Several years ago researchers at UC Berkley set out to test what they called the masculine overcompensation thesis, the theory that when men sense threats to their manhood they respond by exaggerating their gender traits. They found, “that when men faced the implication that they were somehow not men, they tended to increase their support of war, homophobia, male dominance, ‘purchasing an SUV'” and other stereotypical behavior. Women did not respond the same way. The implication is that women feel less threatened in the culture. The conclusion wrote one observer was, “the more manly you act, the less manly you probably are.” I ask the question, “Doesn’t that put men in a double bind.” How do you act manly in a god given way?
I agree that a lot of men, including Christian men, in our culture feel threatened. How are Christian men to deal with this double bind of “the more manly you act, the less manly you probably are.?” Threatened men are going to act out in some unfortunate “macho ways.” Many more are going to remain passive and silent, resigning themselves to a gnawing resentment, not knowing who they were created to be as a man.
But men who follow Jesus have a choice, even when threatened and questioned about their manliness. Men, I can not stress enough the need to get our mind and heart off of what the culture thinks of men and get our eyes on Jesus. He is and will continue to be our example and measure of what it means to be a man. The way out of the double bind is to see Jesus as our example in being able to be both “tough and tender.” When threatened look to Jesus.
The New Testament presents the Son of Man as the True Man. Jesus’ manhood subverted the manly man stereotype of the Greco-Roman world, which had such a low regard from women. Jesus’ manhood was one of humiliation, service, and crucifixion. Jesus took on the form of a slave (Phil 2:5-11). So true manhood for the follower of Jesus is measured first of all not by courage or strength, both of which are important, but rather by self-sacrificial love for the other. “Servant love” expressed through servant leadership is the key to dealing with the double bind of the Berkeley research. Such love expresses great courage and strength.
So men here is my advice. Don’t let anything in the culture cause you to get your spiritual eyes off of Jesus. Surrender to him, follow him, desire him, and learn from his example. Remember you have his very presence with you to give you guide and help. In our day we need to heed the warning of Paul. “Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that is not the way of Christ.” (Eph 2:9 – The Message)
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