As a follower of Jesus, it would have been irresponsible to conclude this series on masculinity without discussing how the life of Jesus should influence our attitudes to masculinity, and indeed, femininity as well.
It’s a theme that will continue in some of my posts on a more irregular basis in future – I hope to have another guest poster posting on it soon – as it’s a subject I’m passionate about, that’s very important to our discipleship journey.
I find it very frustrating when some pastors (and I won’t name names, but most of you will know the ones I mean) come out and say Jesus had to be this this tough guy who could beat someone up.
But it’s just as frustrating when he’s portrayed as some wimpy loser, a total walkover, man in a dress. The Jesus-is-my-boyfriend, all-smiles ‘nice guy’. The picture sums this image up perfectly.
Frankly, neither version of Jesus seems manly, neither is the kind of man I want to be and neither is a Jesus I can follow.
Jesus wasn’t simply a ‘tough guy’ who would even consider beating someone up and put violence first, nor was He a total pansy, wimp and a walkover, all smiles all the time – and neither are what, in my eyes, a real man should be.
We have to move away from these restrictive, traditional and cultural ideas – and really look at Jesus, to understand what a real man – and above all a real human being – should be.
If you’ve been involved with the Christian faith for any length of time, you will have heard more than once before that Jesus was both 100% God and 100% human.
The latter, sadly, is often misunderstood and is often neglected.
It’s almost as if to talk about Jesus as human somehow lessens His divinity or the power of His message.
Truth is, the fact that Jesus was 100% man(kind) as well as 100% God, that He experienced the same temptations, emotions and experiences we did, actually makes His message even more powerful, more true and more authoritative.
It makes the fact that He led a sinless life and experienced torture and death for our sake even more powerful.
Without question, Jesus was 100% human – if He wasn’t, He wouldn’t have been able to take our place at calvary, and the cross meant nothing. Part of the mystery of God is that Jesus as at once God and man – in one person. But we must not neglect the humanity, the manhood, of Jesus.
Jesus would have been tempted too, in the same way we are.
You see, sin is not being tempted, sin is not temptation to sin, sin is not feeling an emotion – sin is how we act and think in response to those temptations, experiences and emotions, and Jesus didn’t sin.
But He would have experienced the same temptations, emotions, and experiences we go through in life – and physically He was a man.
Jesus life also proves – along with that of John the Baptist and Paul – that being a man has nothing to do with whether you are married or single. Jesus, Paul and John the Baptist were all unmarried, yet all were amazing men of God who achieved great things for God and were totally fulfilled – just as there were many great men of God who were married. There isn’t one or the other that’s preferable.
Jesus said of John the Baptist:
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;” (Matt 11 v11).
Jesus said John was the greatest man who had ever lived, of those born of women – a phrase which put simply meant those were not conceived by the divine, excluding Himself.
John never married, nor had a family, had no money or formal job.
Yet Jesus said he was the greatest of all men.
So clearly, to be a man of God doesn’t necessarily mean – as is often implied by Mark Driscoll and some other evangelicals – that we have to be married, have a family, be financially successful or employed. It’s not at all that those things are bad in themselves, or that we shouldn’t desire them – not one bit. But they don’t make us any more or less of a man. That’s defined more by our character and behaviour.
God simply doesn’t measure success, achievement, or our manhood by the measures society – and sadly some Christians – use.
Indeed, during His ministry Jesus Himself had no formal job and none of His own money, nor possessions. He was celibate His whole life (as far as we know), and had no children.
Yet I don’t hear anyone saying that makes Him any less a man. There’s a reason. It doesn’t.
However, as the Saviour of the human race, Jesus is the ultimate example not just of what a man should be – but also of what a human being should be – and maybe that’s the bigger discussion we should be having here.
As we move forward in discussing these issues, instead of merely discussing what it means to be a man (or indeed a woman), we should be discussing about what it means to be a human being, in the way God made us to be – which is what Jesus really came here to show us, and is a key aspect of faith.
Jesus displays qualities of what we call masculinity and femininity, showing that they aren’t limited to gender.
The words ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ aren’t in scripture – they are merely how we have come to describe certain characteristics and qualities which traditionally have been more found in one or the other.
However, Jesus showed both what we today call ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ qualities – compassion, sensitivity, gentleness, (which we call feminine) and leadership, decisiveness, responsibility, courage, strength (which we label masculine).
Beyond this He showed supreme, divine love, grace and humility. Qualities that we should also be looking to model.
As well as Jesus – a man – displaying what we call ‘feminine’ qualities, we’ve seen already – in people like Margaret Thatcher for example – that women are well capable of displaying what we call masculine qualities.
The truth – something Jesus tried to embody – is that we are all - men and women alike – meant to exude both types of qualities, and gender doesn’t define these – or us.
It’s how we are created that defines who we are.
Although in general men display more masculine qualities and women feminine ones, it’s not gender exclusive and neither should it be, its merely part of God’s design for all of us – men and women – and we should be pursuing both – and Jesus showed us how to get the perfect balance.
The life of Jesus actually brings into question the very authority of the terms ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, and calls us to change our whole perspective on them.
The terms themselves can be useful ways of describing certain types of characteristics, in many ways they can be useful labels. But we need to move beyond traditional understandings of them, to see that they are not restricted to men or women, that all of us are meant to embody both – and more.
Just as Jesus Himself, the model for humanity, did.
So instead of masculine or feminine, we should be more ‘Jesu-nine’.
What I mean by that is more like Jesus, more like the divine, more a balance of the best of both masculine and feminine qualities – as well as more of the other divine qualities that go beyond gender or sex – and that’s a discussion that’s important for both men and women alike.
Discipleship, for all of us, is a lifetime process of becoming more and more like Jesus, doing things more and more like Him – whether we’re man or woman – displaying the characteristics of what we call masculinity and femininity – and other divine qualities that go beyond that.
The answer to the masculine/feminine discussion? To abandon them, and learn to be more ‘Jesunine’.
To learn how to be human in the way Jesus showed us, the way we were designed to be – whether man or woman.
That, to me, sounds much more constructive.
Do you agree with me? Do you think Jesus was a balance of both masculine and feminine, as well as the divine?
Is your view of Jesus one of the ‘hard man’ Jesus or the ‘wimpy’ Jesus – or neither?
As men, what do you think we can learn from Jesus?
How can we learn to move beyond both masculinity and femininity, and be more ‘Jesunine’?
What have you learned from this series?
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