What Does a Real Christian Man Look Like?
By Denny McDonald Jr.
One of the many interesting topics that comes up in my current line of work is the debate over what it really means to be a Christian man. I hear it from people I interview, from people who comment and write in, and from articles and blog posts.
You’d be surprised at the wide range of opinions that exist on this subject. Obviously this debate has existed for a long time, but it seems that it’s really come into its own since Promise Keepers made it a national topic in the secular media.
Everyone agrees on the problem. Modern Western culture really has a problem figuring out a wholesome masculine image. Traditional gender roles have been turned on their heads in the last 100 years. The feminist movement went from a well-intentioned stand for female rights to an extremist liberal group that is often out of control. Divorce rates and other issues have caused millions of men to grow up without strong father figures, which in turn has led to a generation of fathers trying to figure things out for themselves.
As the body of Christ, we know that our culture has lost a wholesome image of masculinity, but we disagree on the way to get it back. There’s a whole gamut of opinions about this, but I’ve identified some of the most popular. See if any of these ring a bell:
The “Wild” Christian Men: These are the John Eldredge “let’s go camping with nothing but shorts and a knife while we eat raw meat and hug each other around a fire” guys. Wild At Heart and Eldredge’s other books have had a huge influence on the men’s
movement, with an emphasis on following the sense of adventure God has placed in your heart. It’s an appeal that really hits men on an emotional level and makes it OK for us to want to live out our dreams as Maximus or William Wallace. Eldredge and those like him have really hit home with a lot of Christian guys out there, but critics often cite a lack of biblical foundation among these outdoorsy types. Which lead us to our next group …
The Smart Christian Men: These are the guys who will critically take apart any other take on the men’s movement through their powerful reasoning and superior hermeneutics. Biblical scholarship and intelligence are the keys here, and everyone else who talks about Christian masculinity is just brutish. Check out blogger Phil Johnson’s post on Christian masculinity for a good example. It is proper theology and living that are the main message here, none of this rough-and-rugged stuff Which would, of course, be the opposite of …
The Christian Men on Steroids: Similar to the “Wild” Christian men group, but more
extreme, this movement has popped up in the past five years or so. Much of this movement, which is based on the ideas of Eldredge but goes further, focuses on the “sissification” of the church over the last 100 years and how we need to remake churches
to appeal specifically to men. Check out Church for Men for an example. These guys want to sing worship songs about battles and conquest; they want short sermons because real men don’t like to sit and listen, they like to do. They also focus on activities and service.
Obviously all these different groups have good intentions, and many of them emphasize different aspects of masculinity. So how do we balance them? How do we get the active service, the solid theology and the emotional appeal of all the groups? What does the ultimate, ideal Christian man look like?
That would be Jesus.
Its funny how the source of our faith seems to get lost in the debate among various Christians. Although each group claims a different aspect of Christ, I keep looking to the gospels to see the ideal godly man. Jesus had it all. Want solid thinking? How about constantly answering questions by quoting Scriptures and providing revelations from the Old Testament. Want a strong man? How about a guy who can spend 40 days in the desert without food, or sacrifice Himself for the salvation of everyone? Want a balanced man? How about a guy who treated women with more respect than anyone in His day and age.
I’ve almost always found that the best answers in Christianity are the most simple ones. If you want to know how to be the best Christian man you can be, look to Jesus.
From “New Man” newsletter. www.newinan.org August 2009