Yesterday, I started a blueprint for Christian manhood. I want to note today that I do not intend this to be seen as the blueprint for this subject, as if I have received a direct revelation from God on how this all should take place. Rather, I am trying to do what all Christian parents must do, namely, to provide a road-map for their children that will enable them to navigate their way from childhood to adulthood.
In attempting to lay this out, one will necessarily make some arbitrary judgments. The Bible, as I said yesterday, does not give us an exact plan by which children become adults. There are some signposts, to be sure, and one would want to delve into the stories of the Old Testament, the wisdom of Proverbs, the call of Christ in the gospels, and the comments of the apostle Paul on manhood in his epistles (especially 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) to better form a biblical framework on this subject. Even if one does so, however, one will find that there are a large portion of matters that must be decided by wisdom, appeal to tradition, and the specific makeup of one’s child. I’m offering this sort of blueprint, and am explicitly stating (thank for your helpful comments, Ryan) that my blueprint is a mishmash of things. While I have come to certain conclusions on different aspects of manhood, many of which I am voicing in this series, others will come to different conclusions. So long as those conclusions are not stupid, unbiblical, and made only to thumb one’s nose at tradition, I cannot say that they are wrong. I would personally be very happy to see more Christians do this sort of thing, whether or not they came to exact agreement with me or not. The point, then, is not, follow this perfect blueprint, but rather, to follow it insofar as it is helpful, wise, in accordance with the Bible, and helpful for your children.
Later manhood (22 or 25-death): Al, you’re right about these ages. I’m only providing them, though, so that I can challenge guys of specific ages to step up and embrace manhood. With that said, the chief functions incumbent upon (most) men in this season are the duty to provide for a family, to take a wife, to raise children, to contribute to one’s church, and to be a productive member of society. In formulating these matters, I would note that this is a season of life that is going to require a lot of energy, character, toughness, and ambition. In accordance with Genesis 2:24, a young man seeks a wife, and then seeks to build a family, believing firmly and counter-culturally (in many instances) that children, and perhaps many of them, are a blessing from the Lord, a “reward from Him” (Psalm 127:3). Though couples may take a little time to develop healthy marriages, children should not be avoided as an obstacle but should be pursued, though such a decision may make life tougher than it otherwise would be. In order to honor the Lord by filling his quiver, the man must take the burden of provision for the family squarely upon his shoulders. This may mean hardship; it may mean less sleep; it may mean finishing a degree slower than one’s peers; it may mean a tough life for some time. If so, the man must remember that things aren’t going wrong. His energy is not being misused or wasted. He is doing what he is called to do as a man, given 1 Timothy 5:8 and the fact that Titus 2 teaches that a woman’s sphere of work is the home (especially when children are in the mix). If he has to work two jobs, or pull a night shift, or miss out on sports, or read less books, or make less friends, that is fine. He must remember that he is doing what he is called to do, and that even if his life is hard, it is well-pleasing to the Lord.
The man leads his wife in worshiping the Lord. Some men will have more to say than others, but all men can read the Bible with their wives, pray with them, and talk with them about the Bible’s teaching and application to life. Men who do not have a great deal of confidence in their scriptural knowledge can consult their pastors or elders for books to work through with their wives. In the same vein, men will seek to disciple their children when of sufficient age. This may involve something very similar to the way in which a man leads his wife–reading, praying, talking. The man will set an excellent tone for church involvement and attendance and will serve the church joyfully in whatever ways he can. He should exhibit a palpable excitement over the things of the Lord, should evangelize when possible (and train his kids to do so), and should exude strong Christian character in conformity with the image of Christ.
The man will also seek to be a contributing member of society, being a righteous, helpful presence in his community, his neighborhood, his children’s schools, if they go to schools, their sports teams, and other activities. He may struggle to be as involved as his wife, for he may have to work hard and long to provide for his family, but he will do so knowing that he is freeing up his wife to serve and care for her children, her home, and her church. The man will stay closely connected to his children, though, spending time with them whenever possible, sacrificing much personal time for hobbies and interests in order to bond with his children, love them, and invest in them. This will likely mean that the man will have far fewer hobbies or entertainments than other men his age, but he will completely avoid complaining about this, remaining constantly aware that in shaping the lives of his children for the glory of God, he is doing something far, far more significant than mere entertainment or pastimes can provide. He is building a family, leaving a legacy for his Lord, entering into intense spiritual and physical and emotional work, bypassing the mere momentary things of this world in pursuit of something greater.
Singleness–where does it fit in?: As we know from 1 Corinthians 7, singleness is by no means a substandard calling. It is a high calling. The blueprint I’ve sketched out captures what most men are called to do–to marry and have a family. There is a huge need in the current day to communicate the vision of family and children to men today, who are enticed by numerous cultural voices to ignore responsibility, maturity, and to focus on themselves. A godly man, however, is a man for others. For most men, this means specifically making a family and blessing them. For men called to singleness, however, the aspects of manhood that relate to marriage and family in this blueprint will not apply (though many others will!). Single Christian men have a unique and wonderful opportunity to care less about the things of this world, by which I mean things not related to marriage and family. (It’s not as if single Christians are called to walk on a spiritual cloud all the time, as we can sometimes caricature their lives.) In particular, single Christian men can, I would argue by way of 1 Cor. 7, spend great amounts of time discipling young Christians, evangelizing unbelievers, and serving their churches. They can take their energy and strength and ambition and passion and use it for a good deal more spiritual work than most dads and husbands can do. This is an awesome responsibility, and it will involve a great deal of effort and energy and labor, and there may be lonely times, but the single Christian man, if he embraces the biblical vision of singlehood and not the cultural one, can very much be a man for others.
Conclusion: That concludes my brief blueprint for manhood. In days and weeks to come, I’ll try to do one for Christian womanhood. As I’ve already noted, I’m not presenting this as the solution, divinely given. I’ve tried to think through this well, and to make good arguments, and above all to base it on the Bible, but I would in no way claim divine sanction for things not laid out in Scripture. I would caution those who wonder about the value of such an extra-scriptural blueprint, though, and say that we’ll all construct one. It may be thorough, or it may be mere, but everyone comes up with their process by which they become a man or woman. All Christians will in doing so have to go beyond Scripture, as well, because Scripture leaves much of these matters up to wisdom, the application of general biblical teachings, and the counsel of the church. As we make our blueprints, we can do so charitably, humbly, teachably, but that does not mean that we do not make them–because we cannot avoid doing so, even if we want to.
The key idea here is this: whether singleness or marriage is his calling, a man is to live for others. He is to embrace responsibility, to stand as a spiritual tower, to point all around him to the gospel, to bless and not to curse his surroundings. As he lives for Christ, the ultimate Other, he will naturally bring grace and goodness to all around him, making him a man who truly lives not for himself, but for others, to the greater glory of God.