Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 KJV)
Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NLT)
So, the company that used to bring me the “The Fight of the Week” is now trying to make me a better, gentler, less competitive, more sensitive man. Gillette is running a controversial ad that encourages men to be better dads, better role models, and do a lot less drooling and groping around pretty girls. The media responded with such a hubbub that I took the trouble to watch. Truth be told, I didn’t find it too offensive. The worst part was the implication that every man everywhere is a sexist, violent dolt. That is simply not true. But the idea that there are a bunch of us who could use a good “daddy” lecture is not so far off.
Men are different from women physically and emotionally. All men are certainly not all the same, but as a group, we tend to be aggressive, minimalists in communication, competitive, and physically active. While the social progressives would like us to believe that this is primarily a social construct, we need only read history to realize it is eternal and universal. Men and mankind are fallen creatures. We have inherent characteristics given by God for specific purposes. Those purposes became perverted in the fall, and the use of our gifts in the service of self and Satan lead to a culture that is certainly not godly. This is true for all of us, men and women.
Every culture in recorded history has had some set of tribal rituals, rites of passage, and shared traditions that served to harness the brute in us. In our nation, the constructs of family, faith, and schooling in a common heritage have all deteriorated. Many live now in a moral vacuum, influenced by media and what passes for education. What we now see as a crisis is simply the widespread entry into the culture of behaviors that my dad would have solved with a very politically incorrect whoopin’. “Son, don’t talk like that to your Mother!”
I liked the Fight of the Week. The boxing was fun, but the time with my dad watching the boxing was the real attraction. I learned the rules and the importance of following them. He taught me that when men don’t follow the rules somebody might get hurt. I learned that real success takes hard work and the ability to take a few punches, that there’s a time to fight and a time to spit, and if you don’t keep your hands up you’ll get a bloody nose. I learned that the same man who told me on his death bed, “Son, take care of your mother,” enjoyed a good fight and wanted me around to watch it with him. I wanted to be a man.
The Apostle Paul encouraged the Church in Corinth to “quit you like men,” a rather literal rendering of the Greek andrizomai. It comes from the word for man or husband and indicates behavior that befits manhood. Interestingly, the more modern translations go with things like courage and bravery. Kenneth Wuest translates it, “Be showing yourselves to be men.” There is a tacit understanding that there is a behavior set that goes with manhood. We all know there is. In that same passage, Paul expands the concept: Stand on guard, follow the faith, be strong, and temper it all with love.
I think our culture could use a big dose of manhood, not just maleness. Being male is a genetic happenstance that comes with consequences. Being a man is so much more. Maybe the best idea is not to do away with manhood, but to remember that the raw force is here for a reason but must be tempered by the grace of God in order to be of maximum benefit. As men, we need a real encounter with Jesus, a faith that shakes our world, and a real encounter with men whom we can emulate in courage, faith, and self-sacrifice. These things have always been so.
While reading about men and manhood, I stumbled across several lists of characteristics that were included as codes of chivalry among knights in the Middle Ages. The existence and number of such codes tell me that this is not a new thing. This list of manly virtues from the Duke of Burgundy in the 14th Century might not be a bad course outline for today: The chivalric virtues of the Knights Code of Chivalry: Faith • Charity • Justice • Sagacity • Prudence • Temperance • Resolution • Truth • Liberality • Diligence • Hope • Valor.