I think about lots of things at once, which is apparently an acquired talent. I'm getting there. My thoughts are filled with my wife, my child(ren), Payson Bible Church, theology, how to get more wisdom, lost people, saved people, family, friends, music, Cardinals baseball, and on and on it goes. I'm sure you can relate.
Lately I've had occasion to ponder the state of men in my generation -- the Millennial generation. I've been thinking about all of the pros, cons, challenges, and everything in between. Consider this post just a section of the stream that is my thought life.
The two pillars of manhood: love and responsibility.
The problem: Most young men don't know how to implement these pillars in their day-to-day lives.
It's my theory that God cares much more about the little details than we ever consider. Day-to-day life is far different from an eventful snippet of time. Day-to-day life is mundane, routine, and full of seemingly insignificant thoughts and actions. But that's where real godliness is displayed.
Though it's noble, it's also easy to step up in a moment of crisis and display love and responsibility. In a moment of real crisis, no man worth his weight in salt will stand still (I say this acknowledging that there are men out there who are, in fact, not worth their weight in salt, so to speak).
If a young child is on the street starving, most men will do the loving thing and get food to him or her. If a building is burning, most men will do the responsible thing and get immediate help. These actions are good, but they're certainly not extraordinary. This virtuous action reflex is more or less evidence of the image of God, not so much exceptional marks of an exceptional man.
And it seems as though young men (even those who have grown up in Christian homes) only know that kind of love and responsibility. They know that it's right to help out a widow when something in her house breaks down; they know they should volunteer to be a part of the lawn-mowing rotation for the church property; they know that one day they should have a full-time job and a family.
But have these young men been trained how to deal with stress? Do they know how to love a woman? Are they self-starters, who make opportunities and own up to mistakes? Can they cast a vision, create a budget, or keep a job? Are they honorable? Healthy? Kind? Generous? Heck, do they brush their teeth properly?
Absent in so many Millennial men are the basic qualities (love and responsibility) they need to get hired or get married, let alone serve Christ and reflect the gospel. They don't know what it means to go beyond showing love and responsibility to living a life full of each. They’re inward-focused, prideful, lazy, and full of lust. After all, the culture says it’s okay.
Here's the thought process.
- I want to feel good.
- Playing video games (a diversion from the path of responsibility) and looking at porn (a diversion from the path of love) make me feel good.
- Every now and then I'll do something nice so people won't know I'm consumed with making myself feel good.
Now, in biblical (simple, honest, truthful) language.
- I'm sinful.
- I do sinful things.
- I try to hide my sin.
This self-centered lifestyle is a monstrous red flag signaling immaturity. Only children and childish adults think about themselves that much. It's not how God designed people to live.
Take your mind to 2 Samuel 11 -- David's great sin. David, the great army commander, was on a roll. Israel was like the Yankees of the late 90s, winning every year with no end in sight. They were taking down evil cultures left and right and David looked like a genius.
Then it happened one evening in Jerusalem, David got up from a nap and went to the roof of his house to relax. You know what happens next. He saw a beautiful woman taking a bath and, of course, his interest was piqued.
At this moment he had to make a decision as to whether he would be a loving, responsible, and mature man or if he would look inward and fulfill the desire to feel good. He chose the latter, opting to send his boys to pick this woman up. In a matter of verses, they spent the night together and she got pregnant.
At this moment he again had to make a decision as to whether he would be a loving, responsible, and mature man or if he would look inward and fulfill the desire to feel good. He chose the latter again, opting to set up this woman's husband for an imminent death. In a matter of verses, Uriah the Hittite was introduced and dismissed.
David was sinful, he did sinful things, and he tried to hide his sin.
Unfortunately, this is one of the things David became famous for. Much of his life was characterized by consistent love and responsibility. He owned up to the sins found in 2 Samuel 11 that were "evil in the sight of the Lord" (v. 27), as Psalm 51 details his dramatic moment of repentance. That said, the incident with Bathsheba is a perfect example of how men shouldn't think.
Giving in to self-centered fancies leads to a life characterized by sinful wants (lust, pride, greed, and laziness are just a few side effects).
The answer is love and responsibility every moment of every day. It would be helpful to go positive now and define the terms.
Love: It's Jesus in Philippians 2. Be a meek slave. "Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves," (Phil 2:3). Sacrifice yourself and your desires. Don't give yourself what you want if there's opportunity to serve another. Make a specific effort to steamroll yourself and bless those around you -- especially the annoying ones.
Responsibility: It's Paul's command to the Thessalonians. Discreetly move mountains. "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands...so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need," (1 Thess 4:11-12). He goes on to say in 2 Thessalonians 3 that men should be disciplined and hard-working, they should pay for stuff and earn their keep, they should keep on doing good and call out the lazy guys. It's all about being a good steward of what God has freely given.
These are the pillars of a man. If a guy has love and responsibility, he has everything. He's eligible for leadership in the home, church, and workplace. He's an all-star.
But these pillars don't just show up overnight. It takes diligent effort on the part of God's saint to be a guy who models the life of Christ, reflecting the truths found in Scripture in every facet. How can a young man get started?
- Pray. After detailing what a godly life should look like during His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened," (Matt 7:8). James says, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him," (1:5). Admit you don't know anything and plead with God to grant you insight for living a life of Christ-likeness.
- Study. Men are notorious for not reading instruction manuals. It seems masculine to figure things out without the help of words printed on paper. In the Christian life, however, there's no other way to develop godliness. The Bible must be studied daily. When a woman said that Mary, the mother of Jesus, must be the most blessed woman on earth, Jesus answered, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it," (Luke 11:28). The psalmist famously said, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path," (Ps 119:105).
- Seek out men. If dependence on God through prayer and study of Scripture weren't anti-macho enough, this one should be. Ask for help. Godly men who build and establish the pillars of love and responsibility don't do it on their own. They get guidance and accountability from other men -- men who are wiser than they. Proverbs 15:22 says, "Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed." It's stupid to ever think you can live a godly life on your own.
A commitment has to be made to prayer, study, and discipleship in order to generate love and responsibility into the day-to-day grind of manhood. If there's no commitment (another sign of immaturity), the pillars of love and responsibility will never be established. It takes a watchful eye and a faithful spirit to be a godly man.
Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on your success (or lack thereof) in this area. Are you known as a loving and responsible man? Are you fooling yourself into thinking it's okay to be lazy and self-centered? Do you take pleasure in pride and lust? Is your heart submissive and inclined toward service? What do wise men say about you?
Do you even care?
It all comes back to love and responsibility. It's God's plan for men. Now just live it out.
Your wife (or future wife) will thank you.