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What Makes a Man?

by Jeff Shaw, Director of Out of Darkness

What does it mean to be a man? This is a truly difficult question, and there is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. I’m still wrestling with it, and it wasn’t until the last few months that I felt like I might be starting to get some sort of handle on it.

The average guy in his teens or 20s would probably tell you manhood is a variation or combination of confidence (but it would look more like arrogance), hardness (not taking crap from anyone), ambition (knowing what you want and going after it), and dominance (but it would look more like violence). But we know these traits don’t ring true.

A more nuanced or mature answer might include leadership, provision for, and protection of a family. Is that it though?

Let me propose the idea (not an original) that a real man is one who rejects passivity.

But it’s important to grasp what that means. We live in a culture that emasculates men, or on the opposite side, makes them bullies. Within the first misunderstanding, passivity is celebrated as a virtue. After all, isn’t it good for a man to be gentle, avoid conflict, exercise patience, and exude self-control? Not when these are just facades for passivity.

In Genesis 3, we take a peek into the Garden of Eden, where the first people communed with God. Adam knew the forbidden fruit wasn’t to be touched. He was there when the serpent spoke lies and deception to Eve. Eve, his bride. And yet he said nothing. Was Adam noble in avoiding conflict with Eve? Was he just kindly keeping his peace? No, Adam was paralyzed by a spirit of passivity, and sin entered the world through MAN.

In Genesis 34, Jacob’s young daughter, Dinah, is raped. What does Jacob do in response? Nothing. Is this because he was choosing forgiveness over revenge? Was he simply modeling self-control? No, Jacob was gripped with fear and a passive spirit. At the one time it was most critical that he provide wisdom, strength, and leadership, he was silent. And his children paid the price as they sorted through anger, confusion, and violence.

Then there’s the other side. In a subculture of men who believe they are rejecting passivity and emasculation, we see a dangerous demonstration of masculinity that manifests itself through violence, anger, sexual abuse, drunkenness, brutal control, etc.  The results of this misguided masculinity are tragic – emotional brokenness, divorce, addiction, jail time, death.

So what does it look like for a man to reject passivity the RIGHT way? Look no further than Jesus, a man whose heart was gripped with compassion.

In His ministry, Jesus stood up for the adulteress (John 8:7). He ate with the outcasts (Luke 15:1-2). He healed the unclean, bleeding woman that nobody else would touch (Matthew 9:20-22). He restored the crippled hand of a man when it angered the elite and endangered His life (Mark 3:1-6). After teaching the masses to the point of exhaustion, He fed the multitude (Mark 6:34-44). Jesus charged His disciple to take care of the mother He was leaving behind (John 19:25-27). In His final moments, He asked God to forgive those who beat, whipped, struck, spat on, humiliated, and mocked him (Luke 23:33-34). And before dying, He told the thief on the cross next to Him that soon they would be together in paradise (Luke 23:41-43).

He laid down His very life for you and me (Romans 5:8).

This is the example given to us by a man who walked out compassion, and it was anything but passive. In His compassion He exemplified justice, kindness, grace, forgiveness, provision, love, humility, patience, and selflessness.

Many of you may never have seen this lived out in an earthly role model. But the awesome truth is that you have access to the ultimate man, Jesus Christ. Fall before Him today and ask Him to teach you what it looks like to reject passivity and live a life of compassion. You will never be more of a man. You will never feel more alive.

“I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”
– John 10:10

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