Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Confused about masculinity?

I have been in on a few discussions just recently about what a “real man” is. I have jokingly offered that here in the Deep South I am nowhere near what seems to be the standard composite.

A real man in these parts works darned hard, hunts, fishes, cuts his own wood for burning, fixes his own car, roots for the football team with the appropriate local pedigree. And it is not just a “South” thing - variations on this theme can be found, of course, across the country and the world.

University of Texas psychologist Andrew Rochen was recently quoted in TIME magazine. “Masculinity has traditionally been associated,” he says, “with work and work-related success, with competition, power, prestige, dominance over women, restrictive emotionality. . . But a good parent needs to be expressive, patient, emotional, not money oriented. Basically, masculinity is bad for you.”

Ouch. A real man is bad for the family? Perhaps real manhood should take a second look at its self understanding. At the least maybe this southern psychologist needs to rethink masculinity.

Jesus was the Real Man. Theologically, we say that he was 100 percent man. Indeed, the only 100 percent man to ever lived, unmarred by sin and indiscretion. If a definition of “manhood” is available to the world, it ought to be found in this Person.

And so – this Man had a vital, loving and moment-by-moment relationship with His Father. He invested in other men, training them to change the world. He related well to women and children. He spoke up with a gentle tongue that could also roundly curse wrongdoing when found. He was smart. He was, at various moments, loving, harsh, welcoming. He touched and healed and gave, called men to repentance and had an eye for those that society had shoved to the periphery. He cried. He died so that others could live.

Luther had a Latin phrase he felt described the state of unredeemed man: Cor incurvatus ad se (a heart curved in on itself). Instead of a heart that arched its loving way toward God and outward towards humankind in all their frailty and lostness the godless spend their love on…themselves. Think of Jesus’ message this way - it is not the enormity of his teaching we remember, but the simplicity of it all. Challenged to name the most important of hundreds of Mosaic laws he chose two – Love God, and love your neighbor, Deuteronomy and Leviticus respectively.

Some are most captivated by His miracles. Yes, they were, and are, incredible. But the miracles, according to the late missionary E. Stanley Jones, don’t carry Him. The miracles of His personhood carries the miracles. Truly – it would have been shocking if that miraculous life hadn’t performed miracles. But is He that carries the virgin birth, the healing of the lepers, the resurrection. Not the other way around. And the greatest miracle perhaps of all for us is that He wants with that miracle life to dwell in us.

What is a real man? The “realest” of all men said, “Follow me.” Those who do, fulfill their destiny. Those who don’t but have bagged the limit of deer this fall or managed to fix that carburetor or rooted for the Super Bowl winners …they have some learning yet to do…some commands still to follow…some potential yet untapped.


At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Brett said...

Good Thoughts. I got behind a car on the interstate that had a bumper sticker that said "Real Men Love Jesus." I passed the car, and couldn't help but take a quick look at the driver. He definitely did not have what would be considered a masculine look. I (wrongly) thought to myself, "what a dork. At least look the part."
Your post is dead on, and my judgmental attitude was dead wrong.


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