If Christian men are to become what God intends for them to become, they will begin to manifest the gentleness and humility, righteous anger, truthfulness, patience, courage, sacrificial love, and affection of Christ in their lives. No truncated picture of manhood can serve as an adequate replacement for what we find exemplified in Jesus in Scripture.
At a time when there is more confusion in the culture about gender and role relations, it would help us to take a step back and consider what Scripture sets forth as the model of manhood, namely, the Lord Jesus. Much of what passes as a call to manhood from certain quarters of the church today is nothing other than a parading of machismo austerity, whereas so much of what passes as a critique of “patriarchalism” is nothing other than a sophisticatedly repackaged egalitarianism. The biblical picture of manhood is much more complex and dynamic than most of the models with which we are presented.
No one reveals true manhood more than Jesus. The Christ who boldly threw tables over in the Temple and faithfully rebuked evil religious leaders, is the same Jesus who compassionately dealt with the sick and the sinful, loving laid down His life for His people, and affectionately allowed Himself to be leaned upon by the Apostle John. Jesus teaches us that manhood is not first and foremost a sort of grizzly outdoorsmanship. Rather, in Christ we find the complexity of characteristics that God intended for Adam to embody at creation. Jesus is the Last Adam, the head of a redeemed humanity. Jesus was more fully human, and more fully man, than any other man who has ever lived.
While there is no particular order in which we can set forth the characteristics of true manhood as embodied by Jesus, Scripture places His gentleness and humility front and center. A cameo of Jesus in the gospels reveals One who was supremely marked by gentleness and humility. As B.B. Warfield once explained,
“[Jesus] himself, on a great occasion, sums up his individual character (in express contrast with other individuals) in the declaration, ‘I am meek and lowly of heart.’ And no impression was left by his life-manifestation more deeply imprinted upon the consciousness of his followers than that of the noble humility of his bearing. It was by the ‘meekness and gentleness of Christ’ that they encouraged one another to a life becoming a Christian man’s profession (2 Cor. 10:1); for ‘the patience of Christ’ that they prayed in behalf of one another as a blessing worthy to be set in their aspirations by the side of the “love of God” (2 Thess. 3:5); to the imitation of Christ’s meek acceptance of undeserved outrages that they exhorted one another in persecution — ‘because Christ also suffered for sin, leaving you an example, that ye should follow in his steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously’ (1 Pet. 2:21-23).”
The complexity of true manhood embodied by Jesus is seen in the way in which His holy meekness resulted in righteous angry toward evil. Warfield again explained,
“Meekness in our Lord was not a weak bearing of evils, but a strong forbearance in the presence of evil. It was not so much a fundamental characteristic of a nature constitutionally averse to asserting itself, as a voluntary submission of a strong person bent on an end. It did not, therefore, so much give way before indignation when the tension became too great for it to bear up against it, as coexist with a burning indignation at all that was evil, in a perfect equipoise which knew no wavering to this side or that.”
This aspect of the manhood of Christ is evident in His act of purifying the place of His Father’s worship (John 2:13-22), and in His anger over the effects of death when He stood at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:33, 38). At the tomb of Lazarus, John tells us that Jesus was literally “moved with indignation” (the force of language is not captured in many of our English translations). There is no conflict between the meekness of Christ and His righteous anger. The two characteristics work together in perfect harmony. The righteous anger of Jesus toward death and its effects at the tomb of Lazarus led Him to weep with Mary (John 11:37).
Though Jesus’ righteous anger led him to weep with Mary, it was love that led Him to rebuke the religious leaders in Israel for the spiritual harm they were causing the people. Wherever He saw the truth of God perverted in the teaching and lives of the Pharisees, Scribes, Chief Priests, and Sadducees, he confronted it was a directness and righteous anger.