Show Yourself a Man

In our cultural moment, telling a brother to “act like a man” might seem to have negative connotations. But what does David mean when he tells Solomon, “Show yourself a man” (1 Kings 2:2)? And when Paul says, “Act like men” (1 Corinthians 16:13), he clearly has something in mind. In a day when the world pressures the church to erase distinction in gender roles, it’s important to keep the biblical language of being a man.

We must be careful, though. Some Christian men have reacted to our cultural confusion by identifying manhood with doing, well, “manly things” which they identify as sports, hunting, going on wild adventures, eating red meat. There is nothing wrong with these things. I enjoy sports, adventures, and red meat. But who defined manhood in this way? This is not a recovery of biblical manhood. It’s a caricature of an idealized American frontier ethos of days long gone, and it’s as worldly in its own way as feminism.

Thankfully, the Bible defines for us the categories of male and female and explains the God-given distinctions in our roles. God created us male and female, equally as his image, but with distinct, complementary roles. We see this pattern established in Genesis 1 and 2. God created us equally as his image, after his likeness to represent his rule on the earth and to fill the earth with his image in godly offspring (Genesis 1:26–28). But we have distinct roles. The man was created first and placed in the garden to protect it and provide for the creation (Genesis 2:15–25). The woman was created after as his helper to come alongside the man as his partner, to work alongside him and encourage his faithful leadership (Genesis 2:18–25). Male and female equality is rooted in our sharing the divine image. Our distinction in marital roles is rooted in our maleness and femaleness. Such distinction in roles says nothing about our value or worth (1 Corinthians 11:2–3).

I liken the relationship between the man and the woman in Genesis 1 and 2 as a dance. Jeanine and I live in Austin, Texas. Naturally, we needed to learn to Two Step. So one evening we went with friends to the famous Broken Spoke in Austin. There we were taught the basic principles of dance. The man is called “the lead,” and the woman is called “the follow.” Together, we learned the steps of the dance as I led and she followed. It was easy since there are only two steps. Then we could enjoy dancing the rest of the night. God designed the marriage to be like that dance. And this beautiful dance where the man and the woman are of equal dignity and worth as God’s image, is meant to reflect the relationship between Jesus (the lead) and his church (the follow).

Sadly, another dancer came onto the dance floor and cut into the dance between the man and the woman. In Genesis 3, the serpent entered the garden and attacked God’s design. He approached the woman and convinced her that God was holding out on them. So she ate the fruit God prohibited them from eating, and she gave some to her husband who apparently was passively standing by (Genesis 3:6). Adam’s passivity is further revealed when he refused to take responsibility for his lack of leadership and blamed Eve for his sin (Genesis 3:8–12).  The effects of Adam’s sin were such that the serpent, the woman, and the man were cursed by God. As a result of that curse the man and the woman no longer dance. Now they struggle with each other for control (Genesis 3:16). In some cases, the man may be tempted to be domineering. In other cases, he will be tempted to be passive. In both cases, we must declare, “Act like a man!” But what does that look like?

The biblical picture of manhood is Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 5:25–33, we learn that Jesus is the always faithful, never failing husband who pursues his bride and woos her with his love. He loves with a sacrificial, servant love that builds up his bride, the church. And it is through Jesus’s sacrifice that we are saved and empowered to walk in new life by the Spirit. To understand what it means to “Act like a man,” we need to study how Jesus acted. He was gentle and lowly. He was firm with religious hypocrites. He came to serve instead of being served. He learned the Scriptures. He prayed to his Heavenly Father. He honored women. He welcomed children. He taught others. He gave his life so that others may have eternal life. That is manhood! So, to say, “Act like a man,” is really to say, “Act like Jesus.” To say, “Show yourself a man,” is to say, “Show yourself to be an imitator of Christ.”

As we think about Father’s Day this weekend, this is the kind of manhood we want to model to our children. We want to paint this biblical picture of Jesus. How do we cast this vision of manhood for our own family? Begin with Scripture. Read Genesis 1–3; 1 Kings 2:1–5; Ephesians 5–6; 1 Peter 3. Read books together with your family that display Christ-like manhood like The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, missionary biographies.

But we can’t just talk about being a man. We must also model it before our family. We must act like men before our wife and children. They must see us leading those under our care, protecting the vulnerable, and providing for our family with love, patience, forgiveness, and compassion. They must see us freely confess our sins and practice repentance. And they must see how we give of ourselves so that they may flourish.

Our children don’t need perfect Fathers. They have a perfect Father in heaven. They need a faithful dad. Maybe you’ve realized that you have not led well at home. Maybe you’ve been too heavy handed or too passive. Brothers, it is never too late to humble ourselves, confess our sin, repent, and ask our wife and children to forgive us. That is an important first step in acting like a man.

And it is never too late to obey the Lord. Examine your heart. Ask the Lord to show you the areas in which you need to grow. Then, by faith, take the necessary steps to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ so that you may look more and more like Jesus. Brothers, show yourself a man. Act like Jesus.

Reaching Your Childs Heart frontcover

Reaching Your Child’s heart

Raising children can feel overwhelming as you try to navigate the many voices telling you what to do and not to do, but God has already given you everything you need to be faithful parents! In Reaching Your Child’s Heart, Juan and Jeanine Sanchez encourage parents from their gospel-shaped perspective that children don’t need perfect parents—they need a perfect Savior.  

About the author

Juan Sanchez

Juan Sanchez, MDiv, ThM, PhD, serves as senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, TX and is a council member of The Gospel Coalition, cofounder and president of Coalición, and an associate professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has authored numerous books, including 1 Peter for You and The Leadership Formula and is the coauthor of Reaching Your Child’s Heart. Juan is married to Jeanine, and they have five adult daughters.

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