Sunday morning my pastor Ricky Jenkins gave a sermon on Biblical Manhood (you can find it here if you’re interested). As far as I can tell, this is a popular topic in the church at the moment and I’m glad it’s being talked about. Ricky gave 8 realities of current manhood and four principles of authentic manhood and I think a lot of it is right on target.
8 Realities of Current Manhood (some of this may be paraphrased; he was going fast):
- Men are in a state of confusion – they don’t know what manhood is or when it begins
- Men are experiencing disappointment – they grow up dreaming of adventure and then find adulthood full of responsibility –> disappointment
- Men are experiencing pain, and they don’t know what to do with it
- Men are lonely – they do not open up to other men about deep things
- Men are drifting – they have no purpose or plan
- Men are turning to escapes to numb pain – looking to lust, sports, adrenaline, work, laziness, etc. instead of God
- Confused men create major problems – men are at the center of most of the problems in the news – fallen political leaders, fallen pastors, fallen celebrities, crime, etc.
- Without a compelling vision, men settle for less – work, make money, pay bills, get married, have kids, retire, die – this is “less than life”
Ricky then used Genesis 1:27 to show that men are made in the image of God and that their ultimate purpose is to be like God and reflect his image to the world. Adam failed in this, and Jesus succeeded. Christ provides the outline for what it means to be a man.
4 Marks of Authentic Manhood (illustrated by comparing 1st Adam [Adam] and 2nd Adam [Jesus])
- Reject passivity – Adam stood back and retreated in the garden of Eden, which is men’s natural reaction; Jesus was tempted to retreat in the garden of Gethsemane, but obeyed God anyway.
- Accept responsibility – Adam blamed Eve; Jesus stepped forward and said “I am the man you seek.”
- Invest eternally – Adam was focused on the moment, not the impact his decision would have on the future; Jesus was focused on things of eternal value.
- Lead courageously – Jesus faced rejection, shame, and death to be faithful to what God called him to do.
All of this is excellent, excellent stuff and I’m glad the men in my church heard it. But here’s the thing: all of this applies to women who are seeking to follow Christ whole-heartedly as well.
The problems facing women are incredibly similar to the problems facing men at their root, even though they may manifest differently.
- We do not have a solid understanding of what womanhood is and when it begins – is it June Cleaver-style domesticity? Is it “I am woman, hear me roar”? Is it embracing our sexuality? Does it begin when we start wearing a bra? When we lose our virginity? When we get married? When we have children? There are just as many conflicting messages about what it means to be a woman as there are about what it means to be a man.
- Women are also experiencing disappointment – we are told that a man will fall desperately in love with us and solve all our problems at the same time as we are told that we can do everything just as well as men can at the same time as we are told that we can have a career and a family and be great at both.
- Women are experiencing pain and don’t know how to deal with it.
- Women are lonely – we may seem more open, but most women I know feel like if others saw who they really are, they would be rejected. Even when we are sharing with each other, we are not always talking about the right things.
- Women are drifting – extended adolescence has effected women as well, especially those of us who do not get married during or right after college. If we don’t have wifely duties to fulfill (and even if we do), many of us do not know what our purpose or plan is.
- Women also turn to escapes to numb pain – we turn to pleasure, to food, to romance novels, to work, to relationships, etc., etc., etc.
- Confused women create problems – they might not be as visible, but the confusion of what womanhood entails has contributed to emotional pain, bullying, gossip, promiscuity, and many other problems in our culture.
- Women will also settle for less without a compelling vision – we can be caught in the same type of “less than life” that men are.
Genesis 1:27 does not say that only men were created in the image of God, but that “male and female he created them” (emphasis added). Women are also image-bearers, and if that is true, Jesus not only provides an outline for men, but for women as well. I don’t want to sit idly by and watch men do the work of the kingdom, and I don’t think that women should. I think the same four marks apply:
- Women need to reject passivity, to use their gifts in service of the kingdom and for the sake of the gospel, whether those gifts are hospitality or teaching. A woman’s highest calling is NOT to be a wife and mother, it is to live a life wholly committed to loving Jesus and sharing the gospel, whatever the context may be.
- Women need to accept responsibility for their actions as well. Adam blamed Eve and never owned up to his mistake, but Eve blamed the serpent and never owned up to hers either. It is easy for women to sit back and blame men or hormones or a myriad other things for our own shortcomings.
- Women need to invest eternally. It is just as easy for us to caught up in the moment and the day-to-day and lose sight of the things in our life that have eternal value. Single or married, mother or childless, we all need to be investing in our communities in ways that glorify God and advance His kingdom.
- And finally, women need to lead courageously as well. Please hear me: I am not saying that women should be leaders in their marriage. However, every woman can be leading someone, whether it is employees, their children, someone else’s children, or other women in the church. Christ led through love and sacrifice, and women can do that as well.
I am glad the leaders of my church are passionate about biblical manhood. I am glad they are pushing buttons and exhorting men to be active and courageous and follow Christ passionately and tenaciously. I just wish we were having the same discussion about biblical womanhood.
If authentic womanhood means being a domestic goddess and caring for a husband and children, then I am screwed. If it means being put together and looking good, while being quiet and reserved, then I am in trouble. I may never have a husband or a child, and I will definitely never be a domestic goddess. I will never be perfectly coiffed and I don’t know anyone who would describe me as quiet.
But if authentic womanhood means actively stepping into conflict to bring peace or into chaos to bring order, accepting responsibility for my failures and relying on the grace of God to overcome them, investing in the eternal glory of God’s kingdom, and courageously leading my students and anyone else God puts in my path, then I’m pretty excited.
That sounds like an abundant life worth living.