Jesus Christ: The Standard for Manliness
One of my favorite songs is "The Measure of a Man" by 4Him. If you haven't heard it, I suggest you do. It was what spurred me to think deeply about the content of this post. In this post, I want to give a short overview of what biblical manhood should look like. This topic could take several weeks worth of posts, so I will try to condense it by looking at the ultimate example of biblical manhood: Jesus Christ himself. I think that, if we are honest, we will recognize that we are lacking strong examples of biblical manhood in our culture in general. It is my view that this lack of strong examples is directly correlated to a lack of Christlike men in our society. Combine this with a strong biblical illiteracy that pervades our culture, and we should not be surprised if we continue to see fewer and fewer examples of biblical manhood.
Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh. That is, Jesus Christ had two natures: one human nature, and the divine nature. Jesus succeeded precisely where our first father, Adam, failed. This means, in a very literal sense, that even though Jesus is truly God in every sense of the word, he is also a better human than any other human being has ever been. In a very real sense, God is better at being human than human beings are. How is that for a humbling thought?!? Because Jesus is the perfect man, we can say that the concept of biblical manhood is objective, not merely subjective. That is, it doesn't vary from person to person. The objective standard, rather, IS a person. In this sense, to become less like Christ is to become less of a man by this standard, and to become more like Christ is to become more of a man.
What we need in order to become better men is to carefully look to and imitate Christ. When we take the manliest man to ever man (and no, that is Jesus Christ, not Chuck Norris) as our model, we will see ourselves becoming more like the objective standard for manliness. Of course, we have to realize that we are imperfect and will fall along the way. However, when we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will become better men. We also have to remember that Jesus did some things that we will never be able to do on our own, and I don't believe Jesus expects us to call Lazarus forth from the tomb or to heal a leper with a word. I'm not saying that God cannot perform miracles today, or use His people to do so. I'm simply saying that this is probably not part of the model for biblical manhood. So what is? Let me point out five things that many men are lacking today that Jesus lived perfectly:
The first quality that Jesus had that many men do not have today is humility. It may come as a shock to us that God is not proud. Rather, God is humble. As a Maximally Great Being, it is impossible for God to be proud, or to puff himself up beyond what he actually is. The only thing God can be in this regard is humble. We see this in Jesus. In the very act of becoming human, the Logos showed his willingness to humble himself for our benefit. Paul speaks about this and encourages us to follow Christ's example in Philippians 2:1-11.
We also have to remember that God was under no obligation to become one of us and redeem us. He did this of his own free will. That is, he willingly chose to be humble, when the alternative (immediate Justice) would have been just as justifiable for him. Everything in Christ's life breathed humility. He did not have to suffer like we do. He chose to suffer like we did, so that we would benefit. He did not have to choose to suffer the same weaknesses that we do. He freely chose to suffer them for a short time for our benefit. Men should be humble, and the perfect example of humility is found in Christ.
Love for Others
Closely tied to the concept of humility is the concept of love. Notice that Jesus humbled himself for our sake. He didn't have to. He chose to. That choice was an act of love. In fact, Jesus is the only person in history to love perfectly. Scripture makes it clear that it is God's will for us to love each other, not to hate or be apathetic toward one another. With this being the case, we become less of a man when we fail to love. Let me be careful here, because our modern society has twisted the definition of love to fit itself. Love in the biblical sense is not a feeling. It is not subjective. Rather, it is the deliberate choice to seek the best interests of someone else, regardless of the personal cost to you. If you see a homeless person, and you give him the $20 bill that you were going to use to buy fast food later, that is an act of love. You gave up your personal interest for that of someone else. It is important to note that love without sacrifice is love that is lacking. If there is no sacrifice in the work of love you are doing, it is likely a sign of a deficiency in the love that you are showing.
Jesus was determined to seek our best interest, knowing full well that it would cost him his very life. If you ever need an example of what love looks like, look at the passion narratives. Though he could have cried out and been rescued at any time, Jesus chose the nails. What are you willing to go through to show love to your neighbor?
Obedience to God
A third mark of manliness that we find in Jesus but is largely lacking today is an unrelenting obedience to God, no matter the cost. We have to remember that God does not tell us to do something that will not have a net positive benefit for everyone involved. God works good even out of the difficult situations in life. If we obey God in the areas that we want to obey him in, but do not obey him in the areas that we have difficulty with, then it is not God we are obeying, but ourselves. If we are obeying ourselves, we fail as men.
God created Adam to be in God's presence in the Garden in Eden, and to take care of the Garden. It was sin, disobedience to God, that ultimately resulted in him losing his original purpose. We can speculate what it would have been like had Adam never sinned, but what I think is clear is that, in that moment of sin, Adam became less than what he was created to be. So do we when we fail to obey God. We become less than the man God has called us to be. Ever since Adam's transgression, all of us have failed to obey God perfectly.
Enter Jesus. Jesus reversed this by living a perfectly obedient life. He was obedient to the Father even to the point of death. In short, the only perfect man to ever walk the earth chose rather to die than to disobey God. This is what the call to biblical manhood looks like, and it is something that we cannot ignore.
Reliance on God
Throughout his life on earth, Jesus depended on the Father every second of every day. If Jesus needed to rely on the Father, don't we need all the more to rely on the Father. Yet, I don't think that anyone could have put more trust in the Father than Jesus did. It is important to realize that Jesus never acted alone. It was always in accordance with the will of the Father. This is a simple deduction from the doctrine of the Trinity, where it is understood that no one Person of the Trinity acts without the other Persons of the Trinity. That is, the three Persons are so unified that they act together as one. There is a mutual trust within the Godhead. But it wasn't just in his divinity that Jesus trusted the Father. It was in his humanity as well. It is this trust in God in the human nature that we should emulate if we are to be biblical men.
Jesus has set us an example of what it looks like to depend on God. Let us follow it closely.
Jesus had integrity. He never told his disciples to do something that he himself would not do. There was not an ounce of hypocrisy in him. Because of his integrity, we can have confidence in both his words and his example. This vital quality is lacking in many men in our society. We would do well to recover what integrity looks like by looking to Jesus.
While there is more that could be mentioned on the topic of biblical manhood (and there have been numerous volumes written already), I believe the best thing for men to do is to look to Jesus Christ, the perfect man. He is better than us in every way, and looking to him will only make us better men.