Removing the Confusion from Manhood
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There are those who see traditional masculine instincts (competitiveness, dominance and aggression) as toxic and those who see them as honorable. As a result, many in our culture continue to call for a deconstructing of masculinity. The culture relies on social pressure to get men to make changes in external behavior rather than cultivating and improving individual character.
The church has not done much better. In an effort to attract and retain males the conversations seem to revolve around beards, bacon, and blowing things up. Yet, the expectation for men is to become better husbands, fathers and church volunteers. “They (men) want to bear greater responsibility and serve others well too, but it’s their own sense of inadequacy at the task that tends to hold them back,” shares Chase.
The problem: Men are confused at how to get better internally. The solution: A man needs to better understand himself and pay attention to what God has done and is doing in his life.
A BETTER MAN
Masculine instincts are not necessarily sinful, but if left unchecked they could collapse a man’s life into defeat. The solution is to counterbalance masculine instincts with the truth of the gospel. Chase says, “Our goal is not just to be men, but to be men becoming more like Christ. He is our aim. We are all aiming at Christlikeness.”
The gospel serves as a means of correction to each masculine instinct. For example, it’s the gospel that exposes a man’s pretending and teaches him the value of integrity over defending your reputation. To mature in Christlikeness, you must learn to know yourself and learn to know the gospel. “As you turn to Christ and the gospel message of His sacrificial death and resurrection, you will catch an honest glimpse of yourself and of Him, and that vision will infuse virtue and character into you in a way never possible on your own,” reveals Chase.
In the Bible, Jesus shares a parable about a landowner who came to pluck figs from a tree in his vineyard. When he realized the tree was still not producing fruit he told the gardener to cut it down. But the gardener responded, “Sir, let it alone for this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure” (). Manure produces life, life nurtured through what is waste. The process may be slow, but the result will be a delicious fruit. Jesus saw the potential others missed. Chase encourages men not to be frustrated by the limited fruit in their life, it takes time. He says, “Manhood is like that fruit. The by-product of growing in Christ is character and becoming the man God created you to be.”
Chase shares five masculine instincts and five biblical men who have struggled with them, men who by their success and failures can show us a better way. These instincts to a better manhood include:
1. Sarcasm - At its root, sarcasm is a defense mechanism, a way of avoiding things while appearing to take them seriously. Sarcasm allows us to laugh off what we don't want to actually consider. It is too often a thin cover for immaturity and an unwillingness to pay the cost of true maturity. We all occasionally love a sarcastic joke, but when it becomes a disposition toward God and others it risks turning away from the possibility of true maturity. The story of Cain is a good example of sarcasm’s risk and the divine possibility of something better.
2. Adventure - The instinct for adventure is often felt as passion, idealism, and restless energy. A constant desire for adventure can weaken commitments and create a deep sense of discontentment for common life. Samson's restless passions and inability to embrace the commitments of his calling - his Nazarite vow - reveals the down side of this instinct.
3. Ambition - The instinct for ambition is often felt as a drive to achieve something meaningful and to have a lasting impact on the world. But the instinct also tends to outpace what God is asking of us and attempt to bear responsibilities too great, leaving many men disillusioned. Burnout, pride, and manipulation can poison what was once a worthy cause. Moses, a man who lead Israel and himself through failure and discouragement, was clearly a man who wrestled with ambition.
4. Reputation - The instinct to protect your reputation is often an experience of obsession, cover-up, and image manipulation. At its best, reputation produces a sense of honor and responsibility. But the instinct tends to compartmentalize and ignore undisciplined portions of a man’s life. A desire for reputation can lead men to ignore their inner lives, wear public masks, and lie to protect their image. While David is remembered as one of the great men of the Bible, his impulse to protect his reputation and to portray the image of a king came with dire consequences. A man of integrity is able to inventory and take responsibility for even the difficult parts of his life.
5. Apathy - The instinct to disengage is often felt as a desire to be alone, self-reliant, and to avoid controlling complexities. Men can withdraw from responsibilities and the complexity of social relationships, settling for hobbies and their own comfort. Abraham lived a life of faith and knew the pull of apathy. Despite his struggles, he held onto God’s promises and maintained the vigor of his faith.
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