I hear a lot of bombast these days about biblical manhood and manliness. I’m all for manly men things. I do it. But since I have just found a perfect example of true, biblical manliness, I think now is a good time to say a few things about the subject.
Biblical manhood is about self-sacrifice. If this is absent, you may have male-ness, but not the true heart of laudable, biblical manhood or manliness. If you are not setting yourself aside to serve others, forget it; I might see a Goliath, but I do not see a man.
So, first, I’d like you to see a real man. Do you want to see a real man? A man’s man? Check this out:
The little girl in this video probably will not remember this. She will, however, look back on this video someday and know that her father was a real man who loved her more than himself, and was willing to help her, inspire her, even make a fool of himself for her. That’s a real man.
My favorite part: I thought, “How did he have any idea of the moves to keep up?” I realized, he must have been helping her practice at home the whole time. Sure enough, he said:
I walked on holding Suri and stood next to her, trying to help build her confidence – I told her I loved her and that she’s an amazing dancer.
I asked if she wanted to dance with daddy and she nodded, so I thought I’d join in.
I’ve practiced with them at home on many occasions so it wasn’t unfamiliar to me.
And to think, he was already doing “daddy duty” holding the baby. I’ll bet mom was watching from the seats, getting a few minutes off to enjoy the show. Maybe not, but daddy held that baby through the whole thing!
Now this is a real man.
I am not kidding in the least. Over the past several years, and especially recently, I have watched conservative and Christian men in media and social media bluster about manliness. Some of this is childish and faddish—and I confess I have allowed myself to be a poor example in this. But much of it also is in a macho reaction against softer things or some poor target dubbed a “millennial” (usually wrongly)—things often wrongly derided as girly, effeminate, or “emotional.”
If I had a dime for every time a man dismissed a woman’s argument online because she was being “emotional,” my house would be paid off. Men apparently aren’t “emotional” and don’t make irrational arguments based on their emotional shortsightedness. The same guys will shriek if you insult their favorite sports hero, team, brand, branch of the military, theologian, or, in general, anything in which he vaingloriously attaches his dainty pride. And it is dainty, my friend.
On the one hand, we need to get far over the faddish craze of beer, beards, meat, cigars, guns, and MMA as symbols of manliness. Far too many young men have allowed themselves to play this game. We could talk all day about these subjects, but I don’t see much of a point when the subject is true, biblical manliness. There is a lot to say, perhaps, about male-ness, but not what the Bible means when it talks about the purpose of manhood.
Aside from a couple things in that list, pretty much all is either show or consumption. MMA is also a tremendous show in many regards, but it would at least take a form of bravery, overcoming your fears, actually to get into the ring. But there is nothing particularly manly in knocking someone’s lights out. Ironically, if I understand it correctly, Gracie Jiu Jitsu was developed specifically as a defensive system, not offensive. It is not the aggressor.
These things do not define manhood. They have become the trappings of a facade manhood. I am still not opposed to them, mind you, I am merely opposed to the attention-begging display, or fawning celebration of them, followed by social-media high-fives.
On the other hand, the appeal to masculinity or bravado can be just as bad as the childishness of male fads. Just the other day, a fairly well-known conservative pastor, an aspiring “patriarchalist,” posted the following pick of a guy as a subject of ridicule:
The comments was this: “If this is who I want to be, I’m vain and effeminate. What about you? The man who dresses like this is robbing women of their glory. He’s a hippo pimped out in peacock feathers.”
There is nothing particularly effeminate about this man or his clothing. It is sad that touch of style and grooming is enough to elicit a reflex among outspoken would-be patriarchs. A suit? A hairstyle? A dance? There is nothing wrong with any of these things—even though I rarely do any of these things, and never dance myself.
I can assure you, however, that there are far more women and wives out there who would be thrilled if their man spent a little more time in front of the mirror than otherwise. It’s not manly to reject these things. It is decidedly unmanly to scorn or fear them.
A contrast of gender ethics
In contrast, a true, biblical man is one who has such inner peace and confidence that he is not threatened by these things. He does not feel threatened by “girly” things and emotions. He is comfortable around even truly “effeminate” things, and he never feels the need to show off the trappings or “proof” of his own manhood as a reaction. He certainly never feels the need to show it off by contrasting himself against another guy he deems less manly than himself.
That’s like beating up on the littlest kid at school and expecting glory from it, strutting around as if you’re the bully of the whole town. It’s the kind of thing you do so you can look big on the outside, but inwardly you are insecure, childish, jealous, rivalrous, petty, reactive, fragile.
It’s a cocky, self-entitled strut that defines the peacock, not the finery or the color. Frankly, I find a confident guy in purple quite manlier than one compelled to complain about it.
It’s become so predictable and cliché: a symbol of manliness for so many has become a profile pic of a crusader. Apparently, they think they’re recovering the west from feminism and Marxism in the name of Christendom. In reality, so many of these pretend crusaders react with emotional instability and fragility the moment you challenge the façade.
Biblical manhood is defined by just the opposite:
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (Prov. 16:32).
The biblical Christian ethic is that a man gives himself to a cross to sanctify a bride. The bride is to be presented without spot, bedecked in gold and jewels. Heaven is a lamb slain before the throne and streets of gold for the bride.
The fallen or pagan version of this is a façade. It wounds others and builds a legacy for its own name. It projects walls and strength on the outside, makes threats, denounces the weak and proclaims itself great. Woman are usually at its service and its mercy.
This is the way of Cain. He built a city-fortress and named it after his son, his “legacy.” His sons became great developers of things. Lamech progressed in evil, took multiple women, wrote a boastful song about it, and dared anyone to knock that chip off his shoulder on pains of death. Outwardly they were all manly men. No one dared deny that. Inwardly, they were all cowardly murderers, adulterers, thieves, and children. The didn’t rule their own spirits. Their guilt and sin ruled them.
Islam suffers from the same malady. Women are subjected to the power of a male dictator, forced into servitude and a burka. There is no cross. Women are sacrificed for the glory of men. Heaven is 70 virgins or “houris.” It’s a porn palace for men.
About the time Luther was gearing up to lead the Reformation, including a Reformation of marriage, one Islamic authority was promising men that heaven would be eternal Viagra:
(Warning: adult content:)
Each time we sleep with a houri we find her virgin. Besides, the penis of the Elected never softens. The erection is eternal; the sensation that you feel each time you make love is utterly delicious and out of this world and were you to experience it in this world you would faint. Each chosen one [i.e. Muslim] will marry seventy houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetising vaginas.
From my experience, some of our dedicated would-be patriarchs seem to have more in common with Islam’s view of manhood and women than they do the biblical ethic of love.
Love is giving—giving with no credit, no fanfare, no adulation, no likes or shares, no comments. Biblical love is love that may hurt you, to help someone else, and doesn’t make it onto social media.
Are you ready to get hurt? Not butthurt, but hurt? For someone else?
There is, of course, far more to say about this topic. We can hardly do justice here to what has filled books already. But one thing should be clear: the facades of manhood need to take a back seat to real biblical manhood, and we need to shut up about it, except to illustrate truly good examples. That means we need more self-sacrificial examples, and more men secure enough in themselves that they don’t get triggered when the color pink is too close to them.
So, back to our good example: have you helped your daughter with her ballet moves lately? I mean, I know you’ve got a beard to grow, guns to shoot, whisky to drink, hipsters to make fun of, and you need to change your profile pic, but I’m talking about the actual manly stuff—where you crucify yourself in love for someone else.
Too many Christian males today want to protect godly manhood by fighting against feminism and the foibles of the universities. They end up creating one more façade of manhood in knee-jerk reaction against a façade of womanhood. They let humanism define their terms, and they end up in the ditch on the other side of the road. Still humanism and sin, though. It’s a sign of our collective depravity when pastors are the ones making these mistakes.
What we need are more men to look at the theology of the Bible and of the cross—and then be absolutely willing to apply it to themselves, and then to stick with that until we are fully mature and trained in it.
You may not like that guy who spends a little too much time in front of the mirror, but I’ll be honest with you: a real good place to start in this project is by looking in the mirror. Until you’re willing to take that guy to the cross, and train him there a while, you may not be fit to lead anyone else—at least not while calling your manhood biblical.