There may be no more dangerous situation for a man than to make his life easy. This goes against the spirit of our age, I know. As I spell out in my brand-new book The War on Men, ours is a soft, comfortable, safety-driven context. Think about what we say incessantly to one another in place of the traditional “Goodbye”; now we say, like a mantra, “Be safe!”
It is easy for men to live easy lives today. Instead of a challenging flesh-and-blood existence, you can live what I call a “plastic life.”
What is involved in a plastic masculine life, you ask? Here are a few common features of it.
Instead of a man seeking to win a woman’s heart in marriage, he can watch videos of women, women he will never meet. Instead of listening to a woman, showing understanding to a woman, forgiving a woman, and being forgiven by a woman, he can manipulate the women on his screen to do what he wants. When his desires are met, he’s done. No sacrifice. No loving care. Plastic.
Instead of a man joining and serving a church as a born-again believer, men can log on to church. Fire up the live-stream, sit in your easy chair, and try to stay awake for the music and the sermonette. There are no people to greet; there are no cars to get parked; when it’s done, he closes up his laptop and goes away to do whatever he wants. No investment. No real involvement. Plastic.
Instead of a man practicing adulthood, men can fire up video games. You can get lost in imaginary worlds. You don’t have to pay bills, cut grass, deposit checks, wash dishes, clock in for work, troubleshoot house problems, troubleshoot relational problems, build friendships, visit needy people, or volunteer. None of this is real; all of it is plastic.
Men need help today — much help
The list of plastic pursuits can go on. Of course, you can use our modern media for much good. Further, you can enjoy moral recreation and serious fun through such media. But here’s the thing: It is all too easy today for men to opt out of the real world altogether. That is precisely what many men are doing; they’re dropping out, quitting their jobs, staying home, not growing up, and generally living a defeated, self-driven existence.
But we need to think carefully here. A big part of why men are not growing up today is this: men do not perceive that they are welcome in the wider world. Our culture has relentlessly needled men. It has trained boys and young men to think that they are “toxic.” Their wiring, their instincts, are not good; they are bad. Girls naturally listen well, make friends, and form inclusive communities, goes the argument. Not so with men.
Men, we hear from outlets like the American Psychological Association, are needlessly aggressive, foolishly impulsive, and prone to break things. Men are unkind and unempathetic. Men want to dominate others. So, for all these reasons, men need to be pushed out of the mainstream. It may not be ideal for men to live in the basement, we know, but at least that way men don’t risk anything — or break anything. Safety rules, we remember.
Weak men who find their strength in God
There is a better way than this. It is the Bible’s pathway for masculine maturity. In the biblical mind, men should not be marginalized. Men should not become women; boys should not become girls. No, boys should have their natural aggression and assertiveness and risk-taking-instinct discipled.
Men, in the biblical mind, are not called to plastic softness and fleshly passivity. As I say at some length in The War on Men, men are called to strength, and in fact men are wired to want to be strong. Hear David to his son Solomon: “Be strong and show yourself a man” (1 Kings 2:2). This call is echoed throughout the Bible: “Be strong and courageous,” says Yahweh to Joshua (Joshua 1:9). Paul tells the Corinthian church to “Act like men” (andrizesthe in the Greek). All this tells us that God wants us weak men to repent of our sin, become strong in Christ, and build things.
Men should be raised to embrace responsibility, enter leadership, marry a woman (if called), tenderly raise children, build a vocation, and serve a church. Men are called to lead in taking dominion of the world (Genesis 1:28). (For men called to singleness, all the same applies. You may not build a family, but you testify to the world that sex does not define you; Christ defines you. What a great life that is!)
Married or single, none of this is easy. None of it is costless. It is the exact opposite, in fact: embracing maturity is going to cost you dearly. It means less sleep, less “free time,” and less time with the “boys.” But this life brings great glory to God. Here is where so much good in this world takes root: where four, five, six decades of marital faithfulness are grounded, where precious boys and girls — for there are only two sexes — are raised; where curious unbelievers glimpse forgiveness, masculine authority, feminine nurture, hope, perseverance, and love.
Christian men (as with women today) have a powerful opportunity. In chaos and cultural wreckage, we can build meaningful things. Gripped by the Gospel, we can bask in the liberation of Christ, and reject a selfish life on a daily basis. Life is not about us; life is about God. Life is not plastic and painless; life is real and costly.
Much as that truth challenges us, here is the deal: we would not have it any other way. Following God, after all, was not modeled by a video-game character. The God-man, the Messiah, took on real flesh and lived a real life and knew real trials but ultimately embraced a real cross for us. Because he did so, we are called into real life — and soon, we will enter real glory, and see our real God as he is.
Owen Strachan is the author of The War on Men: Why Society Hates Men and Why We Need Them. He is the Provost of Grace Bible Theological Seminary and the host of the Grace & Truth podcast.
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