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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Act Like Men

Paul’s Admonition to a Soft Society
We’re starting a youth wrestling program at our church. This is something we’ve been praying about for a while and now it’s becoming reality. I love the sport of amateur wrestling. It is my second favorite sport. Like other sports, it builds character and teaches you a lot of lessons about life. Wrestling is especially a good teacher because it is man-against-man. It’s just you and the other guy.
I tell you this because on the way to work last week I was listening to Laura Ingraham discuss the feminization of boys and men. I’ll leave off the flip side of the coin—the masculinization of girls and women—because that’s a subject all of its own. Suffice it to say that both at the public high school where I volunteer as a wrestling coach as well as in our church program, no girls are allowed in the wrestling program. Politically incorrect? We certainly hope so. It is both unbiblical and unnatural for girls or women to be participating with boys and men in wrestling.
The Orange County Register carried an interesting article by Rich Lowry on January 29, 2006 entitled “Biology’s revenge: boys will be boys” (Commentary, Columns, p. 6). His article dovetailed into Laura’s radio show in a number of ways, not the least of which was his reference to Christina Hoff Sommers’ book The War Against Boys. Lowry argues that it is high time that we stop treating boys “like defective girls” (Ibid.). It’s possible that we’re going to see a much-needed swing back to the defense of boys being allowed to be boys again. Lowry surmises that “patriarchy is exactly what many boys need—lots of patriarchy, up close and personal” (Ibid.). This translates into an important question that desperately needs an answer: “Does he (the boy) have a man in his life to look up to?” (Ibid.)
I’d take it farther than that. Ideally, the “man” in the boy’s life should be his father. I realize that given our societal makeup we have a number of single parents and the son, as often as not, ends up with the mother. Newsweek recently carried the cover of “The Boy Crisis.” They discovered that a startling 40% of boys today are being raised without their biological father, which they stated is tantamount to “an explorer without a map.”
For the longest time, feminists and other social do-gooders have contended that given the right socialization, boys will give up their fascination with earth-moving trucks, guns, and physical, competitive sports. Fortunately, continued experience proves them wrong, just as much as putting women into “guy” jobs works any better. As someone once quipped, “You can have your own opinion, but you can’t have your facts.” Facts are, indeed, stubborn things.
But that does not mean that those with agendas will give them up easily. The double whammy in this approach is the masculinization of girls/women and the feminization of boys/men. Given their access to the media, all kinds of attempts are made through movies and music (videos) to get this across. We get shows such as “Sex and the City,” “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” and “The ‘L’ Word” where “L” stands for lesbian. If Christians are ever to “engage the culture” here is a place where we must draw a line in the sand.
Anyway, in the course of Laura Ingraham’s radio discussion it became increasingly clear that America and the Christian Church are facing a significant problem: men are no longer acting like men. Now I realize that this is fortunately not universally true and that there are still men who act like men and not alike “metro-sexuals.”
As a volunteer wrestling coach at a local public high school, it is my task to introduce the sport of wrestling to the parents of incoming freshman. During our meeting I point out that their son will come home with some mat burns, bruises, strawberries, and assorted “tweaks,” but that that is simply part of the sport. Every time I give this introduction, I notice the pained looks on the faces of many of the moms. I understand their concern, but it is not well-founded. Moms tend to be protective of their boys, which is part of their feminine make up, but there comes a time when you need to let him get his bumps and bruises. If moms continue to be too protective of their sons they do more harm than they do good for him. There comes a time when boys must be allowed to release some of their testosterone energy and try it out in competition. This should begin early in the young man’s life.
Popular wisdom would have us think that we shouldn’t be playing competitive sports or even great fun games like dodge ball. Some do-gooders don’t even want us to keep score or call people out when they’re clearly out. This is supposed to build self-esteem, but really it’s just another politically correct ploy by our social engineers to emasculate men and boys. God created boys and men to be different from girls and women. In general, they are to be the protectors, warriors, and providers.
Now is the time for us to begin to recapture important territory that we surrendered in the name of making our men and boys more sensitive. That is not what is needed today! What is needed, now more than ever, is for men and boys to start acting like men and boys! It is high time for the social experiments to end. And even if they don’t end in the secular world, Christians parents and Christian churches should be taking great pains to insure that their young men and men behave like the male of the species.

1 Corinthians 16:13
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 16:13 are quite timely for today. Let’s take a quick peek at what he says. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (ESV). Clearly, this is one of those texts that is directed specifically to men. The words “act like men” demand reflection. In our modern, egalitarian society, the social engineers continue to try to eradicate any and every distinction between the sexes. In far too many cases, Christians have “caved” in the face of the pressure and men have been encouraged to get in touch with their feminine side—whatever that is.
Since that endeavor has been such a miserable failure, maybe it’s time to start talking about men and boys getting in touch with their masculine side. Notice how Paul links indispensable components of the Christian faith together in one sentence. Men are to be watchful of their lives; they are to stand firm in the faith; they are to act like men; and they are to be strong. Let’s take a few moments and look at these aspects in turn.

Be Watchful of Your Life
The words here mean “be on the alert.” They occur frequently in the New Testament in the sense of being vigilant in our lives (cf. Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:35, 37; 1 Thess. 5:6; Rev. 3:3; 16:15). In general, they apply to all God’s people to remain watchful and fully alert to thwart the spiritual forces of darkness. As designated spiritual leaders, men are to be especially watchful and alert.
During the Vietnam War, the life expectancy of a 2nd lieutenant on the battlefield was approximately 13 minutes. Why was that? The Vietcong and NVA forces had learned that the lieutenant was the leader of the platoon and he was easily recognized because he stood next to the radio operator. Therefore, they learned to aim at those two men first. In the spiritual realm, Satan and his host go after leaders in the home and in the church. There is an ongoing need to remain watchful of our lives.

Stand Firm in the Faith
When you read these admonitions, they sound like “marching orders,” which is what they are. Paul’s second command is to stand firm in the faith. In 15:58 he had ordered Christians to be steadfast (“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”) but now he adds the qualifier: in the faith. “As a soldier firmly defends the interests of his nation, so the Christian stands firm in relation to the teachings of God’s Word—objective faith.”[1]
For male spiritual leaders, this is an indispensable truth. Of course, the only way we can stand firm in the faith is by taking up and putting on the full armor of God daily (cf. Eph. 6:10-20). This means—in part—being thoroughly grounded in the Word of God and teaching it to those under our care. It means surrounding ourselves with a band of spiritual brothers to whom we are truly accountable. That we purposefully seek out, find, and attach ourselves and our families to a local congregation that is a true church of Jesus Christ; where the Word is preached, the sacraments properly administered, and church discipline is exercised. We seek our strength and comfort from a covenant community that preaches the Word, is a praying church, makes regular use of the sacraments, and has good Christian fellowship.

Be Men of Courage
The Greek verb that occurs here is what is called a hapax, and has nothing to do with axes! A hapax is a word that occurs only once. The verb is a plural command that can be translated “acquit yourselves like men.” Clearly, Paul understood that there was a difference between acquitting ourselves like women and like men. Christian men may not—must not—be fainthearted. I like the way Kistemaker puts it. He says that in the presence of Jesus Christ “there is no place for cowards and weaklings.”[2]
As a male in the Kingdom of Christ, there is no place for effeminate men. There is a biblical masculinity required that transcends all of our silly little social experiments. This is a masculinity based on the Word of God and that derives its concepts of what a man truly is from Scripture. It does not bend to the social pressure to get in touch with its feminine side, but rather walks confidently in the light of the revelation of God’s truth deposited in the Bible. It does not act like a macho-man but it also doesn’t mimic feminine attributes either. This type of masculinity knows what Scripture teaches and seeks, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to replicate what God calls men to be and to do. Like it or not, men are called upon to be the warriors in God’s Word. In biblical times, it was considered to be a very negative thing for a man to be killed by a woman (Judg. 9:54).
Moreover, the “ethics of Jesus” does not require men to be doormats or pacifists. Quite the contrary: it calls upon us to be men of courage who are willing to protect and provide for our families.

Be Strong
In this series of four, military-like commands, Paul’s last requirement is synonymous with the preceding one. This has to do with being made strong. Obviously, this can also apply to every Christian in the sense that we are to be strengthened through the experiences that God sends our way. But God has made men to “stand in the gap” for the women, children, and helpless in society.
All of the silly talk about the translation of the Hebrew word “’ezer” as warrior, is just that: silly talk. It is part of an agenda to see the woman as a “warrior” instead of the man. Military conquests in antiquity in the vast majority of the cases did not involve women. The men were called upon to be strong and courageous (cf. Deut. 31:6-7, 23; Josh. 1:1-18; 10:25; 1 Chr. 22:13; 28:20; 2 Chr. 32:7).

One Final Remark
V. 14 of 1 Corinthians 16 places an important qualifier on Paul’s remarks. In all Paul’s commands, he reminds us that his purpose is not merely masculine aggression. This qualifier hearkens back to 14:40 where Paul says that all things are to be done decently and in good order. He’s not interested in mere aggressive force without the virtue of biblical love.
Real biblical men keep this before them at all times. It is the “tempering” ingredient that keeps them on track with what God wants them to be and to do. The “balance” in life is to be strong, courageous men who acquit themselves like men, but who, at the same time, knows compassion and love.
A man—a real man—can, indeed, live like this because it is way the Lord intended for men to live. He did not, however, intend for them to live like wimps and it’s time we started acting like it.
[1] Simon Kistemaker, Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in the series New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), p. 605.
[2] Ibid. Italics mind—RG.

3 Comments:

Blogger blestwithsons said...

Ooh-Rah!! Great Stuff. That is our family verse. Even my two year old is learning to belt it out. BeStwong! (It's very cute!) They're Daddy is a Marine - so much of the future man raising falls on my shoulders. But this Mommy takes it very seriously. My boys are tender and loving - but they are boys. Lots of rough aand tumble - but no video games. Lots of playing war with each other - and none on television. That's my strategy.

Anyway - you might like an essay I posted back on October 18th on similar lines. (I won't link it - I think that's tacky!)


Thanks for a great post!

8:26 PM  
Blogger blestwithsons said...

Argh! I meant "their" Daddy. I hate homonyms.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Dear Blest,
You are, indeed, blest. My dad was a Marine so please, please tell your husband for me how thankful I am to him and how proud I am of him.
I would love to read your comments. Would you please send me the link?
Our youth wrestling is going great guns and even the moms are starting to see how important this is and how much their sons love it.
Thanks for commenting and please keep in touch.
You can find more of my stuff (is this tacky?) at www.rongleason.org.
God bless, Rattlesnake 6

7:13 PM  

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