I had two fathers as I grew up. Albert contributed to my genes, and was rarely in my life after he left Mom. He divorced her because he wouldn’t stay out of other women’s beds. I was four.
Mom married Tommy when I was twelve. In the six years he lived with us, he never hugged me, rarely spent time with me beyond the time it took to eat dinner together. I don’t remember him even speaking a kind or encouraging word to me. Mostly I remember him for his explosive temper.
Despite how they treated me, I know I would have followed their examples of what I thought was manhood because their example was all I knew. But then I met people who taught me what true manliness looks like.
It looks like Jesus. Here is some of what that means to me:
Jesus is a man of Compassion. An online dictionary defines the word as: “A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
We cannot read the gospels without noticing how often Jesus set aside His own need for food or rest so He could bring a child to His lap, or touch an adult who needed His mercy, kindness, encouragement, or relief from their suffering.
We cannot be a real man without having compassion for others.
Jesus is a man of Humility. The apostle Paul defines humility better than I’ve ever read it elsewhere. In his letter to the Christians at Philippi, he wrote: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [asserted], but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and . . . . humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)
We cannot be a real man without placing the genuine and honorable needs of others before our own.
Jesus is a man of Reconciliation. Forgiveness and a willingness to be reconciled with those who offend us is the bedrock of manliness. We need look no further for the definition of forgiveness than the cross on which Jesus hung bruised, bleeding, and dying. What was it He said of those who nailed Him there, who spit in His face? “Father, forgive them.”
We cannot be a real man without being willing to forgive those who have hurt us, offended us, or broken our hearts.
Jesus is a man of Integrity. Again to the dictionary: Integrity – Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
When I think of His integrity, I think of His wilderness temptation (Matthew 4 and Luke 4). Cold, tired, hungry – and Satan offered Him a way out of His trial. “You don’t need to wait on God,” the devil wooed. “Take charge. Turn these stones into bread. Toss yourself off this cliff and if you are God’s son, He will protect you. Stop serving God who placed you alone in this wilderness and serve me. I will treat you well.”
You remember how the story ended. Jesus responded to each test with God’s word on His lips – and real men should learn His secret. Jesus remained full of integrity by adhering to the moral standard set by the Father.
“How can a young man (or, an old one) keep his way pure?” The psalmist asked, and then answered his own question: “By keeping it according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:9).
We cannot be a real man without living according to God’s word.
Jesus is a man of Sacrifice. I like what St. Paul said in his letter to the Christians at Corinth: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Who can ever hope to wrap his mind around what were the riches, the magnificence, the glory, the splendor Jesus knew before He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and . . . . humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2)? We cannot begin to understand the word ‘sacrifice’ until we seek to understand His sacrifice.
“Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) He could just as easily have said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one sacrifice himself, his time, desires, expectations, dreams – all for the sake of his wife, or children, or friends.”
We cannot be a real man without a willingness to sacrifice ourselves for our family.
Jesus is a man of Truth. Jesus never knelt in homage to the political correctness of His day. He didn’t kneel to it because only the truth found in God’s word sets us free from slavery to sin – and free from the consequences of sin, which is ultimately death.
Real men know what God thinks of those who define ‘truth,’ ‘tolerance’, ‘love’ and ‘compassion’ according to the culture’s sense of morality. Jesus called such teachers, ‘hypocrites,’ ‘brood of vipers’ and ‘sons of the devil’ (Matthew 23, John 8).
We cannot be a real man without obedience to God, despite the consequences we face from those who hate God’s truth.
Albert and Tommy taught me a lot about what they believed it meant to be a man. And I was on my way to become like them. But then I met the One whom God calls a Real Man, and authentic Man, a man for all seasons of life, a man for all time and for all eternity. He showed me a Man after whom I could pattern my life.
Men – who is your role model? After whom do you pattern your life? I hope you have chosen it to be Christ, a Man of ‘C’ompassion, ‘H’umility, ‘R’econciliation, ‘I’ntergrity, ‘S’acrifice, and ‘T’ruth.
You could never make a better choice.