What is the mark of a ‘real’ man? A full beard? A crowded trophy cabinet? A catalogue of sexual conquests? A string of letters after your name? A prestigious job with a fat pay cheque? A rippled torso and an arm full of tattoos? What would you say?
As men we are relentlessly bombarded by messages, images, stories and stereotypes that seek to tell us what manhood is all about. Some are unappealing and irrelevant to us. Others, however, resonate with us, sucking us into a way of seeing the world that breeds deep discontent, insecurity and jealousy, robbing us of joy and reducing other men to the inglorious status of rivals or idols.
It can be confusing, crushing, demoralising and soul-destroying.
As Christians we’d do well to guard ourselves against such a broken worldview of what it means to be men. Rather, we should take our lead from the One who passionately and purposefully made men in his own image, and look to his Word for a divine mandate on true manhood. For us men who are seeking clarity in an age of confusion, the Bible makes things very, very simple for us – there are really only two models of manhood to follow – the first Adam and the second Adam. Let’s meet them.
Adam no. 1
Adam was the first person who ever lived. He was the first man, the first gardener, the first owner of an apple product! He went on to become the first rib donor, the first poet, the first husband and ultimately the first dad. Significantly, he was also the primary recipient of God’s law. God placed Adam in paradise and tasked Adam with just one command in Genesis 2:16-17:
Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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.
God gave his command to Adam before his wife, Eve, had even been created. In other words, while the law was to apply to both of them, Adam was charged with the responsibility of passing on God’s instructions. The protection of his wife and the fate of all future generations were in Adam’s hands. However, when Satan tempted Eve to taste what God had forbidden, Adam stood by passively, silently, shamefully. The serpent seduced his wife with doubt, deception and delusions of greatness but Adam did nothing to defend her. Although it was Eve who took the fruit, Scripture is clear that God held Adam accountable.
Our forefather Adam, was the first failure. The first sinner.
Scripture teaches that the consequences of Adam’s disobedience were devastating and far-reaching: discord, disease, distress and death all entered God’s world as a result. Every single one of us is now born with a natural disposition towards sin and rebellion. As men we don’t like to admit it but our lives testify to this tragic, fractured reality. We are each of us born with Adam’s failure fused into our DNA. We are rotten to the core and the sin virus infects every area of our lives – our aspirations, our relationships, our work and our worship.
For many of us men, our sin, like Adam’s, is more about what we don’t do than what we do. We don’t love, we don’t lead, we don’t initiate. We step back when we should step up. We are silent when we should speak. We are faithless when we should be faithful. We are pathetically apathetic.
However, if Adam’s primary sin was pitiful passivity it didn’t end there! Within moments he was in moral free-fall as he joined his wife in passionate pursuit of what God had expressly prohibited. That succulent fruit promised so much. It looked so good. Like a siren it seduced Adam to his slaughter. And guys, all of us can relate to that! We know what it’s like to live at the mercy of ungodly impulses. Enslaved by all manner of lusts. Gorging ourselves on self-gratification. Grasping after the glory that belongs to God alone. As a result our families suffer. Our friendships falter. Our world groans.
All of us are like our father Adam. All of us need a Saviour.
Adam no. 2
Enter the second Adam. These verses from Romans 5:12-14 are crucial:
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…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.
And who was the one to come? Jesus Christ.
The Son of God stepped into the world he had created to undo the works of the first Adam. To redeem us from sin’s curse. Where Adam failed, Jesus prevailed. When tempted by the same devil, Jesus stood strong where Adam had stumbled. In the way he lived, loved and led he fulfilled God’s law that we have all broken, in order that his righteousness might graciously be attributed to us. In dying on the cross in our place as a perfect sacrifice, Jesus atoned for the sins of Adam’s race providing us with forgiveness and freedom as a gift.
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. (v.17)
Gents, while the first Adam reveals to us the reality of wretched mankind, the second Adam, Jesus, shows us what a ‘real’ man truly looks like.
A real man stands strong in the face of overwhelming temptation. A real man lives righteously in the midst of a hostile culture. A real man lays down his life for those he loves. A real man gives grace to his enemies. A real man finishes what he started. A real man looks like Jesus!
So how do we measure up?
If we’re honest, not well! We all fall short of his glorious standard, right? But that’s not an excuse to default to Adam number 1. Check out what John wrote: ‘Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked’ (1 John 2:6).
Wow! If we claim to abide in Jesus, our lives should literally look like his. But that’s impossible, isn’t it?! Well, yes … and no! Sure, in our own strength this is impossible, but like Jesus told us, ‘with God all things are possible’ (Matt. 19:26). So we need God’s help. More specifically we need his pardon and power. If we are going to be Christ-like men we need to be regularly confessing our sins and our weaknesses to him, asking for his cleansing and forgiveness. We also need to be pleading that the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead would empower us to live new kinds of lives – lives that are victorious over sin. Where habits are broken. Faithfulness is rampant. Truth flows from our lips. Love is unleashed. Sacrifice is second-nature. And grace continues to transform us.
What would our marriages, families, churches, communities, workplaces and world be like if our lives were lived in this way?
May God help us to be such men. May he make us more like Jesus.