I've had many messages thrown at me over the years of what it means to be a man, many from directly within the Christian community. There have been great messages, such as the one from a camp director who's staff clearly noticed how he "led from the front instead of from the top." There was the financial supporter who went out of his way to write a cheque that was large enough to basically allow my ministry to continue for the next year, but yet he quietly slipped it into my pocket when I was in conversation with someone else so there would be no grand recognition of what he had just done. My own father's ability to admit his faults and ask for forgiveness has always been a huge example to me of what it means to be a man. However, there have been negative messages as well, very negative ones that I have experienced over the years. The leader who harped on a man's responsibility to pursue holiness and yet refused to clean bathrooms because it's "women's work" sent me a message. So did the leader who constantly stressed his physical, intellectual, and spiritual superiority over others in an attempt to prove his manliness to himself. These were clear messages, and let's face it; the actions of others, whether it be word or deed, can often affect us at a much deeper level than we realize.
We all have experienced things that have left us damaged in one way or another, and I will openly admit that there have been messages that have left me damaged. Sometimes the damage was a growing lack of trust, and sometimes the damage was that I was left questioning my own ability to be a man. Sometimes it led me into repeating the same sins, like grasping to prove my own superiority in one way or another or using others as a stepping block to build up my own self esteem. The thing is, I allowed the messages thrown at me by other men get in the way of the messages thrown at me by God Himself.
Philippians 2:5-8 - "You must have the same attitude Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross." NLT
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 - "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." ESV
It is very clear in scripture that God created men and women with different and unique characteristics, and that there are biblical responsibilities given to men, from leading ones family to taking on the role of protector and of course much more. Jesus was born as a human being, as a man. He taught, he led, he rebuked, he wept, he spoke forcefully, and above all He loved. My prayer for my young friends is that they will grow up to love. First and formost, that they will grow up to love God and to live in a vibrant relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Secondly however, that they will grow up to love others sacrificially, courageously, selflessly, and powerfully. If they live in and through that love, I am confident that God will mould them into powerful men of the church. You can bet I'll be praying for them along the way, and humbly doing my best (and relying on the leading of the Holy Spirit for what's lacking) to live that love into their young lives.