"Toxic" masculinity... "Fragile" masculinity... "Insert your own adjective" masculinity. As I'm sure you're aware, "masculinity" has been a hot topic recently. There are many in society who are doing everything they can to redefine masculinity, bring it down, dismiss, and remove any shred of credibility related to being a man or operating in true healthy masculinity. Worse, those same people are saying traditional masculinity is the very source of pain and frustration in men and all that is wrong with the world.
Unfortunately, so much of this is missing the point - as the topic is only being addressed from a "secular" worldview. When talking about any form of detrimental masculinity, we as Christians actually can shed light on the real problem and can call it like it is: any male who has chauvinistically hurt another or is displaying what one might deem “toxic” is actually operating in “SIN” when we filter it through the lens of Biblical Truth.
And the deeper Truth is - we ALL are prone to sin (it’s not just a male thing)...toxic masculinity (or femininity) isn’t the real problem. The problem is "sin" which perverts God’s designed intent.
As Christians, we should be shining a spotlight on this narrative - as we know the actual root cause. The world is confused as to why people cause pain and suffering for others. But there exists no confusion in light of the Biblical narrative. End of story.
So, let’s touch on “what is true masculinity?”
The "toxic masculinity" narrative has (rightfully so) stirred up many men (and women) to rush to the defense of the traditional male role, offering suggestions as to what it means to be a "real man" and define "real masculinity." I applaud those efforts and affirm the deep Truth that men and women were created differently and that each have specific roles to play.
Where we've gone off; however, is that, in the rush to defend masculinity, many are painting "men" into a corner and trying too hard to lock down what it means to be "masculine," how a man should act, and define what a "real man" should look like ("real men should do X", "real men should be X", etc.). Again, this is missing the point, and as Christians, we know where to go for answers and who to look to.
For a moment, lets take a step back and look to Jesus to take our cues for masculinity. What was he like? What did he do? What characteristics did he display? What are the "big picture" takeaways? After all, if Jesus was the model of "the new Adam" and what God intends for us to become like, then we should start there.
What follows are some samples to aid us in our understanding. The list is not exhaustive by any stretch, but I think we can extract some great insight. Spend time this week and read through the passages... marinate in the Truth.
-Jesus submitted to the Father's will (Luke 22:42)
-Jesus was led (John 5:19)
-Jesus wept (John 11:35)
-Jesus humbled himself (John 13:12-15)
-Jesus had compassion (Matt. 9:36; 15:32; 20:34)
-Jesus was discerning (Luke 5:22; Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:8)
-Jesus served (John 13:5; Matthew 20:28)
-Jesus was devout (Mark 1:35)
-Jesus sacrificed (1 John 2:2)
-Jesus was obedient (Philippians 2:8)
-Jesus valued being childlike (Matthew 18:3)
-Jesus was forgiving (John 21:15-25; Luke 5:17-26; Luke 7:47-50)
-Jesus spoke Truth - and spoke Truth to power (John 18:33-38)
-Jesus acted in righteous anger (Matthew 21:12-17)
-Jesus provided (Matthew 14;13-21)
-Jesus was respectful (Matthew 22:21; Luke 5:14)
-Jesus was friendly and associated those of low "status" (Mark 2:15-22)
So what can we take away from this? Are we to "man up?" and try and muscle our way to be more "manly"? Are we to look the part and have beards, wear flannel, throw axes, etc.? (disclaimer: I have a beard) No, we are to take our cues from Jesus. He acted out of a heart of love, of honor, of Truth, of strength, of righteousness, of protection...
If you're like me, though, I go through this list and think, "there is no way I can attain that, mimic it, or be like Jesus was (think "WWJD?")." If that is the standard for the "new Adam," I'm hosed.
But, if you step back from these passages, there is a common yet seemingly unnoticeable thread we must realize: Jesus responded to what the situation called for. There was no cookie cutter, one-size fits all approach for Jesus. He operated simply out of a connection to the Father and responded to the situation.
This is good news for us. We don't have to perform or try and act a certain way.
The beauty of the Christian life is that Jesus, by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, lives inside us and begins to transform our hearts and our desires - which affects our actions. Because He is in us, we can live as He would - Him living our life.
The catch: the thing required from us is to abide in Him (John 15:1-11). Our role - and responsibility - is to seek Him.
Romans 13:14 exhorts us to: "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh."
And John 15:5 gives us the pathway to living out life as He intended: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
So let's sum up:
-"True" masculinity doesn't involve a new set of "masculine rules" or list of behaviors.
-"True" masculinity doesn't involve "looking" a certain way.
-"True" masculinity involves walking out life like Jesus. This doesn't mean we have to perform. It means we must be connected to Jesus (the "True Vine" - John 15:1) so we can respond to each and every situation of life as He would.
-The more we're connected to Jesus, the more His life will grow in - and flow through - us, leading to a fruitful life that looks like His.
Dads, don't let the culture dictate, distort, or redefine what masculinity should be or look like. We have a "true" masculine example in Jesus. And more than an example, we have access to this "true masculinity" through life with Him.
Abide in Him. Spent time with Him. Enjoy friendship with Him. Let His words dwell richly in your mind and heart. Allow His Holy Spirit to, as Ezekiel 36:26 says, "give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; and remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
In a culture that is desperately seeking for righteousness, it's time we as Christian men walk out "true masculinity" as is the way of Jesus.