Back in the day when I first started out as a youth pastor I had a mom come up to me and thank me for being an ‘actual man.’ Yep, didn’t exactly know how to take that, but I think it was a compliment. Apparently the year before, her son, who was an athlete and typical dude, had a youth intern who, according to her, was a little more into going to coffee shops and painting with her son than grabbing a basketball and shooting some hoops (not that anything is wrong with that!). But as a mom who was desperately looking for a man to mentor her son, apparently this intern dude wasn’t meeting her standards.
I mention this because it’s a pretty interesting time in history in terms of defining what it means to be a man. Am I more of a man because I played sports? Am I more of a man because I like Die Hard more than anything with Hugh Grant in it (ok, I’m gonna have to say ‘yes’ to that one!)? Who knows, but when I stumble upon articles like this one – which talks about the sad state of men in our culture – it definitely makes me stop and ask the question all over again, “what does it mean to be a man?”
One of the coolest things about reading Scripture is that it’s filled with incredible stories that make me – a man who loves movies with explosions and violent tackles in football games – grunt in excitement. From battles to shipwrecks, imprisonments to ridiculously sweet imagery of a tattooed Jesus riding a white horse and carrying a legit sword (yeah, Revelation is sweet), the Bible is anything but tame! In a culture that sends conflicting messages about what a real man is, I look to Scripture to help a brother out. One of my favorite pictures of manliness comes in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. This passage is all-that-is-man, with imagery and examples that belong in a movie starring The Rock. 2 Tim 2:1-7:
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.
You want to know what it means to be a man in the Kingdom of God? You want to figure out what manliness and Godly leadership looks like? Check out the main elements of this passage.
1. Empower, raise up, multiply. 1 Tim 2:2 is one of the most important and most overlooked scriptures in the NT. “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” In one sentence Paul captures the Jesus-strategy of multiplication that seems to be embedded in so much of what Jesus said: make apprentices and multiply! PAUL –> TIMOTHY –> Reliable people –> Others. Yeah, that’s 4 generations. You want to be a good leader? You want to be a manly influencer? Don’t make it about you. Raise up others, empower others. It’s not about you.
2. Soldiers have purpose, and they do what their commanding officer says. I love this picture. A good soldier doesn’t get distracted with other objectives, but they follow through with their orders. They are singularly focused on obeying their commander. Other distractions are inconsequential. They endure, they listen to their commanding officer, they don’t get distracted. Paul says, be like this. Listen to your king. Don’t get distracted.
3. A successful Athlete plays by the rules. In the long run, if you take shortcuts, you pay for it. If you stop before the whistle, you sow weakness. If you cut your reps in practices, you cut your effectiveness. If you take PIDs, you’ll be exposed as a cheater. You want to be a manly leader? Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t let sin derail you. Success comes with integrity. Don’t cheat.
4. A Farmer works so freaking hard, and because of that, reaps a reward. Hard work results in success, laziness doesn’t. So many men simply lack this nowadays: the willingness to try, to endure, to pour themselves out for something bigger than themselves.
So fellas, especially those of you who wish to lead others, look to these few verses to provide a picture of true manliness. Empower others. Be like a soldier with singular focus, an athlete who doesn’t cheat, and a farmer who will not be outworked.