Invests Eternally – Adam focused on the temporary, choosing what would satisfy him in the moment. Jesus invested in the eternal. He lived it and he taught it. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-20). Real men of faith and obedience have the long view of life, not the short one. They have Godly visions beyond earthly ones.
Without wise filters and guidance, it’s easy to get our life-cues from the world around us. May we not be so easily deceived. God has given us men and woman a road map for all aspects of life via the Scriptures, the Word of God. How we respond is an issue of will, obedience, courage, and vision. While we and worldly voices fall short, Jesus is and always has been the model for all things good and true. Anything else is diminished and inferior.
Are you practicing Jesus Masculinity?
The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. – 1 Corinthians 15:47-49
1 Dr. Robert Lewis, The Quest for Authentic Manhood: Men’s Fraternity Series, Authentic Manhood, 2012.