Biblical Masculinity: Becoming a Man After God’s Own Heart
Many men are falling short of what God expects from them. What is causing the decline of biblical masculinity? What does the Bible say about masculinity?
Recently, musician Harry Styles was the first man to be featured on the cover of Vogue magazine, a periodical that focuses on fashion and is targeted toward a female audience. This was widely celebrated. He was shown on the front cover wearing a dress, and the photo was proclaimed as an “antidote to 2020.”
Referencing the photo shoot and his persona, Mr. Styles commented that the “lines are just kind of crumbling away . . . When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play.”
Is this where society needs to go? Should the barriers that distinguish men and women (such as clothing styles) be totally torn down? Should Christians embrace these ideas? Or does God expect there to be universal differences between males and females?
Biblical warnings about gender bending
Let’s first consider the issue of clothing. God considered this issue important enough to address within His law for ancient Israel: “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5).
Why was God concerned about the issue of gender-specific clothing? Because God is very concerned that the distinction between the two genders He created be respected and maintained. Blurring the distinction confuses what God created to be a simple truth: There are two genders—male and female.
God made the genders different so they could perfectly complement each other.We read this truth stated plainly in the book of Genesis: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27; see also 5:2).
God designed men and women to be distinctly different. But not different in a way that made one inherently better than the other. He made the genders different so they could perfectly complement each other. But, sadly, we see society increasingly blurring the distinction that God created. The confusion of the genders has led to dramatic changes in what is expected and accepted from men.
Today more and more males are delaying adulthood and avoiding commitments and responsibilities. Instead of focusing on developing a career, establishing independence and pursuing marriage and fatherhood, many young adult men are pursuing alternate paths and continually delaying these traditional adult male goals.
In many areas of life, males are falling far behind females. Here are a few examples:
- Males are pursuing post-secondary education at much lower rates than women.
- Males who are in school are falling behind their female counterparts in grades.
- Males are far more likely to commit suicide than females. (Of course, this is a statistic we wish was zero for both genders.)
- Males are much more likely to delay adulthood. More and more men are unwilling to act their age, live independently and develop traditional elements of maturity—a tendency known as “Peter Pan syndrome.” Many don’t work and are unable to make and fulfill commitments.
This is not God’s will for young men.
But what does God want to see in the lives of boys and young men?
What is biblical masculinity?
The Bible doesn’t give one concise, definitive definition of godly masculinity. But there is a phrase found in the Bible that can help us build a solid profile of a truly godly and masculine man. That phrase is found in Acts 13:22 and was used to describe one of the best examples of a godly masculine man in the Bible, King David. The phrase is: “A man after [God’s] own heart.”
Let’s review a bit of David’s story.
When God was unhappy with King Saul because of his disobedience, He sought “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). God led the prophet Samuel to a young man named David, whom he anointed as Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 16:13).
What was special about David that made him fit to lead the nation?
When Samuel was first led to look for a new king, he was told he would find one among the sons of Jesse in Bethlehem (verses 1 and 3). Each of Jesse’s sons was asked to pass by Samuel. While some of them were apparently physically impressive, God instructed Samuel to “not look at his appearance or at his physical stature.” Instead, God was searching the “heart” (verse 7).
Today many young men are overly concerned about their physical appearance. While it is important for a young man to care for his personal hygiene and appearance, the major concern should be “the heart”—in other words, personal character.
How to become a man after God’s own heart
Here are some areas where a young man can follow David’s example and become a man “after God’s own heart.”
1. Take responsibility. After God told Samuel that none of these sons of Jesse were to be chosen, Samuel asked: “Are all the young men here?” Jesse answered, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep” (verse 11). As a young boy, David was fulfilling his responsibility and tending the sheep. It is important for young people to be given responsibilities from an early age. This helps them grow to be responsible adults.
2. Develop strength, bravery and courage. Later on, when David encountered Goliath, he was not afraid of him. His courage and bravery stood out among the army of Israel (1 Samuel 17:11-12, 23-32). He volunteered to face Goliath—even in the face of criticism (verses 28, 33). David told King Saul how he had faced off against lions and bears as a shepherd, showing that his bravery against Goliath wasn’t irrational (verses 34-35). He went on to fight Goliath and defeat him (verses 42-50). For more lessons from this famous story, read “Spiritual Warfare: How to Win and How to Lose.”
3. Develop personal integrity. David loyally served King Saul, but eventually King Saul falsely accused him of seeking to harm him (1 Samuel 24:9). Yet David always maintained integrity and showed respect toward Saul, even sparing his life twice, when Saul was hunting David (1 Samuel 24:4-10; 26:5-16). After King Saul died, David wrote a lamentation about his death that included only positive things about the man who had tried so hard to kill him (2 Samuel 1:19-27). David was an excellent example of practicing what Jesus commanded Christians to do: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). The world today needs men who have the same kind of integrity and practice these principles.
4. Develop skills. Even as a young man, David was described as “skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech” (1 Samuel 16:18). Later, when he was king, David guided Israel by the “skillfulness of his hands” (Psalm 78:72). It’s important for young men to use their younger years to learn skills and develop them to mastery. This not only allows them to be independent when they grow up, but also gives them the ability to care for their future family. But even though David was a skilled man, he didn’t rely totally on himself to make decisions. He had the humility to habitually seek God’s help and guidance throughout his career (1 Samuel 23:2-4; 9-11; 30:8; 2 Samuel 5:19; 23; 21:1; 1 Chronicles 14:10).
5. Practice true repentance. David was a great man, but he was not perfect. (No man is.) The Bible records that during his reign David committed terrible sins regarding Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11). He was guilty of both adultery and murder. After his sins were exposed, David took full responsibility and genuinely repented of his sins. His heartfelt prayer of repentance is recorded in Psalm 51. To learn more about true repentance, read “How to Repent.”
King David’s life provides an excellent model for young men today. It’s important for parents to not just teach their sons to develop the form of masculinity God wants from them, but to also point out strong examples of real men.
Ultimately, the best example of perfect masculinity displayed in a human life was Jesus Christ. To learn more about how His life was a model for men, young and old alike, read “Jesus Christ: The True Model for Manhood.”