The idea of manhood has fallen on hard times. When it is referred to, masculinity is often now described as “toxic”. We commonly hear “the patriarchy” blamed for today’s ills. There is little place for men in the new social hierarchy.
Maybe some of these criticisms are valid. Look at history and at society today: men are responsible for most of the violence, theft, rape, war and crime taking place in the world. It is a sad and shocking realisation.
But that’s only half the picture. Men are also responsible for most of the world’s skyscrapers, law enforcement, infrastructure, political progress, global transportation and advanced technology. The world needs good men. Our society is crying out for virtuous, strong and godly men.
This is why Australian Christians are committed to family values. Part of our platform is holistic policies that promote individual and family wellbeing. Importantly, we want to see adequate resourcing for mental health, relationship counselling, parenting and legal services. This matters more than ever in a time when gender — and masculinity in particular — is misunderstood.
Gender is a powerful and mysterious force, and one that cuts both ways. “It’s not your gender but how you use it” is how we could rephrase this obvious fact. This holds true for both men and women. So how should men use their masculinity for the benefit of all?
Our world’s problems won’t go away by abolishing manhood or emasculating men. Quite the opposite. Masculinity needs to be harnessed for good and channelled into productive purposes.
To understand the unique temptations that men face, the best place to look is back at the beginning — in the Garden of Eden. There, Adam stood by, silent and passive, as his wife Eve was deceived by the serpent (Genesis 3:1-6). And his response when God came looking for them? To hide among the trees (Genesis 3:7-10).
In some form or another, men have been hiding ever since — hiding in their work, their hobbies, their workshop, their gym, their addictions, even their religion. Hiding from their wives, their children, their communities, their responsibilities, their true calling.
But there’s more. Part of God’s curse on Adam and Eve for their sin was a shift in the power dynamic between the two of them. “You will desire to control your husband,” God told Eve, “but he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). All of Adam’s descendants have been affected by this curse. The will to rule over anyone who is weaker has remained with men ever since.
Passivity and pitiless power: these are two of the most dangerous pitfalls that men must overcome if they are to bring their best to everyone around them.
In Jesus, we have the perfect example of a man who set aside every temptation towards passivity and pitiless power. Rather than staying in heaven, the Son of God stepped down into our broken world to reveal the Father to us. He loved like no one else, and his love was most obvious to those who were the furthest from power — women, children, tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes and outcasts.
In the greatest act of love, Jesus gave up his divine power for the salvation of humanity. In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul encourages believers to be selfless and humble, to stop trying to impress others and instead put their needs first. The great example he points us to is Jesus:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
That’s how power is wielded well and how passivity is overcome: when men use their strength to lift others up. Think of your greatest male heroes. The rule holds true: sacrificing power for the good of others is the key to greatness. We know this because Jesus showed us the way.
Today, many men lack good role models. There is an epidemic of fatherlessness that has hurt countless men and distorted our society’s picture of true manhood.
But all of us have a perfect example in Jesus. All of us have been welcomed by Him into the love of the Father. In Christ, every man can hear the words from heaven that Jesus heard at His baptism: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11).
Armed with that message, and encouraged by those around them to be their best, men can change the world.