Hugh Hefner died yesterday. In case you don’t know, he was the founder of the Playboy™ empire. Mostly he was lauded as a ‘progressive,’ a man who spurred along the sexual revolution in America, a leader for civil rights. My opinion is less charitable, as I see a man who lived for empty pleasure, who praised hedonism as a virtue, who appeared increasingly pathetic as he grew older, surrounding himself with beautiful women who could have been his granddaughters. He divorced sex from intimacy, encouraging a view of sexuality more in line with the dreams of an adolescent boy than a mature man.
Josh, the associate pastor at Faith Discovery Church, led the startup of a new ‘men’s ministry’ last night with the curious name, “GreatMan.” What is a great man? Is it even reasonable to aspire to being one? As a half-dozen of us sat around a table talking about life, we reflected on the challenges of ‘manhood’ in 2017. I think I can safely say that none of us is ready to endorse the kind of male image Hef represented, but it is clear that Christian men are a confused lot.
- What does it mean to be male?
- Can we be tough and tender? Must we become ‘warriors’ (as some suggest) in order to be fully male?
- Must we strive to recapture some imagined domestic paradise of a half-century ago to fulfill our calling?
- How do we best express the uniqueness of ‘male’ in a culture that increasingly insists that gender is an irrelevant construct that must be discarded, as if male and female are somehow interchangeable in life?
- For the majority of us, a key question of our maleness is this one – how do we best love our wives? Those are not all easy questions.
Personally, I understand my role in the world as provider and protector.
When Bev chose to love me, I gave myself to her exclusively and made it my goal to provide for her. I took direction from this wisdom. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1 Peter 3:7, NIV) God teaches men to work to know their wives, to grow into a profound understanding of who they are, how they are made.
Since God has called them into His Kingdom as an equal, there is no demeaning or demanding. They are not ‘the old lady’ or the ‘little woman.’ They are our partner, bringing their gifts into our relationship, so that together we can become a ‘unity’ of body, soul, and spirit; a unique ‘one’ through intimacy. The husband is given the role to encourage that process! I remember, too, that my provision for Bev was not simply the money for our household. It was my faithful attention to her, my effort to give her the affirmation we all need, and to do what I could to surround her with a sense of spiritual, emotional, and physical security.
The role of protector became even more clear in those last months of her earthly life. When a cancer diagnosis rocked her world, I understood it was my calling to step up to assure her that she would not walk alone, that she would never lack for love, that I would hold her hand until she took hold of Jesus’ hand to cross the River.
My understanding of protection did not grow out of a sense of superiority in intelligence or spirituality. It was not based in some idea of manhood based on excess amounts of testosterone. It came from the wisdom of the Word that teaches this – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:25-28, NIV) Jesus is the Head of the Church, but not in authoritarian manner. He protects the Church He loves by dying for her! “In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives,” is a profound high calling, demanding humility and an ongoing empowering of the Holy Spirit.
I do not mourn the death of Hugh Hefner. I mourn the fact that he is envied and emulated by so many men. I pray for the renewal of character, of virtue, of godliness as measures of manhood. The word from the Word is a light for me, and I pray, for you as well.
“Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.
So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given,
complementing your basic faith with good character,
spiritual understanding, alert discipline,
passionate patience, reverent wonder,
warm friendliness, and generous love,
each dimension fitting into and developing the others.
With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3-11, The Message)
Rise up O men of God
Have done with lesser things
Give heart and soul
And mind and strength
To serve the King of kings
Rise up O men of God
His kingdom tarries long
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong
Rise up O men of God
The church for you doth wait
Her strength unequal to her task
Rise up and make her great
Lift high the cross of Christ
Tread where His feet have trod
As brothers of the Son of Man
Rise up O men of God
Aaron Williams | William Pierson Merrill
© Words: Public Domain