As a man who has been fatherless almost all my life, I have found that defining masculinity is deceptively difficult. I didn’t have someone around to demonstrate true and healthy manhood. My father’s absence has been a source of grief and regret, but this sense of longing has driven me to God for answers, fulfillment, and sonship. He is my one faithful Father, my heavenly one.
Finding a clear and precise definition of masculinity is especially difficult if we turn to the world, rather than to the Bible. Just consider for a moment what we learn about masculinity from our society. It generally doesn’t take long for a boy to encounter an erotic image, explicit story, or grossly inappropriate joke. Even if his parents successfully shield him from inappropriate content on television and online, his friends might pass along what they’ve seen and heard. A boy’s understanding of sexuality is often distorted from an early age, and that distorted view of sex deeply impacts a boy’s view of manhood.
Meanwhile the entertainment industry offers us one flawed depiction of manhood after another, glorifying the womanizing activities of James Bond, the stoic toughness and emotional distance of Jason Bourne, and the obsession for greed, power, and control of Gordon Gekko. As we get older we are sold a bill of goods by drug companies who suggest that if we have male performance dysfunctions, we have “lost” our masculinity and need a cure to gain it back.
How do we understand what masculinity is when it appears so convoluted everywhere we look?
God Makes Men
We need a better definition of masculinity, and who better to define what masculinity is than the Creator himself. When God created life, he reached down to touch and mold man from the earth. With care and intimacy, he created man in a distinctive way. Ultimately, we learn that God is embedding his own image into man.
The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)
In the surrounding verses of Genesis 2, we watch as God defines the purpose of this sole man prior to the creation of woman: the purpose of his work, expanse of his authority, parameters of his obedience, and even the swelling of desire for a wife.
Masculinity finds its definition in God alone — not the world, not culture, not the workplace. Ultimately and completely, masculinity is defined by the God who makes men.
But the plot thickens.
In reading the grand story of God in the Bible, and searching for ideal representations of men among the kings, priests, prophets, warriors, and leaders we meet, we sense that something is never quite right. Sin has damaged the reflection of ideal masculinity. One biblical hero after another is shown to be wounded, broken, flawed, prone to disobedience and even to outright wickedness. And yet within the same men we see small glimpses of masculine glory: undeterred faith, unwavering conviction, humble service and sacrifice. But again only glimpses.
Until God himself breaks into time and space again to give us the model man. His Son, Jesus, is the perfect divine depiction of manhood. He defines true masculinity.
In looking at the life of Jesus, we find countless attributes and commitments that show us how to live as a man faithful to the Father’s call. If you are a man looking for true masculinity, consider whether these nine commitments (among many others) would make a significant impact on your masculinity if actively applied in your role as a leader, employee, husband, father, and son.
1. A man commits to following a greater authority.
[Jesus] said, “Follow me.” But [the man] said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59–62)
2. He commits to sacrifice all else in the shadow of discipleship.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
3. He commits to determined, joyful obedience.
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66–69)
4. He commits to spiritual discipline.
Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
5. He commits to abide in the word of truth.
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32)
6. He commits to growth and production, especially spiritual fruit.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
7. He commits to carry out God’s mission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)
8. He commits to love others faithfully.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)
9. He commits to brotherhood and community.
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24–25)