Biblical Masculinity

Or, “why you don’t have to watch UFC, own lots of guns, hunt, love sports, and/or avoid anything remotely “feminine” to be a godly man.”

I am a solid and committed complementarian in respect to gender roles, both in the home and in the church. I am concerned, however, that our conservative evangelical culture (and by that I am referring to a group that includes a whole host of pastors, teachers, theologians, etc.) sometimes lays down hard and fast lines concerning what it means to be godly man that are not found in Scripture.

In the Bible, the godly man is one who is “above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable . . . not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Tim. 3:2-3; I left out “able to teach” since a godly man doesn’t necessarily have to be an elder). The godly man is one who “loves his wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:25-28). He is a man who lives with his wife “in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7).

In these passages and others, the godly man is one who leads his wife well by pushing her towards Christ and giving himself up for her sanctification, who loves his neighbor by being gentle and hospitable, and who loves God in all of it. There is no mention of masculinity being defined by doing or not doing chores in the home or what types of entertainment he enjoys.

There also is no indication that a man should not be nurturing and caring towards his family or others. The opposite is in fact the case, especially when we look at how God is our Father. In Scripture God reveals himself to us as a loving parent, a God who is tender towards his children (Hos. 11:3-4), who weeps over them as a mother hen over her chicks (Matt. 23:37), and who is a good and loving Father who gives good gifts (Matt. 6:26-34; 7:7-11). Additionally and in terms of gospel ministry, Paul compares himself and his companions in their ministry to the Thessalonians to a nursing mother in the way he cares for the church there, nurturing them in gentleness and love (1 Thess. 1:7).

I sometimes wonder if we have forgotten God’s care for us and Paul’s care for the churches when we think of what it means to be a man. I wonder if we’ve forgotten that the only concrete definition we get in Scripture is that a man is to lead his family and especially his wife in holiness, love his neighbor in gentleness and hospitality, and love God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength.

You don’t have to grow a beard to be a man, or have a deep voice, or like football, or hunt, or only listen to rock music. You don’t have to tell your wife that you don’t have to help out around the house. You don’t have to ask your boys to avoid toys that help them understand what it means to nurture and love another human being. You can listen to classical music and love art and read British lit or whatever it is you do with your spare time, as long as it is isn’t sin and helps you love Jesus.

To be a godly man you need to love your family, your neighbor, and your God with all you have.

NOTE: I’ve avoided mentioning names in this post because I believe this issue is widespread amongst complementarians but on the particular issue concerning boys and baby dolls I have to mention one because of the proximity of this post to his article. Although I appreciate greatly Owen Strachan’s ministry, I have to respectfully disagree with him on this particular point. I should also say that although Owen’s article got me thinking more on this issue, I’ve been concerned for quite some time about the picture of masculinity given by conservatives for some time. Most of what I mention in this post has little to nothing to do with Owen’s view of masculinity.

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6 thoughts on “Biblical Masculinity

  1. Well written response Matt. I appreciate your gentle response to Owen showing that Christians can and at times should agree to disagree in a very loving and civil way showing that at the end of the day what matters most is our understanding of the Gospel. For some of the second and third tier beliefs we can disagree and show the love of Christ by doing it lovingly and gently.

    Also- I agree with your push back on this particular article and topic as I do not feel that boys cannot play with dolls as if it is a sinful behavior and non-masculine. Being loving, gentle, nurturing, and good with children and or those who are younger than us is a very real part of life. All believing men will and must interact with children and youth. So, a boy who begins learning how to do that at a young age with a doll can be extremely beneficial. What it comes down is asking the father if he is helping this young boy to learn what it looks like to interact as a man would interact as compared to a female. But playing with dolls is certainly not the issue.

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  3. Thoughtful and well-written, Matt. It accords with the message of Scripture and takes into account the diversity to be found the Body. I happen to like sports and reading fictional literature. I’m a man who can be moved to tears by a good song or story or movie. I help out around the house as much as I’m able. None of these things makes me feel any less a “man” because, as you point out, none of these things is what being a man is about in Scripture.

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