“Far Side” cartoons have given me many laughs through the years. One of particular interest shows a wife looking at what she thought had been her husband. He stands there in an oversized coat holding his manface mask and a baseball cap with a long tail trailing from beneath his coat. He says to her, “Dang it, Monica! I can’t live this charade any longer. I’m not a telephone repairman who stumbled into your life – I’m a Komodo dragon, largest member of the lizard family and a filthy liar.”
Manhood has fallen on hard times. A steady line of books is being written on what constitutes masculinity. There seems to be some confusion. Men are depicted in commercials as bumbling incompetents when it comes to figuring out everyday problems, like which is the better water filter. Feminists have floated the view that women need men like fish need a bicycle. And now we have what has apparently been a hidden, “Komodo dragon” a.k.a, toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is defined as “exaggerated masculine traits like being violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive,” and having a negative impact on society. This is being touted as partly to blame for mass shootings. The shooters are all men who “tend to share elements of white entitlement, and heterosexual masculinity pressured by anxieties about middle-class instability and downward economic mobility.” A popular men’s product corporation launched an advertising campaign, “accusing men of ‘excusing bad behavior’ and portraying traditional masculinity in an entirely negative and stereotypical light” (James Barrett). We get the impression from some quarters that men are flawed females. Until men can learn to behave better, social and political problems can be better addressed by bringing more women into traditional male roles. This is the culture with which our boys will contend.
Men can act badly. Sin is no respecter of the persons. Both men and women have been created in the image of God, with that image marred by sin. But what exactly constitutes masculinity? Is it merely a frame of mind, a feeling? We are being led to believe that a young girl with “rapid onset gender dysphoria” may become a male by surgery and the right kind of medications. Gender fluidity is in, and binary sexuality is out. The moral revolution is spreading its damage. I will be so bold as to declare that true masculinity exists, and we can see it in a man’s Man, the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. Though Jesus did not come to earth to be a role model for masculinity, He is what every man should aspire to reflect. All the features of ideal manhood are found in Him. He was a male. He came to this earth to undo what Adam had done. The historical Adam, the first man, disobeyed God. It was through this sin that the curse of death fell upon the human race (Rom. 5:12). As the representative of all who descended from him, it was necessary that the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, in an act of obedience, die for our sins. This leads us immediately into essential features of manhood. Jesus Christ was a leader. We are told that He is the “leader and completer of faith.” He blazed the trail for us by bearing our sins in his body on the cross and has shown us how to live in a way that pleases the Father (Heb. 12:2).
Jesus was also a provider by making our faith possible. He reflected in His prayer that He had guarded His men (Jn. 17:12). Jesus was a leader, provider, and protector. These are characteristics of real men. Though we, as men, function at a different level than Jesus did in His redemptive work, we are to display masculinity by taking responsibility, leading the way in protecting the family and the nation, and fathers taking the initiative to provide for their families.
As we follow Jesus through the Gospels other masculine traits emerge. He had courage. The hostility of His enemies did not sway Him from doing the will of His heavenly Father (Jn. 17:4). Read the account of Jesus overturning tables, sending panicky sheep looking for a safe place, and challenging greedy money changers in the court yard of the temple. All this was done by physical power and moral force (Jn. 2:15). By His commanding presence He walked through an angry mob intent on killing Him (Lk. 4:28-30). Without hesitation He called out self-righteous, hypocritical religious leaders telling them they were of their father the devil (Jn. 8:44). No matinee male idol can even begin to rival the bold and brave Jesus.
Strength and courage are not antithetical to tenderness and kindness. Jesus ignored the customs of the day and told a thirsty woman where she could slake her spiritual thirst (Jn. 4:14). He treated her with respect. His mother was the object of His affection and attention as He hung on a brutal Roman cross (Jn. 19:26). Jesus did not have to be taught to cry or not to cry as a male. Tears flowed from a heart touched by empathy and grief at a grave site of a dear friend (Jn. 11:35). Compassion is not alien to true masculinity. Helpless and needy people moved Jesus deeply (Matt. 9:36).
The record of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospels tells a story about masculinity. He was the only perfect male to ever walk on the face of the earth. While our culture flounders about on a sea of subjective gender search, deconstructing masculinity, there is a perfect example of complete humanity. His is the one who worked in the construction business, whose mind was alive with the Scriptures, whose mission was to be the Lord’s Servant, who fought discouragement and humiliation, who suffered a shameful death. But through it and in it, was successful. In Jesus of Nazareth we have a masculine role model whose character is developed in every man and every woman through faith in Him. He is the kind of man every male should want to be, a man’s Man.