By Rev. Diederich Kleynhans
In his article “Nine Attributes of a Real Man” (2), Vince Miller tells how he grew up without a father and consequently had no one to teach him about true and healthy masculinity. His search for answers to his deepest questions drove him to God and to the Scriptures. Here he got his answers, found fulfillment and learned what boyhood means.
The world’s false masculinity
Miller further writes that a clear and precise definition of masculinity is not to be found in the world. Even the entertainment world fails, because its examples of the so-called real man are men like the chauvinist dress hunter James Bond; or the imperturbably-tough and emotionally-detached Jason Bourne; or the greedy and powerful Gordon Gekko (Wall Street).
More recently, we might even see the sex-obsessed misogynist and billionaire Christian Gray (Fifty Shades of Grey) could add to this list of names. Each time we will have to confess that neither the gay South African fashion designer Rich Mnisi (3) with his Pride women’s swimsuit (shown by a man), nor the dress-clad Harry Styles (4) Vogue ‘s front page; neither transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney (5) from the Bud Light ad campaign, nor any of the other macho Hollywood men live up to the biblical definition of manhood!
“Manhood after God’s own heart”
In contrast, the Bible gives the right perspective on masculinity, according to Isaac Khalil. (6) A perspective that through the examples of ordinary, sinful men’s stories (for example David’s story) serves as a framework for “manhood after God’s heart”. The Bible gives many prototypes of masculinity, but also contains numerous references to masculine characteristics from which we can formulate a biblical definition of masculinity.
In the Old Testament we read of a faithful Noah, a devoted Abraham and a humble Moses. Joshua was upright and Samson was strong. Samuel was the epitome of a prophetic leader. Solomon was wise and Daniel had exceptional insight and discernment. God chose, called and equipped these men. He used them and we can learn from them. Yes, also with the many men in the New Testament: John, Peter, Paul – living building blocks in the temple of God.
“There is a burning yearning in the church for men to be men again,” writes Richard D Phillips in his book The Masculine Mandate“because the competing ideologies of the cultural zeitgeist and the false dogmas of liberal churches ignore and even incite the crisis (also a societal crisis).”
This confusion on the one hand and blatant misrepresentations on the other, forces the church to turn to the Scriptures for clues through a reformation-theological lens (so show a little backbone) and then enter the conversation, with answers .
The Bible is clear about the qualities that men must display not only in their homes and families, congregations and (faith) communities, but must also apply in the marketplace and in the public sphere – qualities of manhood that have shaped them and on which the next generation must build on.
From the outset, the Bible establishes the first characteristic, self-sacrificing leadership, in imitation of Divine leadership. The man’s mandate flows from God’s command to Adam: Reign over… the creation… as My representative (compare Genesis 1:26).
In this special position, uniquely created in God’s image, the man is called and appointed to lead with bravery, wisdom, insight and compassion! The Lord Jesus himself gives the example of biblical leadership with regard to marriage (his love for his bride, the church) and wants Christian men to imitate him in this.
It is not cruel overrule or dictatorial abuses of power! It is responsible, self-sacrificing, serving love in obedience to God. As a forerunner, the man must encourage, inspire, lead; always seeking the will of God. At crossroads, he must be the one who takes responsibility and then be prepared to bear the consequences – like a devoted Abraham.
Humility is certainly not a term the world would use to describe masculinity. From a biblical perspective, however, this is a key aspect of “manhood after God’s heart”. Modern society’s “American dream” and Instagram and TikTok celebration of the self has led to arrogance and self-aggrandizement being praised as a form of virtue. Power, strength, and might have become the antagonists of humility.
The status of humility has consequently been degraded to a “crutch”, or even a “badge of weakness”. However, biblical masculinity looks and looks different when it comes to humility and what humility does. Moses, brave leader of God’s people, “was very meek, more than all the people on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).
He is the one who, in the face of the Most High, when the wrath of the Lord wants to flare up against the people, time and again stood between God and his people; the one who stammers into Pharaoh’s palace and demands again and again: “Let my people go“. Brave, manly humility does not equal “step on me”, but is quick to forgive and slow to anger, and above all, willing and ready to serve!
When men stand up in humility and walk before (behind Jesus, wherever that may be), their thoughts, words and actions must be in line with God’s will. In dedication and with discipline, honestly and sincerely, one must first look “inside”. After that follows the walk and trade outside in his church, his kingdom. He promises to provide for our daily and most basic needs and we must live contentedly with that. Of course, this does not mean that we cannot strive for growth and improvement with a healthy amount of ambition and enthusiasm.
In our most intimate relationships, we often discover the value and joy of self-control the most – when we put the interests and needs of others (very often even our own children and spouses) above our own and experience how they thrive in opportunities that we, through self-control, , stepped down. Then we know: I lose nothing by giving others a touch of sunshine.
The privilege to protect and care for, especially with regard to the safety and well-being of others, is preeminently a characteristic of biblical masculinity. The world here also gives a false meaning to the concept of care, because traditionally we have been conditioned to attach to the term “care” the image of a mother, while the Father appropriates this privilege for Himself:How often I wanted… like a hen her chicks gathering under the wings” (Matthew 23:37) and “Like an eagle (…) spreads its wings, takes them up, carries them (Deuteronomy 32:11).
However, care and protection extend far beyond the physical. This includes the psychic, emotional and spiritual well-being and development of our loved ones. As husbands, we must naturally love and care for, preserve and protect our wives – as Christ loves his church. But this nurturing protection also extends to the rest of creation over which we are stewards.
How far does this responsibility extend? Our duty is to create a safe environment within which even the most defenseless person can develop to get to know, serve and honor his/her Creator. In this regard, we can’t help but ask: Where are men’s voices of protest when abortion rates skyrocket? Why are they silent?
Finally, provision is one of the special virtues of biblical masculinity, which has also been misrepresented by the secular zeitgeist. This quality is reduced by the world to financial capacity and monetary capabilities. Of course, biblical provision also implies material means and potential, but is by no means limited to them.
All-inclusive provision is more than just the wallet for family, friend, loved one and loved ones. It is the voice that supports on the sports field; the inspiring word before a big exam paper; the prayerful voice kneeling next to a child before bedtime; the message that hears if a friend is still safe. It is the man who is the anchor in the stormy waters of his wife’s depression; the man with the open hand who treats the unemployed neighbor to a mutton rib around the barbecue fire.
And these men give, because they know how much they have received; they do, because they know how much they are in debt; they serve, because they know, love and want to glorify the Servant on the cross. He, the second Adam; the spotless, sinless, Image of God, in perfect obedience; as true God and true man – Biblical men want to live up to him!
- Diederich Kleynhans is pastor of the NG Church Secunda-Goedehoop.
This article first appeared on the APK’s website.