Where have all the men gone?
It’s a common refrain. I’ve heard many times that guys these days just don’t grow up, that there aren’t enough “marriageable” men, or that men aren’t really men anymore. Listen, I know some young, godly men, who I am honored to do battle with. Sadly, though, they are outnumbered by another kind of “man".
We have plenty of adult males. We have “bros” who haven’t quite learned to leave frat life behind. We have the lovable loser stereotype in sitcoms and movies. We have guys who are too passive (ask her out already), and guys who are too aggressive (way too many domestic abuse cases).
Though they are all technically “men”—not women, not children—they don’t represent the ideal of manhood that people are looking for. In each case, you could still tell them to “be a man,” and it would make sense—even if you had a hard time defining exactly what that means.
The Bible, which itself tells guys to “act like men” (1 Corinthians 16:13), has a lot to say on the subject. Not just on how to be a man, but how to be a good man. A godly man. The kind of man the world needs.
If you want to be a godly man, you should work on being:
Self-controlled. Getting drunk, getting violent when angry, or being enslaved to any kind of addiction are not signs of self-control (Titus 1:7-8). But self-control is one of the surest signs of a mature man. Titus 2:6 tells younger men to be self-controlled, and 1 Timothy 3:2 lists it as a requirement for men who serve as elders.
Self-sacrificing. Godly men don’t live selfishly. They put other’s needs above their own (Philippians 2:3-4), especially if that “other” person is their wife (Ephesians 5:25) or child. If worse comes to worse, a real man should be willing to literally sacrifice his life to protect those he loves (John 15:13).
Honorable towards women. Men are called to treat “older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:2). Married men are commanded to be gentle with their wives (Colossians 3:19) and to honor and be understanding of the way God has wired them (Ephesians 5:25). Objectifying women, sleeping around, and violence towards women is not OK.
A hard worker. Men are often thought of as being providers for their families (1 Timothy 5:8). If you’re single, that means providing for yourself and managing your finances so that you could someday provide for others (which may not be a wife or kids; the verse above includes relatives like elderly parents). That’s definitely not saying you have to make lots of money; manhood is not measured by income. And if you get laid off from a job, you don’t stop being a man. But you also don’t stop working; if you’re unemployed, you should work even harder at getting a job, and work at something that isn’t your “dream job” if that’s what you need to do. The common thread is to be diligent (Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 14:23) and work hard (Colossians 3:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).
Principled. One of the marks of moving from childhood to manhood is that you are driven by lasting principles, not temporary emotions. Men are called to stand firm (1 Corinthians 16:13) and not be deceived by false doctrine or the prevailing winds of the world (Ephesians 4:13-14). Men who are elders should be able teach these lasting truths to others (Titus 1:9).
Opposed to evil. This might seem obvious, until you consider that there are people who call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20), who suppress the truth (Romans 1:18) and approve of sin (Romans 1:32). A mature man should be able to distinguish between good and evil (Hebrews 5:13-14). He should love good (Titus 1:8) while exposing evil (Ephesians 5:11) and standing up against it (Ephesians 6:10-17).
Courageous. It’s a necessary part of being self-sacrificial and standing up for what is right. It’s such a part of manhood that some versions of 1 Corinthians 16:13 translate “act like men” as “be courageous.” A courageous man initiates and takes action when needed (James 4:17). It doesn’t mean you don’t have fears; it just means you act despite those fears.
Loving. Many people see love as being more of a feminine trait, rather than a manly one. But this is actually one of the clearest traits of manhood on the list. In the Bible, husbands are repeatedly asked to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19). Wives don’t get that same command. The “act like men” instructions (1 Corinthians 16:13-14) close with “let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 13, known as the “love chapter,” seems to associate love with manhood (1 Corinthians 13:11).
When we’re talking about being loving, it’s important to note how it explains love:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Patient. Kind. Not jealous. Not boastful, arrogant, or rude. Not irritable, or holding grudges. Unselfish. Unfailing. Bearing whatever burdens, always believing and hopeful. Not rejoicing in evil, but rejoicing in the truth.
That’s a description of a godly man, if I’ve ever heard one.
Guys, be men. We desperately need more of you.
What do you think makes someone a man?
(With help from Kevin McConaghy)