In 1991, MGM released a movie called “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.” The movie was instantly forgettable and, not surprisingly, ended up a flop at the box office. I won’t say that it was the worst waste of disposable income that year, but rumor has it that portions of the tobacco company settlements were dedicated to pay for the few viewers’ long-term therapy needs.
I’ll give you three guesses as to why I mention the movie: a. my counselor believes I have made real progress in recent years, or b. the title perfectly captures what our society considers a “real” man.
Obviously, the answer is c.- they are two of my childhood heroes.
Not really. The answer is b.- they are stereotypes of what society considers a real man to look like. They both represent untamed free spirits, unfettered maleness.
Or what society used to consider were the traits of a real man. More recently, however, there is a new addition to the pantheon of manhood.
The new man is diametrically opposed to the former stereotype- at best he is metrosexual, at worst he is homosexual (or at least comfortable with his “feminine” side). Ambiguous sexuality and skinny jeans are now admirable male traits.
At this point I need to confess a personal bias- I dislike “male skinny jeans” to an unfathomable degree. It doesn’t matter who wears them or what form they take. Robert Plant wore them with Led Zeppelin, and it was wrong. Parachute pants were an ‘80s variation, and they were wrong (of course, many fashions of the ‘80s were wrong, but that’s another issue altogether). The Jonas Brothers were wrong to wear them, as is Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day.
I don’t feel like that just because I can’t wear them, by the way. I’m just old school.
Sorry, I digress.
If the old man was 1980’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, the new man is “Lord of the Rings’” Orlando Bloom.
There is a war between the old stereotype and the new one, yet somewhere in the battle the truth has been lost. What is lost, you may ask?
“Lost” was a television show that aired on ABC in which plane crash survivors were trapped on a deserted island and tried to get home, but that doesn’t matter right now.
What is lost, culturally, is the fact that neither stereotype is an accurate definition of “man.”
So, what is a man?
In a broad survey of the Bible, it appears that “man” (i.e., the male gender, not mankind) can best be defined by the words “responsibility” and “accountability.” So a man is someone of the male gender who is responsible and accountable in every area of his life- to God, to his family, to his work, etc. It does not mean he is perfect, but that when he fails, he repents and moves forward.
At this point I need to acknowledge a term society has developed to avoid the difficult reality of being a man (I would say “skirt the issue” but that would be a poor choice of words. Besides- it’s not a skirt, it’s a kilt). It is distinguishing between being a man and being a guy.
In his book “Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys,” Dave Barry lists the differences between a “man” and a “guy.” To sum it up, a “guy” is a male who wants all the benefits of the gender without any of the responsibility. Though Barry doesn’t say it, based on his definition we are a nation full of guys but lacking in men.
Adam was the first man, created by God and placed in the Garden of Eden. One of his first actions after eating the forbidden fruit was to shirk his responsibility and blame Eve for his actions.
Moses and David were considered men of God. While neither were perfect, they accepted responsibility for their actions before God and the nation of Israel. When they sinned, they accepted the consequences; when they led, they were conscious of the weight of responsibility of leadership.
Ahab was a wicked king in Israel. He did not stand for God or what was right, but rather listened to his depraved wife and therefore was cut off from the kingdom.
Jesus was the ultimate Man. He never sinned, but that is not what made Him a man. What made Him a man was His accepting the responsibility of everyone else’s sin, and then allowing Himself to be held accountable for the resulting judgment like it was His own.
That is why He is the God-Man, not the God-Guy or the God-Male.
Society does not encourage males to become real men; instead, it offers imperfect stereotypes and then labels that being a “man.”
Furthermore, if meeting one of these stereotypes is too difficult, society has made it possible to be a “guy” instead.
However, the Bible doesn’t pull any punches. While it is full of stories of males who were men and males who weren’t, the defining characteristics of a man (“responsibility” and “accountability”) are not compromised.
Additionally, it reveals the only True Man who has ever lived- Jesus Christ. Because He was a man, every male can be one too.
I realized the other day that it’s hard to be a man. It would be much easier for me to fit into skinny jeans, but that wouldn’t make me more of a man. (It would likely make me less. Skinny jeans on me would assume the properties of tourniquets and cause my legs to fall off.)
So to any male that is reading this, don’t look to society to confirm your manhood; it can’t.
Instead, look to Jesus, who will not only confirm you but also empower you to live as a man.