5 min read
I have done this before, I’ll do it again. Here we go. Grab a mic or open your voice memos app, walk up to both men and women on the street and ask them this question, what do you think manhood is? Define who a man besides his physical form. The answers will be varied and based on the cultural context.
If the person responding has adopted the individualistic belief system (mostly lived out in the Western hemisphere and North America) they will convey something to this effect. A man is someone who takes good care of themselves. They work and play hard. They are modern and educated. They love the good things in life. They are gentlemanly, romantic and are not afraid to show their emotions. They frequent massage parlours and do facials, pedicure and manicures. They have a vision and a plan. They know what they want in this life. They are religious or spiritual. They also love to have a good time—a drink here and there, and some good music. He has a six-pack, preferably.
If the person responding has adopted the more traditional view (mostly lived out in Africa, Asia, and Latin America) they will say something to this effect. A man is someone who works hard and takes good care of his family. He is a protector and defender. He is a leader. He is religious or spiritual. He is very much involved in the religious or local community. He has integrity. He is loyal. He has worked for the same company for the past twenty-odd years. He has been married to the same woman for God knows how long. His children have turned out great because he raised them well. He is always at home. He is a good man.
The individualistic and traditional view of manhood differs like day and night. Each defines manhood as what a man does and not who a man is. Both reduce men to machines or robots. A man is there to do something for himself or the family.
Steve Harvey hosts a TV show where he tries to explain the man’s psyche to women in his audience and countless around the world. His definition of manhood is a mangled-up version of both the modern and traditional view. The man must be urbane and traditional at the same time. The man must have a job or a plan to make wealth. His wife and family should be his number one priority. He tells women the man must be teachable like a dog (a phrase he uses often on his show).
I think the individualistic, traditional and Steve Harvey’s mangled up version puts untold pressures on men. Every turn we make we find a wall to climb or a standard to meet. You sink or swim. And because we are under pressure, we put our women under pressure. We demand from you what only robots can give. This insurmountable pressure has led to the rise of pride, anger, cynicism, bitterness and even suicides among men, especially the baby boomer generation and millennials.
If men are reduced to breadwinners (what we do), no wonder we are unemotional like robots and our only exchange with women is sex. We work hard for you; you repay us with sex. If we feed and clothe you, you better sex us up. But as life is, life throws curve balls. What happens when we lose our jobs or the ability to make wealth or take care of you? What happens we lose our health? We spiral into depression.
On this Father’s Day, Jesus offers men and the women who love them a way out of this impasse. What if manhood is defined by who Jesus is and what he has done for us? What if manhood is defined by looking at Jesus? And not looking at Jesus as a moral example but to his work for on the cross for us? His work for us? Absolutely.
This is what Jesus did for men.
Jesus, as a man, fulfilled all the requirements that the individualistic and traditional view demand so that men can receive acceptance from God regardless of who they are and what they do. Jesus succeeds, and his success was imputed to us so that success doesn’t get to our heads. We don’t become proud.
Jesus also received the punishment for our failure to live up to the standards of the individualistic and traditional views. Where we failed, Jesus took the punishment for us. He took our place. He was perfect yet God judged him as a failure for our sake so God could treat men as perfect and successful. In this way, failure doesn’t get to our hearts. This is grace. God credits to our lives all who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Jesus is the measure of who we are, as men.
If this is grace, this grace then defines who we are. This grace demands nothing from us. This grace does not require us to define ourselves by what we do. This grace frees men from all the categories—individualistic, traditional or even Steve Harvey’s. This grace causes us to flourish and when we flourish, we don’t become proud and when we fail; we are not devastated because we are not what we do. We are what Jesus has done for us.
See how counterintuitive this is? What Jesus did for us frees us from the pressure to do and become what the modern, traditional and Steve Harvey demand from us. It really does.
What if men really believed and lived their lives from grace? We could become less cynical, bitter, angry, and depressed. We could be more joyful and fun. We could be more productive. We could be more loving. We could be more like Jesus. A man who is defined by who Jesus is and what he has done will effortlessly live out the standards required by the individualistic and traditional views. Effortlessly being the keyword.
Away with the categories. Away with the demands. Away with the standards. Away with the pressure.
On this Father’s Day, give your man (father, husband, brother, uncle) the gift of grace. Celebrate him not for what he has done, neither chastise him for what he hasn’t done, but for who he is because of Jesus. Do you want to see a complete man, sis? A modern and traditional man all in one? Get your man to look to Jesus. (Colossians 2:10 NKJV) You will benefit, bigly.
That’s what grace looks like