Over the last 25 years or so there’s been this love/hate relationship with masculinity. Starting in the early 90’s with the book Iron John, by Robert Bly, many have struggled with what exactly does it mean to be a man. Bly talked about men in our world today being half-adults, neither fully man yet nor still a child, stuck somewhere in the limbo between it all, lacking the initiation right into manhood. The idea that was sent out through drum circles, camping trips, lack of shaving, and tons of flannel, was that men were to be manly men connected to their strong warrior past. I remember my dad brining me to some of these meetings. I have some fond memories of them and others were interesting to say the least.
Since Bly’s book and the “men’s movement” of the early 90’s, there has been a struggle and back and forth between what does it truly mean to be male, to be a man, to be masculine. In the 90’s there was the Promise Keepers movement which called men to be men of God and keep promises in being a man of God. A man was supposed to be strong, bigger than life, a warrior of sorts.
For a while there was a backlash and you had the “metrosexual,” a male who didn’t go out camping and trying to do man stuff with men and living by the man code, but instead was urban, focused on meticulous living, fashion, style, etc. You even had the iconic TV show in the aughts called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a show about helping men be stylish, etc (Ted Allen being the one star who continued on awesomely in the show Chopped).
Then the pendulum swung the other way, especially for Christians. You had books such as Man in the Mirror, Tender Warrior, Wild at Heart, and more. These books were in response to the idea of men of God not being, well, men of God. More than that, of men not really being men. Men, for these authors, were to be strong warriors, fighting for their wives and children. The authors have tried hard to shift the image of Jesus meek and mild being Jesus the warrior, the mighty one, the leader of the heavenly armies. For them, Jesus isn’t the simple, kind, gentle, savior/messiah but instead a mighty strong man who fought valiantly, ending in his death upon the cross (which is a valiant death even a Klingon would appreciate).
So what does it mean to be a man today? Is it strength and power or is it focused on style? Is it being a powerhouse and the king of the castle, the head of the house or the style focused urbanite looking for a good deal on matching shoes and murse (a man purse, not a satchel but a man purse)? What about the issue of gender roles today?
I find it interesting that while Jesus is seen as the ultimate warrior, He’s also the ultimate servant. This is one area in which men seem to lack. They lack the simple instructions to serve. To serve God, to serve Jesus, to serve family, to serve friends, to serve one another. Jesus came to serve not to be served. He came in power and might, power over storms and fig trees. Jesus came to extend grace and love, acceptance and reconciliation. He knocked over tables and whipped people in anger and other times would be gentle to all. Jesus’ birth was proclaimed by a military regiment of angels and is to return with a military regiment, led by Him on a white horse. He could’ve fought against the Roman soldiers who nailed Him to the cross but instead He went willingly to die.
So is Jesus a warrior or not? Yes.
Is a man a warrior or not? Yes.
A man, a man of God, is to be like Jesus in every way, a warrior and a servant. To fight the good fight, to stand firm for their friends, family, loved ones, to stand for the cause of Christ, and to serve, to serve faithfully as Jesus did.
I think Bly is right in that today many men are half-adults, but more than that, half-Christs. Not fully men while still not boys; grown adults with a desire to slay the woolly mammoth but the inability and training to do so.
Jesus shows us the way to be a Godly man, both the warrior and the servant. Not half-adults, but full followers of Jesus. To pick up the cross and follow Jesus is the greatest way to fight as a servant-warrior.