“Be a man! Man up! Don’t be such a girl!”

Sound familiar?

I have a feeling that most young men are familiar with these expressions. Maybe your hair is getting a bit long, and your dad scolds, “Get a haircut! People are going to mistake you for your sister! You need to look more like a man!” Or maybe you are afraid to talk to a girl at school, and your friend prods, “Man up and talk to her!” Whether coming from parents or from a group of buddies, at some point you have probably been told that you need to be more manly.

But have you ever stopped to think about what that means? What does it mean to be a man? What is expected of you as you enter into manhood? What exactly is it that makes you different from women? And not simply, what does the world or what do my parents or peers think it means to be a man, but what does my heavenly Father say?

That is what I would like to examine with you over the next few articles. I want to lay out for you a biblical perspective on what it means to be a mature, Christian man.

A word to everyone else

If you are not a young man and still reading this, please do not stop! While addressing young men directly, I think there is benefit for others.

I think there is benefit for women, especially young women, in understanding what it means to be a man. Hopefully, they will be able to understand their brothers in Christ better and encourage them to be what God calls them to be. For those who are thinking about marriage, the benefit is that you know what kind of man to look for in a husband and how to help him grow into that more and more.

I also trust that there is benefit for parents and grandparents in reading this. As a father of four little boys, I want my sons to grow up into strong, godly men. And I am sure this is the desire of every conscientious parent of boys. Perhaps what is written here can be the springboard to further discussions with your sons as they grow into spiritual maturity.

Masculine muddle

In my opinion, it is absolutely imperative that we have straight in our minds what it means to be a man. I do not want to overstate the case, but it would be wrong to undersell the issue too. This is a critical issue for the church in the twenty-first century.

The reason why this is so important is due to the world in which you are now growing up. The world is actively promoting certain views of what it means to be man. These perspectives are boldly proclaimed in TV shows, movies, music, books, magazines, the Internet, and social media.

One view that the world gives of manhood is that a real man is strong, handsome, and a bit wild. He has body-builder muscles and dashing good looks that turn the heart of every woman to mush. He drinks beer (lots of it!), drives either a Corvette or a heavy-duty pickup, and answers to no one. He is driven by sexual lust and can be found hopping from one bed to another.

Another, equally troubling view of manhood is that it really does not exist. The wise of this world inform us that gender is really just a social construction, something invented by an unenlightened society centuries ago, perhaps as a way to further oppress women. But today in our enlightened society, so they say, we are able to move past that into an age when people are free to be whatever they want to be.

Witness the surge of societal support for same-sex relationships. The world celebrates this as progress, since we are learning that this is the way that these individuals were born and they are simply living out what they are.

Witness the tidal wave of support for transgenderism. Even though a young boy has the physical anatomy of a male, he has always identified more with being a girl. As he gets older, he is encouraged to take on a more feminine name, to dress like a woman, to receive hormonal injections, to mutilate his body through endless surgeries, all in an attempt to bring everything into line with the way he feels.

What is frightening is that this thinking has infiltrated the church world, even the Reformed church world. More and more there is a push to accept the idea that a man can be whatever he feels like being.

Thankfully, there is not this push in the PR churches. Yet, there is still the possibility that we too have a muddled view of what it means to be a man.

Think for a moment: what would you say is included with being a man? Often we think that a man has to be physically strong. He probably has a deep, gravelly voice. He can grow a beard in a week (or less). On a Saturday he can be found covered in grease under the hood of car. He is unconcerned about his clothes or appearance. He played every sport in high school, and still is gone once a week for his softball or golf league. He enjoys hunting and fishing, owns several shotguns and deer rifles, and is secretly “packing heat” (that is, carrying a concealed weapon). He never cries, cannot understand why others show their feelings and get emotional, and is too macho to tell anyone close to him that he loves them. If you cannot picture in your mind what I am describing, do a Google search for “Marlboro man.”

“What a man!” we think.

Now, think for a moment: what would you say is unmanly? Someone who is unmanly is small and weak. That person maybe has a high-pitched, squeaky voice. He cannot grow facial hair to save his life. He has soft, uncalloused hands used to pecking on a keyboard rather than turning wrenches. He is always dressed carefully and stylishly. He was always the last one picked for a game at recess, has never played organized sports, and probably could not tell you the difference between a touchdown and a homerun. He has never gone hunting, gets woozy at the thought of killing an animal, and is secretly scared of guns. He would much rather spend his time reading a book, doing photography, or playing the piano. He can be brought to tears by a kid’s cartoon, and tells those around him that he loves them.

“What a sissy,” we think. “Not much of a man.”

But if that is the way that we judge manhood, then we too have an incorrect view of masculinity. Our perspective of manhood is based on personal or cultural standards, rather than on the standard of God’s Word.

The need of the hour

What the church needs at this late hour in history is men. Not men as the world would define them. Not men as we would define them. But the church needs men as God would define them in the Bible. The church needs spiritually strong, spiritually mature, Christian men. The church needs you who are young men to grow and develop into such men.

This need is not unique to the days in which we are now living. This has always been the need of the church on this earth. But especially at this time does the church require godly men. We are living in evil days. In the world, the cup of iniquity is swiftly filling to the brim and wickedness abounds on every side. In the church world, the love of many waxes cold and there is a forsaking of the old paths. The foundation of the kingdom of Antichrist is already being laid, and the days of persecution appear to be coming in the not-too-distant future. The church needs men to be men!

I am not saying that the church needs men to the exclusion of women. Not at all. The church also needs spiritually mature, Christian women. But the church needs godly men to take the lead by encouraging, nurturing, and leading these godly women.

If there are no godly men, then God may well raise up women in that time of crisis, similar to what he did at the time of the judges. The story is familiar. The people had sunk into another cycle of disobedience toward God, with the resulting chastisement of being conquered by a heathen nation, under whose thumb they suffered for twenty years. During that time God raised up the prophetess Deborah to judge the people. The reason for this is that there were no strong men who dared take the lead. Even when Barak finally stepped forward, he timidly said, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go” (Judges 4:8). Deborah assured him that God would give the victory, however “the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (v. 9).

Is it possible that the Lord is plaguing our society with radical feminism as judgment for the weakness of the men? This is certainly not to condone the wicked rebellion of the feminist movement, but could it be that God has allowed this to take place because men are not truly being men?

This ought not to be in the church. It ought not to be the case that God has to raise up women to lead because the men are not being leaders. The church needs her men, especially her young men, to be real men of God. This is the need of the hour.

And for men to be real men, they must know what it means to be a man. Not a muddled idea of masculinity, but what God truly requires of men in His Word. More on that next time.