Masculinity and Misunderstanding
Scripture: 1 Kings 2:1–4
Masculinity and Misunderstanding1 Kings 2:1-4
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Pastor Randy Smith
How should the Christian exist in a world where there is so much confusion? Just the top headlines from this week included: A man who thinks he's a girl, a girl who thinks she's a canine and white lady who things she's black. Obviously people are free to believe and do as they wish here in America, but that does not mean that God's people can't humbly and gently disagree with their conclusions. Of course many of us would believe their claims are ridiculous, yet all of us should have compassion on the internal pain these individuals are experiencing. And all of us in the church should acknowledge that the primary problem is an all-out war on God's created and intended order.
Considering where our world is going, a discussion this Father's Day on the subject of masculinity is more needed than ever. We have a crisis on our hands. What does it really mean to be a man?
I don't believe any of us would deny the reality of Genesis 1:27. "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Until recently, it was a universal assumption that there were only two genders. There is male and there is female as God created them. We accept that. But where we struggle in the church is defining exactly what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man.
Is the difference between man and woman merely anatomical or is there a difference in the way we should act? Increasing numbers in the world would say anatomical only - and they are even attempting to change that through surgery. Bible-believing Christians should say there are both anatomical differences and a difference in role. It is God who ordains the roles, and it is we who should gladly accept them. Specifically as it pertains to men, God wants us, in contrast to women, to be masculine. But what does that mean? What does that look like? How do we develop it? This morning we'll seek to answer those important questions.
Let's start with some Scripture: As King David was nearing the end of his illustrious life, he gave his final directives to his son, Solomon the one that would be the heir to his throne. In 1 Kings 2, beginning in verse 1 we read, "As David's time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, 'I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man'" (1 Ki. 2:1-2).
Obviously, Solomon was already a man, so it stands to reason that it meant something more for Solomon to "show [himself] a man" (cf. 1Cor. 16:13) Specifically what? David tells us as the passage continues. "Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn" (1 Ki. 2:3). In this case, the Bible makes an unmistakable connection with manhood and obeying God's Word. Single girls, you want to see a real man in the eyes of God? Then marry a guy that loves and follows God's Word regardless of the cost.
Let's remember, Solomon was about to be king of Israel. But merely being king, just like merely being male, did not make him a man. Likewise, succeeding in athletics, hunting and fishing, having a muscular physique, growing a beard and driving a pick-up truck - though all not necessarily bad - are not indications of manhood or masculinity today.
True masculinity transcends time and culture because it is handed down to us from our eternal God and based on His created order. According to the verses I read from 1 Kings, masculinity is rooted in a right relationship with God that follows His unchanging directives revealed in the Scriptures.
Specifically we see in those verses that masculinity is strength. "Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man," David said to Solomon. We are not talking about physical strength, but spiritual strength. Many of the most masculine men I know probably aren't able to get 100 pounds off their chest on the bench press, but they are Hercules when it comes to their ability to, Ephesians 6:10, "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might" (Phil. 4:13).
Who knew this better than David himself? Arguably his most famous act was his victory as a young boy over the famed fighting giant from Gath named Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:45, "Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.'" David was strong in the Lord. As a kid, David was more man that memorable day then all the men in Israel.
Second, we see in these verses in 1 Kings that real men show that strength by following God's Word. One author put it like this, we need faith enough to be strong enough to be obedient enough to prove we are man enough. Is a real man too cool to follow God's Word or is a real man one who fears God and obeys the Scriptures? I believe the latter.
When Solomon went his own way later in life with wine, women and wealth (things that the world might say make a man), in the eyes of God he actually became less masculine. According to Isaiah 66:2, God explains to us as to who receives His favor. "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My Word." Age does not necessarily determine manhood. Based on how humble our hearts are toward Scripture, there are boys who live like men and men who live like boys.
So masculinity is a biblical concept expected for men. And masculinity is also stripping off the ways the culture defines the term. Yet how do men learn about masculinity? They do so in three specific ways - one is they examine the Scriptures, two, they look to the example of Jesus Christ and three, they look to the examples of other men.
First the Scriptures. On this Father's Day, let's consider a few passages addressed to us specifically as dads.
How about 1 Timothy 5:8? "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Real men provide for their families. We as men are wired by God to do this. When we don't (either through abdication, overly-dominant wives or pure laziness), we will lose our self-worth and our family will suffer. Real men work, are able to keep a job and do not continually run from job to job. A wife and children want and deserve security. It is our job as men to provide that. And if not providing for our family physically makes us worse than an unbeliever according to the verse in 1 Timothy, what does it say when we fail to provide for our family spiritually? Are we really a man if we are not taking our loved ones to the Scriptures? Are we really a man if our wives have to drag us to church?
Another verse. Consider Ephesians 5:25. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Male leadership in the home is seen in radical sacrificial love that mirrors that same radical selfless love that was demonstrated in our Lord's life-giving death for the church. According to Jesus' example, masculinity is not domineering, it is service-orientated. Masculinity is not driving the family from behind, but leading the family by way of example, like the Great Shepherd Himself who always goes before the flock.
Another verse. How about Ephesians 6:4? "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Though we often apply this verse to parents (and never would I wish to minimize the crucial necessity of a mother's impact in parenting), the verse, as it pertains to raising children, is directed specifically to the fathers (cf. Col. 3:21). Even though most mothers will spend more time with the children, the overall responsibility of showing the Lord to their children rests on the father's shoulders.
You'll remember that when Hophni and Phinehas committed spiritual suicide, to which the Lord then deemed them "worthless men" (1 Sam. 2:12), it was Eli (their father) who shouldered the blame because "he did not rebuke them" (1 Sam. 3:13).
Nancy Gibbs writing in Time magazine said, "From the Reformation until the 1830's most parenting manuals were written for fathers. Before this time, society assumed mothers were assistant fathers. Now it is assumed that fathers are assistant mothers" ("Father", Time, June 28, 1993, p. 59). To back that up, Christian book distributers will tell you that 80% of the books on parenting are purchased by mothers.
John Piper concluded, "A famous cigarette billboard pictures a curly-headed, bronze-faced, muscular macho with a cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth. The sign says, 'Where a man belongs.' That is a lie. Where a man belongs is at the bedside of his children, leading in devotion and prayer. Where a man belongs is leading his family to the house of God. Where a man belongs is up early and alone with God seeking vision and direction for the family" (John Piper, Desiring God, p. 185).
Another way to determine true masculinity is to look to Jesus Christ. He is the perfect example of manhood. He showed us that real men are gentle and tender, especially with women and children. He showed us it is okay for real men to cry. He showed us that real men stay under control, but also demonstrate righteous anger. He showed us a real man is concerned with protecting the purity and innocence of others. He showed us a real man has the strength to resist the temptations of the world. He showed us how real men are men who take the initiative. And He showed us that real men are humble when the Lord Himself washed the disciples' feet.
Jesus Christ is our example of masculinity. And it is the awareness of our shortcomings in this area that drives us to Him for forgiveness and strength to rightly fulfill our responsibilities.
Yet many men simply refuse to do this. And what happens when men refuse to act as men and disregard their family their greatest needs by rebelling against God's eternal design?
In North American churches, female attendance doubles male attendance. In many African-American churches, females quadruple males. And if the men do show up, in most churches, they are often less likely to serve, sing and participate. Strong male leadership is dwindling and in some cases, strong male leadership is simply forbidden. The casual conclusion from young people is that church is a "woman-thing." And it becomes a very slippery slope because the more the women lead, the more the men pull away and further abdicate their responsibilities in the church and in the home.
A Swiss study from about ten years ago was compelling. They clearly determined that if a father regularly attended church (almost regardless of the wife's participation) there was a good chance that a child would be a regular adult worshipper. However, if the father was either irregular or non-practicing altogether, the percentages for the children dropped drastically. The organizers of the study concluded, "The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father's influence…is out of proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society" (Touchtone, 2003).
The reality is this. You cannot have a feminist church and keep the men. And if you do not have the men, you will not keep the children.
Furthermore several studies are conclusive when men refuse their responsibilities as a father and husband and are absent either physically or spiritually that children are placed in significant danger. Researchers and doctors agree that a missing father puts his child at a greater risk for experiencing a variety of behavioral and educational problems including hyperactivity, withdrawal, difficulty in deferring gratification, academic hardships, social alienation, greater tendencies toward smoking, drinking, early sexual experience, drug usage suicide vandalism and criminal acts (Urie Bronfenbrenner).
There is so much confusion among men as to what it means to be a man. Radical feminism is confusing masculinity. Machoism is distorting masculinity. Chauvinism is abusing masculinity. No one is speaking out. Yet the church is commissioned by God with a responsibility to educate, nurture, encourage and model biblical masculinity.
In addition to the role model of Jesus, men also need good role models form other men. David Murrow in his book, Why Men Hate Going to Church said, "You cannot have a thriving church without a core of men who are true followers of Christ. If men are dead, the church is dead." He goes on to say, "Men don't follow programs; they follow men. A woman may choose a church because of the programs it offers, but a man is looking for another man he can follow." Men are not born with an understanding of maleness. Ultimately we should be learning it from our fathers and while that is not always the case, we should always be seeing it modeled before us by other men in the church (1 Cor. 11:1).
And ladies, here is where you come in. We need women to promote biblical masculinity. Women exercise great power over men. Some are naïve of this truth. Some knowingly abuse this truth. Yet what we need are wives able to use their influence to encourage their husbands in their biblical role.
I always find Ephesians 5:33 interesting. "Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." Both men and women want love and respect, but according to this verse, the way to a woman's heart is through love and the way to man's heart is through respect. Most men if they are disrespected, especially by their wives, will lose all heart. More than anything, most men want to be respected. They want to feel they are the "white knight" in their eyes of their spouses.
In the early years after college, my customized license plates read "AWSOM 52." 52 was my college football number and awesome was what, as an unbeliever at the time, I wanted to be. Now I look at my life and according to those standards, I don't feel very awesome anymore. And 52 is only an age that I am rapidly approaching.
Last week Julie and I celebrated our 19-year wedding anniversary. I received a beautiful card from my wife. In that card she said, "You are still awesome 52 to me." You know, that statement from her perspective meant more to me than the greatest mushy love statements that Shakespeare could have composed.
If you want a godly husband, ladies use the power God has given you to build him up and not tear him down, especially in the spiritual domains when he demonstrates even the smallest morsels of initiative, leadership and excellence. Encourage even the smallest morsels of spiritual fruit. Have your children honor their father. Respect him yourself. Pray from him. All of this will encourage him to engage to be the husband, father and churchman God wants him to be. You see, being husband, father and going to church does not make someone a man. Rather it is in these domains that a man is tested and in these domains he shows whether he is a man or not.
Though corrupted by the fall, God has wired men and women differently. Men are built by God to be protectors and providers to be defenders and conquerors for good. And when we don't use these tools in the home and in the church, we'll find ourselves using them in other meaningless (from an eternal perspective) activities like the rest of the culture. We immerse ourselves in the pursuit of money and yardwork and athletics and automobiles and high scores on video games. We devote our hearts to the things that are carnal, worldly and selfish. We need all the encouragement we can get from our wives.
I read an article this week. It's a little long for a typical quote that I'd read in a sermon, but I think it puts some flesh to this point and serves as a fitting conclusion to this message. It's written by a young wife who lives with her husband oversees in Dubai. The title, "A Celebration of Biblical Masculinity."
I live in a culture that admires a man's earning power, and his fertility, and his ability to rule his domain with an iron fist.
While Scripture certainly calls for a Christ-like masculinity that provides for and protects his family, the Bible takes a wrecking ball to the culture-based ideals of masculinity that are celebrated around the world.
By God's grace, I enjoy the fruits of living with a man who demonstrates biblical masculinity. This is the kind of masculinity that emerges from the gospel, points back to the gospel, and celebrates the gospel in my home.
The masculinity I appreciate as a wife is of far greater value than wealth-earning power. It's a masculinity that is unashamed of the gospel which is the power of God (Romans 1:16).
The unashamed masculinity I enjoy in my home leaves a legacy that is more enduring than prolific fertility. It's masculinity that fervently loves others from a heart that has been born again, born not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable. True masculinity is reborn through the living and abiding word of God.
The unashamed masculinity I love to follow in my home is far more impressive than macho pride.
It's masculinity that is willing to take the painful shrapnel in the battle against his own sin, rather than run from sin and hide in the comfort of silence.
It is a masculinity that willingly exposes its life to the iron-sharpening-iron of open and honest male accountability relationships.
The unashamed masculinity that guards the hearts in my home puts away rash, cutting words that pierce like a sword. My husband's Christ-honoring masculinity understands the power of words, and he uses words to bring healing to me and our children.
The unashamed masculinity I cherish in my home is such that fixes its eyes on Jesus and turns its eyes away from all the vain things of this world that hold a potent charm over other men. My husband's Christ-honoring masculinity flees from promises whispered by a hiss.
The unashamed masculinity I need in my home is concerned that others find their delight in God. Nothing quite says, "I love you" to me than when my husband is willing to humbly stand up to the things I pursue that obstruct my everlasting joy in God. His loving masculinity reassures me of Christ's atonement made on my behalf, and of the privilege I have to boldly approach the throne of grace.
Unashamed masculinity has less to do with how many horses a man owns, or how fast he can run. Unashamed masculinity is about what a man does with the gospel.
Where can you see this unashamed masculinity? You see it whenever a man has peered into the empty tomb and found new motivation to lay down his own life to spread the gospel into the souqs of Casablanca, into the office spaces in Dallas, into the cafes in Geneva, into the shantytowns of Mumbai, into the barrios of Sao Paulo, and into the universities of Toronto.
My Unashamed Husband
My dear, godly, husband once explained to someone that he wasn't able to shake hands because of the nerve disease in his arms. This person said, "That's awful! Everyone can tell a real man by the firm grip of his handshake."
I just smiled to myself.
I've watched my husband find his strength in the joy of the Lord. He has a firm grip on grace. And I can testify that he is "a real man" by his unashamed passion for the gospel.
When he cares for our family, our church, and our city with the gospel, he grabs hold of the gates of hell and shakes them without fear and without shame.
That is the kind of gospel-centered masculinity that I thank God for, and it's the masculinity that I want to celebrate.
GloriaFurman • May 18, 2012