Act like men
May 19, 2013 § 1 Comment
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
What is a man? For millennia humans have sought to answer that question, drawing both from what seems obvious to them from nature because of the physical make-up of males versus females as well as from the influences of individual cultures, philosophy and religion.
The image of masculinity in America has almost always been one of the rugged individual, though modern feminism has sought (sometimes, I fear, literally) to emasculate that image. A few years ago a funny phenomenon developed that I think says a lot about the American view of masculinity: Chuck Norris jokes.
- Some people can juggle chainsaws; Chuck Norris can juggle people juggling chainsaws.
- Fear of spiders is called arachnophobia; fear of tight spaces is called claustrophobia; fear of Chuck Norris is called “Logic.”
- Chuck Norris has a grizzly bear carpet in his room. The bear isn’t dead; it is just afraid to move.
- Ghosts sit around the campfire and tell Chuck Norris stories.
Of course, as Christians, we have an interest in what a man is—in particular, what a Christian man is. Simply put, Christian men must answer God’s call to be men. That may sound redundant—but we—and by “we” I mean “men”—often seem to need this kind of “obvious” reminder to be who God made us to be. In 1 Corinthians 16:13 we can discern several distinct components to what it means biblically for men to be men, but two of particularly critical for the health of home and church: Christian men act like men when they keep vigilant watch for spiritual threats and when they know and defend the faith.
Keeping vigilant watch for spiritual threats
Paul’s first imperative in 1 Corinthians 16:13 is “Be watchful” (Γρηγορεῖτε). It means “to be or keep awake” literally by keeping “one’s eyes open.” It is the same word Jesus uses to rebuke Peter, James and John just before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane:
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch (γρηγορῆσαι) with me one hour? Watch (γρηγορεῖτε) and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)
Jesus’ charge to the three disciples “watch” is the exact word that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 16:13: “Stay awake! Keep your eyes open! Be alert.” It is the word used for the charge of the soldier who stands watch over his weary comrades at night; their safety, perhaps their very lives, depends on his keeping vigilant watch for the threat of the enemy.
This is precisely what Paul means to communicate to the men of the church: “Be watchful—stay alert for the spiritual threats that will face your spiritual family.”
God made men to be protectors; they are called to protect those who have been committed to their charge and those who are unable to protect themselves. It is built into us physically, it is built into us mentally—and it is our spiritual charge to “stay awake” and “keep [our] eyes open” in order to be on our guard for spiritual threats.
Knowing and defending the faith
The obvious question at this point is, “How do I recognize spiritual threat?” As Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 16:13, his next words direct us to the answer: “…stand firm in the faith; be strong…” Christian men act like men when they know and defend the faith.
The word translated “stand firm” means “to be steadfast”—to stand without retreat. And Paul is specific about that in which we are to stand: “the faith.” Here he uses the definite article (“the”) to make clear that he does not mean faith in general but the faith—the body of doctrine that has been entrusted to the body of believers. It is the same thing Jude says in his letter when he says his intention for writing his letter was “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).”
Christian men are to be committed to that very same thing; when Paul charges us to “stand firm in the faith” he is charging us to stand our ground in the faith—and that requires men to know the faith and defend the faith. Knowledge in the faith is a critical part of our keeping vigilant watch for spiritual threat. Christian men are called to lead—and we lead by knowing what we believe and defending what we believe.
This is the very same charge that David, as he neared the end of his life, gave his son, Solomon, who would succeed him as king:
“I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn…” (1 Kings 2:2-3).
“Show yourself a man,” David charges Solomon—and the way he is to show he is a man is by keeping “the charge of the LORD…walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules and his testimonies….” Christian men act like men by following the Lord—and they follow the Lord by knowing his Word, knowing what it teaches –and knowing what it calls them to do as men.
What the godly man looks like is found in Psalm1: “…his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (verse 2). He pores over God’s word, studying it, memorizing it, meditating upon it—learning and growing in it so he may be drawn closer to God and “stand firm in the faith…[being] strong” by not ceding ground to doctrinal error or threat.
Men—boys, young men—all men—we are all called to stand firm in the faith, to learn it, grow and mature in it so that we may stand firm in it for the safety and protection of our homes and this congregation. If we fail humbly yet confidently to stand firm in the faith, when doctrinal error, moral impurity and persecution threaten to undo us—we will not be able to stand.
Godly manliness is nothing less than spiritual fortitude, which is the fruit of God’s Spirit; it is an extraordinary, supernatural result nurtured by the ordinary means of grace—which means God intends for every redeemed man to attain to it and has provided everything necessary for that attainment.