My point? We have been en-cultured to believe that men and women are like day and night. However, the truth is that the negative of a man is not a woman, the negative of a man is “not a man”.
God created men and women to complement each other, not to symbolize the negative sides of each other. It is not an angels and demons comparison but a yin and yang one. Unfortunately, the cultural notion that many Christian men are sissies or wusses is just one way this false dichotomy between men and women plays out in society.
There is a serious problem in how we perceive and judge what we normally describe as being “manly” or a “sissy” (by the way, the root of the word sissy is sis, or sister, which effectively equates being a sister with something derogatory) . The following are a few examples of men that would qualify for sissies:
- If the man is quick to shed tears, or get emotional, he is a sissy.
- If a man uses expressions such as “I love you” with other men, he is a sissy.
- If a man enjoys “chic-flicks”, soaps and sappy love songs, he is a sissy.
- If a man prefers giving bear hugs to side hugs with his male friends, he is a sissy.
Why is any trait even remotely associated with being “effeminate” in the culture also considered negative in a man? And what shall we say when the same line and school of thought seems to be the prevailing worldview within the church?
Consider the flip-side of the examples listed above. See how the absence of these traditionally feminine traits in a man is seen as something to be celebrated. In fact, the very absence of feminine traits is often being promoted as a positive defining factor of manliness:
- If the man seldom shows emotion and has never been seen crying in public, he is a manly man.
- If a man seldom, if ever, uses the expression “I love you” with his male friends, he is a manly man.
- If a man enjoys violent movies, sports and does not find soaps or “chic-flicks” entertaining, he is a manly man.
- If a man only bear hugs ladies and only “side hugs” the men, he is a manly man.
Clearly, this dichotomy disregards what the Bible considers true manhood and true womanhood. Even sadder, many men who preach and strive to live out biblical manhood still use such indicators to guilt-trip and shame other men. They implicitly (and sometime explicitly) tie “being a man” to one’s ability to shun culturally effeminate tendencies.
Rarely will you find a Christian man chastising another man for not providing for his family, for not loving his wife sacrificially or for not leading his family bible studies. But it is common to find Christian men, especially on social media, taking cheap shots at other men for displaying these “cultural” indicators of masculinity or femininity.
The problem with men
So, I return to my original assertion: the opposite of a manly man is not a woman. The problem with men is not that they are behaving like women, but that they are not behaving like biblical men. Before we criticize fellow men for not being “man enough”, before we ask fellow men to give up their “man cards”, before we admonish fellow brothers to “man up”, let us ask ourselves a few telling questions.
- Are we criticizing them based on the world’s (cultural) definition and standard of manhood, or are we criticizing them based on the biblical standard?
- Are we asking them to give up their man-cards for preferring expressive and more emotional art (lovey-dovey” worship songs) to hard-core rap?
- Are we admonishing them for publicly expressing their care and affection to other men instead of hiding it and “acting tough”?
These are revealing questions. But they are only addressing the surface of an underlying deeper problem. I hope this post will sensitize us to re-consider our standards in evaluating identities that we brand “biblical”; are our standards defined by the world or the Word?
The prevailing force of contemporary culture and tradition is compelling and difficult to resist, let alone overcome. However, awareness of the problem is a pivotal step towards redeeming our definitions of biblical manhood and womanhood in light of the culture.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” [1 Cor 16:13-14]
“Husbands, live with your wives 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 Peter 3:7]
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” [2 Timothy 2:15]
“Husbands, love your wives, 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.” [Ephesians 5:25-27]
So, fellow men, are you man enough?