There is a conference traveling around which happens to be in Indianapolis this weekend. It’s called Act Like Men. What does it mean to “Act Like Men”? What does a good Christian man act like? According to some Christians including at least one of the main speakers at this conference, being a good Christian man involves, among other things, drinking beer, eating meat, and ruling over leading women. In other words, they have taken our American macho-man stereotype and blessed it as God’s holy will. (Note: I am not intending this to be a critique of the conference itself since I have not attended it. I am using it as a jumping off point to critique some ideas I’ve encountered.)
Another similar problem is how some people have taken traits which are more common for men (and conversely for women) and have made these “right”. For example, many men are competitive becomes real men are competitive (and real women aren’t). Or a majority of men are thinkers and a majority of women are feelers becomes real men are logical while real women are emotional.
I would have a hard time expressing how wrong I believe this is. The only reason I can really see for saying the above is to try to get people to conform to certain roles by employing shame. From the statistics I’ve seen on Myers-Briggs personality types, about 75% are thinkers while 75% of women are feelers. Therefore, people who hold to the above would say that if you are a man who is a feeler, you are somehow less of a “real man”. You are shamed for somehow not being good enough. And unless you know better and have support from elsewhere, you are forced to hide who you really are and pretend to conform. Let me say, this is not acting like a godly man. Likewise, it is not manly to judge (a.k.a. condemn) others as not being as good as (the unspoken assumption is) you are.
So what does it mean to act like a man? Before I answer this, I need to clarify it a bit. I don’t really care what it means to act like a man following his natural desires (according to the sinful nature). That’s not my goal. What I am interested in is what it means to act like a man who is living by the Spirit. In other words, what does it mean to act like a godly man?
I believe a godly man will generally be patient, kind, protective, trustworthy, loyal; he won’t envy others, boast, assume hurtful motives in others; he won’t be prideful disrespectful, self-centered, nor easily angered; he won’t revel when harm comes to others—even his enemies—but will be glad when others experience good. He will strive to do what is in the best interest of those he comes in contact with in his life. He will have confidence to be the person God made him to be—whether this fits the cultural stereotype or not. He won’t worry much about what others think of him. He won’t fear either sinners nor the religious. He won’t try to force his own agenda through his own strength, nor will he withdraw and not engage others. He will seek God and try to learn how to continue to better himself. As he does this, he will also seek how he may share Christ with others, not necessarily in terms of evangelism but in sharing the characteristics of the Father.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion and mis-information out there about what it means to be a man. Ideas about gender are just as bad if not worse in many Christian circles than in the culture at large. Significant criticism comes from both other men and from women. Therefore many men are confused about what it means to be a man. Many have never been taught at all. Furthermore, men are isolated such that they don’t have any help in their training to become godly. We need to get rid of poor gender stereotyping and get men connected in order to support each other to follow Jesus through the challenges of life.