If you’re a guy and attend either a male-led small group or Bible study, or even pay the slightest attention to discussions about gender, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the catchphrase, “Man Up!”
What does it even mean?
My friend and Focus on the Family board member and president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Al Mohler, has an opinion. Responding to a recent Newsweek cover story on the subject of modern masculinity, Dr. Mohler wrote the following:
A true masculinity is grounded in a man’s determination to fulfill his manhood in being a good husband, father, citizen, worker, leader, and friend — one who makes a difference, fulfills a role for others, and devotes his life to these tasks. Most of our fathers went to work early and toiled all day because they knew it was their duty to put bread on the table, a roof over our heads, and a future in front of us. They made their way to ball games and school events dead tired, went home and took care of things, and then got up and did it all over again the next day.
Yet, Dr. Mohler offers a word of warning:
Today’s men are likely to be more nurturing, but they are also statistically less faithful. They may be changing more diapers, but they are also more likely to change spouses. Men must be encouraged and expected to be both faithful fathers and faithful husbands. Otherwise, any society is in big trouble.
It would be impossible and pointless, in my opinion, to argue with Dr. Mohler’s analysis and conclusion (though many do and would), and I even hesitate to add my voice to his succinct, cogent and accurate review. But, I think the subject is important on several levels.
What to make of those who don’t have a clear sense of what it means to live as God intended them to live? To whom can we point them? From whom can we find answers ourselves?
I am inclined to turn to the Scriptures, the very best of sources.
What does the Bible say about being a man?
Has it ever occurred to you that Joseph’s reaction to the news of Mary’s pregnancy and Jesus’ forthcoming birth provides men with an excellent model of Christian masculinity?
Here is the passage
The Birth of Jesus Christ
18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
What does this tell me?
It tells me four things.
First, it shows me that Joseph was a man of integrity. In verse 19, we learn he was a virgin, despite the fact that he clearly had all the urges of a normal man. He abstained from sexual relations prior to marriage.
Second, it tells me that Joseph was willing to sacrifice his reputation for the sake of Mary’s. He was selfless, caring more about Mary than himself.
Third, it shows me Joseph was willing to do the hard thing. He could have taken a much easier and more convenient road.
Last, but certainly not least, this passage tells me that Joseph’s heart was soft and tender toward the Lord’s command. He had a free will and could have dismissed and ignored the substance of the dream.
But, he didn’t, and in doing so, he provides us men with a model of what it means to be a real man.
Indeed, Matthew’s Gospel offers the very best of answers to the question of what it really means to “man up” in modern America today.