A Jesus for Real Men

This great Christianity Today article (of the same name as this post) written by Brandon O'Brien is subtitled:

What the new masculinity movement gets right and wrong.

Here are a few excerpts that I liked:
Besides offering an extremely narrow view of masculinity, this framework totally excludes women from real discipleship. To begin with, it blames them for neutering the gospel. Left in their hands, the church became nice and affirming and lost its vision to reach the world. Perhaps worse, if Christ is the model of masculinity, then women can't imitate him. They can pursue him as the lover of their souls. They can imitate his devotion to the Father in their relationships with their husbands. But they can't become like him in any essential way.

Most importantly, Scripture gives no indication that Jesus came to earth to model masculinity. He is the "image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" (Col. 1:15). As such, he is not simply the perfect male; he is the perfect human being. Through his obedience to the Father, Christ exhibited the qualities that should characterize all believers, both male and female.

Jesus' triumphal entry is commonly considered evidence of his essential maleness. It seems reasonable: Angered by the blasphemy of the temple officials, Jesus topples tables and whips moneychangers in a demonstration of righteous aggression. But the story must be understood in the context of Luke's entire gospel. Earlier in Luke (13:34), Jesus describes his love for Jerusalem in maternal terms; he has longed to gather Israel to himself "as a hen gathers her brood under her wings." Anticipating his final entrance into Jerusalem, he says that he will visit Jerusalem's house (the temple) when the people proclaim, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" As he approaches the city in Luke 19, he weeps at their stubbornness. Only then does he chase the merchants from the temple. In other words, the temple cleansing was premeditated—not a manly burst of anger, but a passionate and symbolic display of God's judgment.

My point is this: If Adam and Eve illustrate the essential differences between men and women, Christ highlights their essential unity. All believers are called to imitate Christ by exhibiting the same qualities; Paul makes no distinction between masculine and feminine fruits of the Spirit. In fact, the evidence of the Spirit's work looks very different from the qualities the masculinity movement suggests typify a "real" man. Instead of "brash, offensive" (Stine), "self-reliant, competitive" (Murrow), "punch-you-in-the-nose dudes" (Driscoll), Paul says that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit will be loving, patient, peaceful, kind, and gentle.

The masculinity movement would have us emulate the glorified Jesus—the one who will return on horseback and brandish the sword of judgment. That is certainly the Jesus we worship. But it is not the Jesus we are commanded to imitate. The only times Jesus appears in Scripture as a warrior are in his pre-incarnate debuts in the Old Testament and post-resurrection glory. Our model of behavior, then, is the suffering Son, not the glorified one. Humanity in the image of Christ is not aggressive and combative; it is humble and poor (Phil. 2:5ff). We are most like Christ not when we win a fight, but when we suffer for righteousness' sake (Eph. 5:1-2; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14).
I recommend this four page article to you. I think that it is a balanced treatment of the subject and gives you some food for thought - men and women alike. Please let me know if you read it and what you thought of it.


  1. Very interesting article. I think the pendulum swings back and forth - "blaming women" for fuzzying up the message of the Gospel is (to me, non-theologian and non-psychologist that I am) just the other side of the swing to "blaming men" for an over-authoritarian keeping-power-in-the-hands-of-the-ministers-and-elders period that preceded the 1960's.

    What IS important to me is that the role of Christ as Bridegroom, and the Church as Bride, directs us to see the WHOLE picture of the Church as a marriage and a family. The same qualities that create, make real, strengthen and nourish those bonds are found in the person of God as Trinity: the giver of our life, the breath of life, the Spouse, the Brother, the Babe born from the womb, the mother who feeds and cares and sacrifices her very self, it goes on and on. No impulse of ours exists that is not present in the Godhead (a subject for rich meditation), and our right balance is found only in modeling every aspect to match His. Then it will all come into balance in the Kingdom of God on earth and ready us for Heaven.

    As a women, I am embarassed by the "over-sensitivity" to people's feelings in the last couple of decades, which could be described as Mommyism. Heavens, don't preach the hard truth, and excuse everybody's bad behavior by considering their mood and past hurts. I hope for a balancing from "manly" vigor and energy and toughness and bravery. Now don't jump all over that idea: men AND women are both vigorous and brave, but they do it differently, as the gifts of the Spirit are manifest in their bodies and spirits. We badly need some warriors for the protection of the family, and fearless preaching of the Gospel in the culture.

    God save us from both mealy-mouthed "Alan Alda" men and aggressive resentful women! Let's get our roles in the Church AND in culture straightened out!

  2. I have noticed more and more that present life and history reveals the human tendancy to go to extremes. John Eldridge, for example, came at a timely moment in the church and gave a word that many Americans needed to understand. However, I heard of a Christian men's meeting recently where the speaker wanted to illustrate the difference between an undesirable image of men by showing the intro to Mister Roger's show. Then he showed the desirable image of men out of a scene from Gladiator. This person obviously didn't understand the virtue of meekness and that Mister Rogers was a very godly man who effectivley lived out the passion God put in him to teach children.

    Good post and thanks for commenting on my blog!

  3. Thanks Bob,
    This article gave me some thihngs to think about.
    As a Father of 3 boys (and dad to 5) I have often become defensive over my "natural" knee jerk reactions of aggression.
    According to this"Masculinity movement" view, the times when I act most Godly are the times when the spirit deals with me the hardest. I get reactively aggressive and I sometimes use my aggression to rule over others or at least influence them.
    But my own spirit and the conviction of the Holy Spirit tell me something completely different. Because I am convicted in a big way. Not because I act masculine, (I am sure there are times when some men would say I don't) but because my power as a man was abused by me for my own selfish end.
    I won't apologize for liking meat or for loving to fish or just explore woods. I won't say that my desire for my wife is a bad thing. But, I have been shown( and proven my self ) that a lot of the time when my "manly aggression " comes to the surface, I am not only not being a disciple of Christ, but I am hurting His cause by claiming His name and acting like a demon.
    "That's all I've got to say about that" {Forest Gump}

  4. TZ - Mommyism.. you hit it on the head! One ditch is machosim and the other is mommyism.

    MistaB - I really agree with you about Mister Rogers.. sad that some see meekness as unmasculine.. I think that they really don't have a clue about meekness or real manhood.

    "acting like a demon"

    ..that puts it in perspective Shaun :)

    When I think about movies like Gladiator and Braveheart.. the things I remember is courage and integrity.. albeit portrayed in flawed characters.

  5. Great comments, I am always humbled when anyone reveals their moments of God's grace in their lives.

    "As a women, I am embarassed by the "over-sensitivity" to people's feelings in the last couple of decades, which could be described as Mommyism."---getting a really bad taste in my mouth when I repeat this.
    "don't preach the hard truth, and excuse everybody's bad behavior by considering their mood and past hurts."
    therese, I AM a psychology major, a Mommy, and one of those extra-sensitive types. That doesn't mean that I excuse anyone's "bad behavior (aka SIN)" and certainly do preach the "hard truth."
    One ditch is ambivalence, the other is judgement.

  6. I am using those words as cariacatures. Mothers are far more likely to say "he's a good boy" about a boy who just robbed a blind old lady at gunpoint then dads are.

    Certainly you, as a mommy and a psychology major, would agree that you can excuse a child's behavior, but you must correct it. You can identify and understand when they are frightened and therefore acting like goofballs or bullies, but they must stop acting like goofballs and bullies at the same time you minister to their fear.

    The soft, squishy "we understand that you cheated on your spouse/went into bankruptcy gambling/ditched all your non-good-looking friends, etc because you have a low self-esteem. Let's work on your self-esteem now...." response to the sins of cheating, gambling, disdain is what I'm talking about. We offer them healing for their self-esteem by presenting them the Savior Who died for them, but at the same we insist that they stop their sins and face the consequences. That's not happening enough these days.

  7. I refer you to this:

    No, I do not excuse bad behavior/sin. I object to the idea that "Mothers are far more likely to say "he's a good boy" about a boy who just robbed a blind old lady at gunpoint then dads are."
    Not this mom, and not any of the moms that I know. This is a blanket generalization, and simply not true in my experience. The moms I know are the first to pick up a bat and hunt down the gun-toting bully.

    I understand your point of view, and actually agree on some points--it is the generalizations with which I disagree.

    KB, I really enjoyed the excerpt and will make time to read the entire article. We need a balance for sure--something that I am working on myself.

  8. "Not this mom, and not any of the moms that I know. This is a blanket generalization, and simply not true in my experience. The moms I know are the first to pick up a bat and hunt down the gun-toting bully."

    Wow, you live in a great area! I can watch TV every day in the Chicago area and see a mom get interviewed about her son who just shot up a public playground or gunned down a friend for his jacket and hear her say the good-boy thing, or the neighbor lady. Sadly, it is hardly ever that there's a dad in the picture in those cases.

    Even that horrible Kardashian show on cable - where the daughter made a sex tape and the mom said "well, she made some choices and they didn't turn out so good......." blah, blah, blahhhhhhh. The daughter was whining that people looked at her like she was a slut. I didn't stay on the channel long enough to see how they all resolved the icky feelings they had about being caught in a sex tape, but this is exactly what I meant. You are probably right that it's a generalization but I can see it on TV every day, which makes it a model to follow.

  9. KB, as always, you have pointed me in a right direction. That article made me angry, made me cry, made me smile--and planted yet another seed of truth. Grow, babies, grow!

  10. This is an interesting discussion and after reading the article, I had to think about it for awhile. It seems to me that either way (Christian "Feminism" or Masculinity Movement) the focus is still on Self and trying to interpret the Scriptures from a particular gender's point of view. I agree that it doesn't fit the biblical model and hate to think that the Church will succumb to some kind of gender one-ups-manship.


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