In 2016 our church looked at what it meant to be biblically masculine and feminine in our series Theology of Sex. The following is a summary of the sermon, “Do You Even Know How to Sports, Bro!?” [To listen to the sermon on biblical femininity, click here. To read the blog post “What is Biblical Femininity?” click here.]
When it comes to the topic of biblical masculinity and femininity, we see it first mentioned in the opening chapter of the Bible:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Before we move on, one thing to note is that both male and female are equally created in God’s image. There is no superiority/inferiority dichotomy. Both male and female are needed in order for God to accomplish His purposes on the Earth. To press this point further, the author continues in chapter two:
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone;
God’s calling for humanity to image Him by bringing human flourishing to the world. It’s impossible without men and women working together and complementing each other.
Culturally we have settled for a lot of stereotypes about masculinity that create confusion instead of clarity. For example here in the South, “being a man” often means driving a big truck, liking sports, and killing a wild animal from time to time. Here’s the problem. First, those don’t matter at all in terms of what God calls a man. Second, they alienate a lot of guys who don’t have an interest in those stereotypical hobbies. So whether you like sports or not, all of God’s masculinity is available to you.
When it comes to defining biblical masculinity, we absolutely need some common wording and understanding for what it biblically means to be a man - this is what we are praying for, raising our sons toward, and discipling our brothers in Christ toward.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone;
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.
The essence of Biblical masculinity boils down to three words:
In Genesis God creates the earth and He forms a garden in the wilderness as an organized, ordered habitat. He puts the man into it and says, “work it and keep it.” In other words, “Take what I’ve showed you here in this garden and expand it to the rest of creation.” That’s what we mean by pursue. Wherever you are, pursue God’s mission of bringing life and order and human flourishing.
Pursuing is at the heart of masculinity, that in every situation you find yourself in, God has called you to leave it better. You take initiative to engage with a proactive concern with a sense of responsibility. Waiting and reacting when things fall apart is not part of your job description. In every conversation, leave that person better. In every situation; leave it better.
This applies to every area of your life. To pursue means that you take initiative instead of being ruled by passivity and silence. We stop being silent spectators.
Looking back to Genesis 2:15, the word “work it” is the Hebrew word abad. It means to cultivate; tend to, shape, and manage something in such a way that it bears life. Whether it takes the form of landscaping, project management, video games, making art, cooking - we love ALL of these because we are designed to be cultivators - to take the chaos around us and cultivate it in such a way that it bears fruit and life flows out of it.
Part of this is because you were designed to work. Before sin entered the picture, before work was toilsome and felt pointless and broken and frustrating, you were designed to work. So this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make all the money in your family or even the most money in your family. It does mean it’s your job to figure out how your family is going to eat. And if someone has to get a second job, that’s on you.
Providing is not just paying bills. It’s a sacrificial posture of looking out for others needs as more important than your own. It means in every area of our lives, being a man means to go last so that others can be provided for.
In Genesis 2:15 when it says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” The word translated “keep it” is the Hebrew word shamar - to defend, guard, protect. Adam’s not just put in the garden to cultivate and see it bring forth life, he’s there to protect it from anything that would enter and tear down what he’s building.
This means as a man, you put yourself at risk. You volunteer to take the hit so that others don’t. A good man is like a shield. A shield takes the blow so whatever is behind it won’t. And into this tension steps the good news of the gospel:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Jesus, our new Adam, lived out perfect sacrificial masculinity. Jesus literally goes down on the cross; He was crushed and broken so you could go free. He pursued you in His sacrifice. He provided spiritual life for you. He protected you from our own sinfulness and from God’s holy wrath towards sinful, passive, selfish men like you. He did it all perfectly, and then He laid down his life for His bride, the church, so that His perfect life and masculinity can be transferred to you.
And this good news is the only thing that can free you to pursue godly masculinity with persistent abandon because it means all the pressure is off. You don’t have to be the perfect hero - you already have one of those. You are free to run after this picture of masculinity, and every single time you fall down, you’re free to get back up because Jesus covers your imperfection.