“Be a man!” yells the coach to his starting middle linebacker. “Make the play!” Most men have heard it at one time or another, “Be a man!” But what does that even mean?
Male-bashing has become a popular past time. Television sitcoms portray men as buffoons and “comic relief.” Our secular world is in a crisis of male arrested development and, sadly, men overall have not done much to make amends for this. Many disregard the responsibility for their lives and actions. One does not have to look very far to find single mothers struggling just to survive and provide for their children. The prisons are filled with incarcerated men. Generally speaking, it is men who are prone to violence, crime and negligence. Is this simply the way it is? What exactly is manhood anyway? What is true masculinity?
For many growing up, the idea of manhood comes in the form of one word – fearlessness. Boys are raised to believe that real men are not afraid of anything – and real men are never supposed to cry. That would be a sign of weakness. But this notion compared to the truth of our reality is starkly contrasted. We do not feel fearless. No matter the façade, we end up timid and insecure. And then soon, fear turns into anger, and we begin to fight against the childhood nightmares. Driven to succeed and achieve status, we test and push ourselves to the limit, always trying to prove—if to no one else than ourselves—that we are men.
Play the toughest sports. Never back down from a fight. Go rock climbing and bridge jumping. Traverse the wilderness, camping through winter and storm. But despite it all, nothing is ever enough. No amount of overcompensating can convince our restless hearts. Even Christians will hold a distorted view of what true manhood is. But are we being deceived? Men must be good for something more, right?
Let us look at what the Bible has to say concerning real men and their characteristics.
At the end of King David’s reign, as he lay on his deathbed, he wanted to give his son one last piece of parting advice. So David charged Solomon to be strong and “show yourself a man” (1 Kings 2:2). This means we are to take courage and heart. And then we are to become, prove and “play the part” of a man. This understanding of manhood is less about cultural expectations and more about biblical example. In the next verse, David enlightens us on how exactly to obtain this status. “Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways… that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn” (1 Kings 2:3). True success is measured in following God. Real men walk in the way of Christ and obey His commission for their lives. Real men are like David, a man after God’s own heart.
Consider Nehemiah, who led God’s people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and fight against their enemies. “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (Nehemiah4:14). That verse can make most men’s adrenaline surge! It makes one think of all those great war speeches in the movies. Imagine Nehemiah proclaiming with confidence in the Lord, his energy quickly becoming contagious. One can almost hear the shouts of victory as he ended the discourse and decreed “fight!” Real men remember the Lord who is “great and awesome.” Real men fight—for truth, for justice, for freedom and for their loved ones. Real men never quit.
Even from the beginning we can see manhood as God intended. God created and commissioned Adam to work right away. Adam’s first responsibility was to cultivate and keep the Garden of Eden. Soon after, he was also given the job of naming the animals. Even here we see the image of God who named all the stars. But there was also a command for Adam to follow. He was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At this point, Eve had not been created yet, so it was also Adam’s role to make sure Eve knew what the Lord had commanded. In fact, after the fall, God held Adam responsible for the choice of disobedience, not Eve. Adam was with Eve when Satan tempted her. But sadly, he did not take charge. He could have stepped up and prevented the sin, but instead He decided to partake in it as well. Real men take responsibility. They do not point fingers. Real men seek diligence and discipline in their work. They know that they are providers, but also that their work is unto the Lord. Real men take charge. They take action. They are leaders—of the culture, of their workplace, in the church and for their families.
And then, of course, there is Jesus – the only perfect example of what manhood is truly about. Jesus Christ set the example of what it is to be a genuine man of God. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Real men live honorable lives. They love unconditionally and sacrificially. The wife is not expected to give up her life – the husband is. Christ gave Himself away for those He loved. A man is to do the same.
True masculinity, biblical masculinity, is not found in accomplishments or adrenaline thrills. True identity can only be found in Christ. Manhood is validated by God alone, because nothing we do in this life matters unless it has the fingerprints of God upon it. Hope of the eternal must impact all of our earthly decisions. For courage is not about fearlessness; it is about doing the right thing no matter what. Even when afraid, bravery is to meet the challenge and persevere. A true man is one who “walks” and “keeps” the way of the Lord. That is where success is found. That is where true manhood is found.
The kind of men we are is for the sake of benefiting others (1 Thess. 1:5). Sure, men may grow beards and eat steak, but there is so much more. Real men know how to honor and respect women. Men do this because they
can, not because women are unable. Real men pursue. Men ensure the comfort of others before their own. They protect and provide for their families. Men battle for freedom and justice in a corrupt and dying world. Real men lead by the example of serving and they stand up and fight for what they believe in, even when no one is looking. Men show courage and give hope to others even when they themselves are afraid. Men positively influence the culture around them. Real men offer their strength and defense to others. Men persevere through tough times. They seek truth and righteousness daily. Real men give their lives away for the ones they love. Real men are of the Word and abide in the Word. Real men pray because they know their strength comes from the Lord and they depend on Him. Real men follow Christ. They would rather live and die than simply exist. And yes, real men even cry. Real men love. And real men change the world. Finley can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org