A Man Among Men
Last week I spoke on being a man at a men’s breakfast. The event showed me room for improvement in how I speak. In such a venue addressing only one gender, I still take care to distinguish on real distinctives. I aspire to not say anything anywhere that does not address the concerns and objections of both genders. I hope this vigilance helps each gender better understand and love the other, which is the point of gender after all.
1Kings 2:1-4, the dying King David’s words to his son Solomon, powered my address. Despite misconceptions to the contrary, this is the only place in Scripture where we get the direct exhortation, “Be a man!”:
1 When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth.
Be strong, and show yourself a man (more literally: “Be a man”), 3 and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
A question worth answering
After giving my exhortation to the men to be the ones to “get the mission,” to apprehend God’s will, I invited questions. I did this because I knew, as usual now, that there would be challenges to what I said. One friend raised a concern: “What about the ‘Be Strong’ part (v2).”
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
–Prov. 31:17 (also Eph 6:10)
So I wanted to de-emphasize strength as a masculine distinctive. My friend’s concern, however, was how men specifically needed to be strong to be men. It seemed to him that strength was indeed a masculine distinctive.
An Argument to consider
As I listened, I began to see the point.
Men need strength to do what God calls them to do. Bigger bodies, greater musculature and heightened endurance, which statistically prefer males, comes in useful to protect families from material danger. In some modern environments, though, such endowments may not be as important. And substitute ways (such as with guns or money) can provide physical protection even if you are not personally physically strong.
But, more importantly, a man needs to remain steady in the midst of contradiction. This is an essential of masculine leadership.
After my talk, which included a lot of application to marriage and family, two older men there separately approached me with a confession. They said that, from where they were now, they could see their very greatest failure in regard to their families. It was not being able to contradict their wives when it was necessary. Full of regret, these guys had determined to be strong and not repeat that mistake. The penny dropped for me and I realized that I was taking this strength for granted in my answer.
a better way to say it
I have to call this friend’s challenge to me good and appropriate. There is a better way to say it. I realized a deep need today, to uphold a certain kind of strength to being a man. A man, in the way he is called to represent, needs a backbone. Because he is out in front in relationship, cannot back down in the way he has determined to be right. Of course, he should be open to challenge about what the right way is, but he must be able to move forward in confidence, come what may.
Yes, Solomon needed to be strong to be a man, a certain kind of strong, to lead the way as a king for God’s people. It was a way he happily exhibited early in his reign and sadly failed in his later years.