A Better Picture of Manhood
From A Thousand Little Moments - Letters to our Children
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
—1 Corinthians 16:13–14
Do you ever wonder what the world would say a guy is supposed to be like? Let me help you out. I think Budweiser captures it in one of their latest ads with the slogan: “Bud Light, the perfect beer for whatever happens next.” Those few words say a lot. This little slogan celebrates the idea that the ultimate in being a guy is being available for a party, a good time, a ball game, or whatever. The problem is that in focusing on being available, guys are celebrating passivity. They don’t want to plan. They don’t want to lead. They don’t want to be intentional about the future. They want to be available for whatever happens next.
Now I know that my bringing this up can sound like an old man complaining about the younger generation. Please don’t hear it that way. This isn’t generational because true manhood is not a matter of age. The truth is that passivity among males is sadly found at any age, which is why I am talking to you about it now. I’m talking about it because I love you, I know you can handle it, and I’m not raising you to be a guy. I’m raising you to be a man.
What’s the difference between a guy and a man? A guy is focused on his image with his buddies or the girls. A man knows he is created in the image of God. A guy is focused on making himself happy and getting things for himself. A man knows he is called to care for others selflessly. A guy doesn’t want to work. A man knows that part of being created in the image of God is his call to work in God’s image (Genesis 2:15). A guy takes it as it comes. A man counts the cost (Luke 14:28). A man plans, submitting those plans to God’s design and wisdom (Proverbs 16:9). A guy views a girl as an object or a plaything or someone to serve his interests. A man is called to care for and protect a woman (Genesis 2:15) and ultimately to sacrifice his desires and even his life for his bride (Ephesians 5:25–27). The model for a guy is found in advertising, almost any advertising. The model for a man is found in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:1–3).
Son, I am telling you these things now while you are young for several reasons. First, I have raised you to be able to handle these conversations now. We have talked and will continue to talk about important things. Manhood is important. Second, you are bombarded every day with images from the world that would tell you to merely be a guy. Now I don’t want you to think I am trying to isolate you from the world around you. I’m not trying to put a fence around you to keep all the bad things out. Instead, I am trying to pour into you to give you a way to see those messages for what they are and to help you engage your friends in a loving and healthy way. Thirdly, you will soon begin getting more interested in girls. I want you to feel safe in bringing your questions to me. Believe it or not, I’ve been there. Believe it or not, I’ve learned some things. Believe it or not, I have your best interests at heart. But also know that you need God’s Word more than you need to learn from my lessons. I desire to simply walk through His Word with you.
There is another reason I am writing to you, though. We could talk about what it means to be a man and how God’s Word gives us a different, more glorious view than that of the world. We’ll do that, but when I write to you, I am not merely building into you but to your children after you. You see, you are my son. I am your father. God has given you to me as a gift, but He has also called me to be a shepherd over you and a steward of you. That means that I don’t own you. God does (Psalm 24:1). He has given you to me for a season. Through Jesus’s saving grace (Ephesians 2:1–10), our relationship will be less like father and son and more like brothers in eternity. I want you to know that I don’t only intend to spend eternity with you as my brother; I also plan to spend eternity with generations of sons (and daughters) after you. While it’s too much for you to think about now, I am trying to give you a vision for something you will pass on after you.
This seems like a lot to handle right now. Let’s keep it simple. I love you with a love you cannot imagine, and God loves you with a love that I cannot imagine. You have a glorious heritage that goes way beyond our family. Your heritage goes back to your being created in the image of God. Instead of listening to a beer commercial about how you should live in this world, let’s turn to God’s Word. The world wants to tell you to be a guy, and it will encourage you to live up to the slogan: “the perfect ______ [you fill in the blank] for whatever happens next.” Instead, let me offer a biblical slogan for your life as a man. This slogan is not dependent upon your age. It goes much deeper than age. It speaks to your heart. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13–14).
My son, be different. But don’t be different to be different. Be different for the glory of God. That means you do what 1 Corinthians 16:13–14 says. Be watchful. Be on guard. Do not be passive—stand firm like a rock in what you believe. Do not change who you are to make friends. Anyone who would require that isn’t a friend. Act like a man, not a guy. Be strong. That is who you were created to be. That is who you are becoming. And in all this, know that your call is not to try to act macho. But it is to do everything in love because you have been loved. Yes, your family loves you, but more importantly, you have been loved by Jesus (Romans 5:8). And that truth, more than any product slogan, is what I pray will stir your heart to action and to worship.