Over the years, I have studied this topic constantly, written about it on many occasions, and even preached a sermon on it once. But this last week, a great friend asked me to give it another shot and write a letter as a part of his son’s fifteenth birthday “welcome to manhood” celebration. As it has been a while since I formally addressed this topic, I thought this would be a great opportunity to revisit how my understanding of manhood has evolved over time.
As a young child, I thought a man should be tough and work with his hands. He should have a big mustache, hair on his chest, and wear big, tough looking work boots. Starting in my adolecense and continuing all the way through my college and early corporate career, I thought it was of upmost importance for a man to make lots of money, have lots of power and influence, drive a nice car, wear a suit and tie to work, and date lots of girls. But over the past ten years, since surrendering my life to Christ, my understanding has evolved.
No longer do I believe that a man’s value is derived by his title at work, the degrees hanging on his wall, or the size of his paycheck. Instead, I see a man’s worth derived from much harder to measure actions and intentions: Like “how tirelessly he cares for others”, “how graciously he sacrafices his own needs and desires for others”, “how humbly and confidently does he stand up for others”, and “with what purpose does he behave in the manner that he does”.
With each day that passes, I admire and am inspired more and more by men who are sacraficially working to lift up the people around them, as opposed to the men who seek to be lifted up by others. It is these men who forego their own glory so that others can be blessed that I believe are the true followers of Christ.
Since we were made in His image, I believe that men are called to be servant leaders, ready to sacrafice all that we have (including our very lives) for the people that God has entrusted us to lead. Through Christ’s example, we are shown the ultimate definition of a man: Though all knowing and all powerful, Jesus was humble and merciful to all. Though none of us are deserving, He is compassionate and extends forgiveness to all who seek it. And even though we rarely acknowledge Him for all of the blessings and provision He gives us, God always provides for all of our needs anyway.
Following Jesus’s example, I believe it is important for a man to be as smart and as strong as he can be so that he can use his abilities to lead and serve others. I believe it is good for a man to well-spoken and of great means so that he can provide for those in need and lift the spirits of others with his words. I believe that it is necessary for a man to know both failure and success intimately so that he can mourn with those who are beaten down and then inspire them with the perseverance of his comeback story.
As God makes men in all shapes and sizes, I no longer subscribe to any one stereotype of a man. From the big, burly, construction worker who drives a huge truck and belly laughs with his buddies while drinking Budweiser and smoking Malboro Reds, to the young, thin, hipster youth pastor in his skinny jeans, driving his Prius, and drinking a kale smoothie, the aesthetics of a man are irrelevant.
Instead, I believe that the meaning of a man is found in whether or not he follows Christ’s example of taking up his cross daily and devoting his life to humbly and sacraficially helping all others do the same.
Christ is the perfect example of an obedient son, a brother you can depend on, a husband who is faithful, a father who provides, and a friend that will never leave your side. He came to serve and sacrifice for all and man is made in His image.