By Harold Sala
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13
Where have all the men gone? That the influences of men in families and society has lessened in recent days is beyond question. Look for the missing dad in so many one-parent families. The father leaves before the children are awake and will return home from the long commute at the end of the day too tired to be bothered with reading bedtime stories.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he said, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13, NASB). Do we need to charge men to “act like men?” Robert Bly, for one, believes we do. Bly doesn’t approach the issue from a Christian perspective. Actually, believers often assail his methods. In his book, Iron John, based on a fairy tale by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Bly says that a lot of men don’t know how to act like men because as they grew up they had no male image to help them understand what being masculine is about.
Father Patrick Arnold, a Catholic theologian, believes there is another issue, as well, which contributes to the problem. He says, “Both Christian men and women have come unconsciously to believe that the church is woman’s natural domain and that a man can relate to God only through women or through becoming like women. This attitude reinforces sexist stereotypes that women are spiritual and men worldly, women moral and men pragmatic, women nurturing and men violent.”
Roger Palms, the editor of Decision magazine, recognizes that something is wrong today, but he doesn’t believe the answer comes by blaming our fathers for their failure. He says that this business of blaming others for our failure makes us feel better, thinking we are victims and cannot help ourselves. He says, “Eventually, this, too, will grow thin and men will start to wake up. But just as they are about to do that, another teacher will come along and give us some other excuse for avoiding the obvious–that God made us, God wants us back, and God is the only One who can do the repair work.”
“Act like men” Paul writes. And how do men act? Fortunately, growing up I had a dad who lived what Paul said. From him I learned the responsibility of being there when my children need help, of leading the family, of playing and working together, and facing the problems of life together. But scores of men today haven’t had that kind of an example.
Learning what maleness is about doesn’t come by going to a sweat lodge where you scream and beat drums, or by abusing a wife whose behavior you dislike, or by ignoring your children who are crying for a dad to be a father. It comes through an understanding that we men were made in the image of God, and that His son, Jesus Christ, was an example of tenderness and masculinity. It comes through the study of what this great textbook on living, the Bible, says about being both a male and a father.
An understanding of what being a Christian dad and father is comes through fellowship with other men who are human, so very human, yet committed to being all that God would have them to be.
Yes, let’s resound the cry, “Act like men!” Let’s stop pretending that we are victims who cannot help ourselves, and rise to the task that God has given to us. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the A-bomb, said, “The best way to send a message is to wrap it up in a man and send that.” That message has to be delivered in person. May God use every father to send a message to His children. Make it your prayer: “God, let my life be that message today.”
Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58.