Our church has men's breakfasts roughly once a month, and this past Saturday we took up the topic of "What does it mean to be a (Christian) man?" A few of my random observations:
- Scripture has multiple models and examples of being a faithful godly man (as it also does of women). There isn't a particular one-size-fits-all template for manhood. Both men and women have bell curves of traits and tendencies.
- While understanding gender tendencies can be of some limited use, gender is only one factor among many, including giftedness, calling, personality, temperament, ethnic heritage, cultural background, birth order, etc. I typically find Myers-Briggs and Enneagram typologies far more helpful than simple male-female generalizations.
- One problem with current discussions of "Christian masculinity" is that they tend to focus on a fairly limited range of models. For example, John Eldredge's Wild at Heart majors primarily on the warrior archetype (with a bit of questor and lover thrown in). But there are many other legitimate and valid possibilities out there, including artisan, sage, troubador, etc. That correlates well with 1 Corinthians 12 on the many parts of the body. There's a place for the warrior, and some Christian men may well be warrior types, but certainly not all.
- Some male leaders feel like the church is too "feminized" for men and want to reclaim a more "masculine" version of the faith. But we need to remember that in historical perspective, Christianity has had a civilizing effect on barbarian men, reining in aggression and violence and instead promoting love of neighbor, peacemaking, generosity and mercy.
- Scripture also gives different correctives depending on the context. In one case, Paul told Timothy to not be so timid. But when James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven, Jesus rebuked them.
- Rather than think in terms of whether "men are protectors" or "men are decisionmakers" (which focus on doing) it's often more helpful to think about becoming men of integrity, character, faithfulness and holiness (which are more about being).
- Instead of focusing on "roles" or "expectations," I think it's more constructive to talk about calling. All of us are called to be a particular man or woman, and we must each discern our own calling based on our personality, giftedness, context and opportunities that God has given us. It might be easier to look for a template ("men should be like this or that") but that shortcircuits the hard work of discerning our own particular callings.