What is a man?
“What is a man?” My Facebook feed carried a coming of age question from my grandson. Little James, when he turned 18 wondered on social media with a fundamental question every man must consider. What is a man? I didn’t respond to his question. Not that I didn’t know. I thought I knew but was conflicted by the messages defining manhood I was receiving.
A man is__
“If that’s what a man is, I’m not a man.” One night, I said that in Brothers with a Purpose, the men’s ministry of Sharon Bible Fellowship. I wasn’t struggling with my sexual identity. I was struggling with a definition of manhood which I described as sanctified machismo. There were too many statements that began, “A man __” that did not fit me. For example, I am not a rabid sports fan. My man cave is full of books not a 65” TV. I cook but my family knows me for excellent spaghetti sauce and sweet potato pies not grilling. I believe God made women and men as co-equal partners…
Immanuel is the first thing that comes to my mind when I ask the question, “What is a man?” Most of us see this word in two contexts. One is at Christmas. The other is in the name of churches, like the one where Dylann Roof murdered nine people at a prayer meeting. It is one of the names given to Jesus the Christ. It means God with us. God emptied himself of his divine prerogatives, took on a human body and lived with men. While Christianity focuses on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for mankind’s sin, Jesus’ life before the cross is instructive.
The Bible says Jesus was “very man.” Jesus was the ultimate expression of what a man should be. Christian men should aspire to be like Jesus. They should disavow as sinful the whitewashed stereotypical machismo props being passed off as Christian manhood. If we are true Christians, we cannot be better men than Jesus.
A Man is Love
Love was the defining characteristic of Jesus, the Christ. But the love characterizing Jesus’ life was not our kind of love. It was so different from the love we mean when we say we “make love,” or “love our cars,” or are “in love” that many Christians use the Greek word when describing the Jesus kind of love, agapé. Agapé, the Jesus kind of love, seeks the best good of the one who is loved. It is the love we see in John 3:16. We could translate John 3:16, “For God so agapéd the world that he gave…” In Ephesians, Apostle Paul write to husbands telling them to “agapé their wives as Christ agapéd the church.”
Jesus, God’s definition of a man, never exhibited “toxic masculinity.” No one ever said about him, “Boys will be boys.” He was a man of integrity, humility, service, and spirituality. He had wholesome relationships with all kinds of men and women. In 1 Corinthians 13, there is a famous passage about agapé love. It is helpful to read it replacing the word “love” with “a man”. This defines true manhood.
A man is patient, a man is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He does not dishonor others, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. A man does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. A man is like Jesus.