“The tendency today is to stress the equality of men and women by minimizing the unique significance of our maleness or femaleness… Confusion over the meaning of sexual personhood today is epidemic. The consequence of this confusion is not a free and happy harmony among gender-free persons …but more divorce, more homosexuality, more sexual abuse, more promiscuity, more social awkwardness, and more emotional distress and suicide that come with the loss of God-given identity.” John Piper, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism.
Today’s feminized Western culture has declared war on masculinity. To mention any fundamental differences between the sexes is not politically correct. Moreover, our boys are being pressured to be more like girls and subjected to a relentless assault upon their masculinity. Robert Lewis writes, “You need to know, Dad, that your son and thousands like him are presently being stripped of their maleness by a modern, secular, feminist, culture. Over the last few decades this culture has steadily and relentlessly undermined healthy notions of what it means to be a man.” (Raising A Modern-Day Knight)
Our culture no longer views masculinity as a noble calling to strength, courage, and sacrifice but as a problem to be overcome. Ben Cartwright has been replaced by Homer Simpson. In discarding our Biblical foundation, postmodernism has jettisoned the call to sacrificial strength that has been heard by men dating back to antiquity. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.”1 Kings 2:2-3 These dying words from David to his son indicate that in David’s time it was understood what it meant to act like a man. The boys growing up today have no such benefit.
Whether it is part of the creation design or the fall, every boy moves towards adolescence wanting to be seen as manly. In most cultures there is a code that defines what it is to be a real man. A boy is profoundly motivated to want to prove to the other men that he has what this code requires. Sometimes the culture has a ritual through which a boy proves himself and he is admitted to the fraternity of manhood. But even without a formal ritual, boys know that if they succeed in their many endeavors they add coins to their masculinity bank.
However, they lose coins when their behavior is deemed feminine. That is why womanly behavior is so damaging to a man. Males avoid anything that might drain their masculinity banks. If you doubt this, let me ask, “How do you feel when your wife asks you to hold her purse for a moment in public?”
Nearly every instinct in a boy’s heart is to resist appearing to be feminine. So, if he sees Christianity as feminine, what should we expect his attitude towards it to be? It is vital for sons growing up today to hear this message: “Christ’s call to follow him never denies your masculinity. Rather, it fulfills it, especially when you understand that to follow Jesus is to enlist in a war between two kingdoms.”
Here are five things a boy needs in order to grow into authentic, godly manhood:
1. A Vision of Godly Manhood. Robert Lewis, supplies this definition of masculinity: “A real man rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, and leads courageously for the greater reward.”(Raising a Modern Day Knight.) He needs a code of conduct,which stresses godly character and especially, strength. He also needs a winsome explanation of how to interact with girls and women. It is time for your sex talk, Dad.
2. The verbal affirmation of his father. He needs to hear, “I love you,” and “I’m proud of you.” Our model is God, the Father, who speaks audibly to the Son, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Mar 1:10-11. A son also needs to have his masculinity affirmed by his father.
3. Time with his dad especially in the 9-12 years. The world, deadlines, contracts, and so forth will always be there-our children won’t. We have a very short window in which to have a major impact in our children’s lives.
4. To see the masculinity of Jesus. Boys love to hear the story of Jesus making a whip and driving the priests and money changers out of the temple, of hardened soldiers so awestruck by Jesus’ presence they said, “Never has a man spoken like this man.” They love to see Jesus get in the face of the scribes and Pharisees.
5. A strong men’s ministry in his church. Our sons need to grow up in a church where men have an identifiable presence as a band of brothers, committed to being warriors in the spiritual battle together.
(This material is from a seminar led by Gary Yagel entitled, Recovering Biblical Manhood. For more information visit the Forging Bonds website.