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The Path to Biblical Manhood in a Culture Gone Effeminate
In Pursuit of Manhood
I have come to realize that a consistent part of striving to be, or become a good, godly, faithful man is feeling like a complete failure in most every way. What I mean is that it is in those times that I am being the least intentional and least diligent to identify where I need to grow and change, where I feel most content or confident with myself.
Actually, caring and striving for something better is painful. It involves exposing weakness. It necessitates seeing just how far I am from what I need to be. It means I must let go of any excuses onto which I have been holding. To let go of an idea that I am a victim of bad genetics, a bad economy, low talent, or a frowning providence.
I can understand the impulse of most men my age to want to perpetually continue a carefree youth. There is something attractive – though unnatural – to abdicating the responsibilities that God has given to you. To at least share the load and the responsibility. Isn’t that the allure for men of the egalitarian impulse?
If men and women are equally responsible for bringing in an income, making important decisions, and the overall direction of the home, then a man can only ever be partially responsible when things do not go well. Not to mention, that making the woman bear half of his burden gives him more time and money to pursue unending immaturity.
And yet, as a Christian I know that this is not the way (sorry Mando). Our culture rants and raves over the idea that men should be the ones in leadership. It is allergic to masculine authority. It has convinced generations that the whole idea is based on male privilege and male abuses. They prove by their objections that they do not understand leadership, and they do not understand biblical masculinity.
Leadership and authority carry, of necessity, a great burden of responsibility. If you have authority over others, or for others, then you are responsible for them. You are in many ways accountable for them. How they are provided for, protected, equipped, and even for how they behave and perform as they interact in the world. That is daunting at any level.
That is a huge weight for any man to bear. And yet, it is that for which he was designed. It requires great strength; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Strength that you will not get without consistent and diligent effort. You do not get stronger by accident. If you are not making yourself stronger, you will become weaker.
All that takes vision, time, and effort. You must be willing to look hard at your life to see where you may be weak or struggling. You must be willing to admit where you have been a failure, when you may need to get some help. You will have to be willing to repent and to change directions. You will need to find a way to become stronger. It is not easy to get stronger – the weaker you are when you start the more painful the process will be to make any progress.
That is the weight of caring. That is the weight of genuinely wanting to be a better man. It is why so many men refuse to look down that path, much less to fight against the current to walk it. The neutering of a biblical worldview, the rise of feminism, and the endless proliferation of mind-numbing entertainment have created a world that rewards thirty-five-year-old boys, if they are willing to celebrate the demise of masculinity.
And so, the more I learn about what it really means to be a man, the more I realize I have been influenced by everything around me. In many ways emasculated. That is a hard realization to come to. It is made doubly hard as it seems the more strides I make in the right direction, the more I realize how bad the damage was.
The Necessity of Comparisons
I have mixed feelings when it comes to the benefits of comparing myself to others. On the one hand, we are all at different points, we have different circumstances, different abilities, and a whole host of struggles that no one else knows about it. Comparisons are rarely ever made with adequate knowledge or wisdom to be helpful.
On the other hand, it is almost impossible to know what we should strive for without examples of what to follow – role models. I love to read biographies of mighty men and the situations where they showed their courage, faithfulness, and willingness to sacrifice for a greater cause. They resonate with the greatness of our design to the very core.
Comparing oneself to others can lead to depression and apathy, or it can inspire greatness – to one day be found worthy among the greats.
All things considered; we cannot walk this road alone. We need others to help us do and become what we were designed to be and do. We need both the motivation to move forward, and examples of where to go. As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
I have a faithful and present earthly father, whom I am probably more like that either of us would care to admit. I will forever be thankful for him. He was my best friend growing up, and the best man at my wedding. I have less excuse than most, as I was blessed more than most. And yet, I still lament the shortage of great men to emulate.
If we study history there is no shortage of great men – not perfect men. Those who were courageous, strong, faithful, and endured until the end. There are still some to be found today, yet they can be hard to find, as they are most often neither flashy nor seeking attention.
Podcast Episode 10: Resurrecting Real Men
No matter what our culture says, masculinity is not toxic. Men were created to be masculine by a God who called his Creation, "very good". Listen in as Caleb and Lindsey discuss the topic of biblical manhood in the face of a culture that seeks to neuter men.
Real Men to Emulate
What kind of men ought we look to as guides to help us reach maturity? Let me suggest that we must not look for the same things the world cherishes. Look for men who are succeeding in the things that truly matter; the kind of men who will draw you closer to Christ as you follow their example.
A Man Who Is Faithful to His Wife
Look for things like long-term marital fidelity. Not just someone who has managed to not get divorced, but someone who has cultivated and sanctified his marriage. Does he love and lead his wife and children? Do they honor and respect him in return? Like the qualifications for an elder of the church, a man who does not rule his home well cannot be trusted elsewhere and is not worthy to follow.
A Man Who Controls His Passions
A man worthy to emulate is a man who can control his passions. He is not easily rattled, easily angered, or easily offended. He does not look for an excuse to let his baser instincts out to play. That is not always going to look the same, yet a man who cannot control himself, cannot be trusted to rule or to guide others. He is a dangerous man. Even, or perhaps especially if he does this while appearing soft or compassionate.
A Man Who Excels in His Vocation
Look to men who do all this while yet pursuing and achieving excellence in their vocation and arenas of service. That does not mean men who have the most impressive jobs or make the most money. There is more to mastery of skill than how much money it can make. A man’s excellence can show itself in many different areas in how they serve his family, the church, or his community.
A Man with a Good Reputation
Of the many things that could be said, let me just add that you want to emulate those men who are held in high regard by other worthy men, and in whose presence worthy women are not made nervous or insecure. You can find something to learn from in almost any successful man, but you can be helped in almost every area of life when you observe and emulate a faithful, godly man.
A Note on Discernment
When you look to others for inspiration, remember a couple important truths. They are just men, and they will have areas of weakness that you must be willing to recognize and avoid in your own life. If you are privileged to get close enough, to even a great man, you will realize that they are not as confident or as capable as you initially though them to be. You may even surpass them over time. Do not forget to honor their faithfulness and the help they have given you. Do not dishonor him because you come to think you have moved beyond him.
Making a Change
If you are a man looking to make a change in the right direction, let me suggest a few places to start.
Stay away from those things that merely simulate reality, or that allow you to pretend to be, and act like, a man while removing responsibility and risk. Porn, fornication, social media debates, and video games all give men an arena to simulate or act out things that are part of being a man. They offer the reward without risk or responsibility. They can make a man feel virile, imposing, inventive, or courageous.
Simulated manhood is mocked manhood. Those things do not celebrate, encourage, and sharpen masculinity. They emasculate, soften, and rot away his strength. At best they encourage a man to play at manhood in his life – as a sort of permanent live action roleplay. At worst, these things completely neuter a man such that he ends up unable to leave his mother’s basement and learns to hate the women who reject his frailty.
Do not play at acting like a man. Be a man. A man sees a need, sets a course, and takes action. He knows it is going to be difficult and painful, yet he does it anyway. Start small and build – take small steps in the direction of where you want to be. If you want to be in great physical shape, then move in that direction. Make small changes to your diet and exercise habits. Then as you adjust to those, take more steps.
Weight training can be an effective example of this process. If you try to take on too much too soon, you end up hurting yourself and you will not be able or willing to keep trying. If you start light, you can work your way up to the heavier weights. Little by little you will get stronger. Sometimes you will see the gains, sometimes you will feel like you are stuck, but you will move forward, even if you need to adjust along the way.
Most things need you to take small steps so that you can discipline your mind and body. Other things need repentance and an immediate determination to abolish from your life. Pornography or other obvious sins would fall into this category. You can take some time to build up to weight training, you need to kill deadly, soul-destroying, sin today.
Big goals, like getting married and having a family, or starting your own business, can seem daunting unless you determine to do the work, and trust that in God’s timing you will get there if it is His will for your life. You cannot get it all in one shot, you need to chart a course and build the disciplines, structures, and abilities that are needed before you can get what you desire.
Learn to embrace the journey and not just the destination. Live in the moment, even as your eyes are on the goal. There will always be another milestone, another goal. If you cannot be happy until you reach it, you will never be happy. Even in success, you will feel empty as you search out the next goal.
Do Not Settle for Less
The path to mature manhood is difficult and unending, but this is also the promised path to sanctification for every Christian. Most men never even come close. Most men today never even try. And yet, it is what we were designed for. We were created to take dominion. We were created to build, shape, and conquer. To leave a legacy for those who come after. I am increasingly convinced that you will either set foot on this path, or you will spend your life looking for distractions. You will not be happy unless you embrace the weight of and responsibility for which you were created.
It is never too late to start to pursue biblical manhood. It is never too late to repent of the make-believe shell you have constructed around yourself. You have been created in the image God and made male. God proclaimed, “this is very good.” You will never be truly satisfied with less. You may, like me, regularly struggle with how little progress you have made and how far you have yet to go. You may find that each step forward reveals a mile more of the path.
Even so, there is no other way for a man. Any other path leads to impotence, apathy, and death. God has designed you for fruitfulness, stewardship, and life. Do not settle for less.
Resources on Biblical Manhood
If you are looking for more resources to challenge you on biblical manhood, consider checking out our recommended resources for men. These are books and other resources that Caleb has found helpful along the way.
Also, we have some pretty sweet swag in our Reformed Faith and Family Swag Shop to help you spread the word that men should act like men.
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Caleb Stomberg is husband to Lindsey and father to their seven children. He is pastor at Legacy Reformed Baptist Church in East Grand Forks, MN. Caleb enjoys woodworking, hunting, and anything Tolkien.