I watched a sermon from Matt Chandler recently titled Manhood Restored. As a friend exhorted on social media about the sermon, watch this! Chandler wonderfully highlights what masculinity is not:
Directly from Scripture, Chandler urges men to stand firm in the faith, be strong, and do everything in love.
I also recently watched Justice League. [Don’t worry, no spoilers.] My critique of the movie aside, the movie reminded me of why Superman is my favorite superhero. Superman is my favorite superhero, not because of his strength, speed, laser eye balls, or any of the other incredible abilities he has.
Superman is my favorite superhero because with all that power, he doesn’t use it fully. Superman’s capacity to destroy earth is one of the key motivating factors behind Batman’s paranoia surrounding the events of Batman v. Superman. In an almost inexhaustible number of ways, Superman shows us what being a gentle man looks like: strength under control.
Personal aside: this is one of the reasons I despise attempts to characterize Superman as a dark and brooding character…doing so completely undermines his reason for being and the aspect of his character (namely, his gentility) that makes him such an amazing comic persona.
One may even call Superman’s gentility humility, but I think it goes past humility and directly to virtue.
As an article concerning Jordan Peterson’s ideas recently summarized: “…true virtue is possessed only by those with the capacity to destroy others, but who out of their depth of character alone, opt not to.”
This definition is close, but true virtue is more than exceptional character, more than power restrained. Meekness, humility, controlled strength…these are symptoms of something far more cosmic than mere discipline, as the above philosophy would imply. These attributes are symptoms of love.
The ultimate and perfect encapsulation of the above ideas concerning virtue, character, strength, standing firm, discipline, etc. are found, not in our military, or in workout magazines, or in blindingly powerful and reasoned debates by men of extremely skilled rhetoric, or in sexual prowess, or in business dominance. No, the perfect model of all that is true, all that is honorable, just, pure, lovely…is Jesus Christ.
Jesus cast out demons, healed the sick, raised the dead, and performed countless other miracles. Realize for a moment that by simply identifying Himself, those who heard the proclamation fell to the ground. Now that is power!
Specifically though, Jesus displayed His power by how He loved. Jesus loved His Father in Heaven and He loved His creation.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. – Philippians 2:1-8 (HCSB)
We are commanded by Jesus to be perfect. Summing up God’s commands for mankind, Jesus tells us what we must do:
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22:37-39
Notice the mechanism by which these commands are accomplished?
Circling back around to Chandler’s sermon, I realize true manhood, true masculinity, looks like all-encompassing, passionate, strong, gentle, devoted, sacrificial, heartfelt, committed, enduring, powerful…love.
God provides for us the perfect example of love in His Son, Jesus, willingly giving His life so that his friends might live.
How might we, as Christians, and especially as men, model this love for our families, communities, nations, and world?
- Repent of falling prey to weak definitions of masculinity and love.
- Turn our eyes to the true model of masculinity and manhood found in Christ Jesus, and ask that He reshape our flesh to long for opportunities to demonstrate His love in the lives of those around us.
- Love God, and love each other, with every fiber of our being.
Now perhaps you’re thinking…all this love stuff sounds great, but what does it look like?
I get that…I like visualizing success before starting as well. But a word of caution: if we seek fruitful application before repentant supplication, we strive in vain. Loving the way Christ calls us requires a total reliance on the Holy Spirit…period. Apart from the true source of love, in this world and the next, we are nothing, we are worse than nothing because we are a distraction and annoyance.
In light of the first two steps, though, we may examine ourselves in the third, and test our efforts, using the results to guide our understanding and effectiveness. One way we can do this, is by comparing ourselves to the most well known passage on love, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
How patient are I with my neighbor? Am I kind or harsh? Am I envious or do I praise the success of others? Am I self-centered and silly, or am I self-less and watchful? Am I quick to anger instead of thanksgiving? Do I wake up each morning focused on prior injuries, or on how much I’ve been healed? Do I find my joy in sin or in the logos of God?
Genuinely examining the answers to these questions, do we find that we are real men, men after God’s own heart, or little boys clumping around in the clown-shoes of masculinity provided to us by the world?
May we each move forward through the highs and lows of life, loving God and loving each other. Loving, not as we feel, not as culture defines, but as Christ exemplified, as God commands, and as the Spirit enables.
I pray that if you do not know this love, you ask God to show you the Christ.