There used to be a time when we had a universal definition for a man. There also used to be a time when the difference between a boy and a man was more than just the size and physical appearance, but alas that is not the case anymore. As David DeWitt has painfully put it:
“A man is an increasingly hard thing to find. We live in a society of boys-twenty-, thirty, forty, fifty and sixty-year old boys. Many guys seem to have the goal of maintaining a junior-high mentality all the way through life. The ultimate in life seems to be to retire, still a boy.”
In the words and thoughts of Jim Berg there are three major stages in the development of a male: “boy, man and patriarch. This means there are two major transitions he must make if he is to fulfill the character God gave him. As a boy he must decide to be a man, and as a man he must decide to be a patriarch.” What is even more convicting is the definition of the three stages as Berg goes on to say
A boy is a male who is generally chaotic; not yet having established order for his life.
A man is a male who has taken on responsibility for establishing order for himself and for his immediate family. (immediate circle of friends or co-workers if he is single)
A patriarch is a man who has taken on the responsibility of establishing maturity (wisdom as a way of life) for himself and applying it to his extended family.
What makes a boy a boy is that he pursues chaos. He has not ordered his life. His life is not yet headed in a direction. He lacks discipline to accomplish tasks. He has not taken significant must ownership of values or virtues.
What turns a boy into a man? This is the most important and most basic transition in the life of a male- and it is where most of us fail. If a boy does not become a man, all future development is merely a fabrication of the real thing. Of course, a boy will get bigger and older but size and age do not make a man. Manhood is a spiritual decision a boy make. If he doesn’t make this decision, he will remain a boy all his life. A boy is chaotic. His challenge is becoming orderly.
DeWitt’s summary of the current state affairs is worth noting, even though it is from the American point of view.
“Many men, teens and above, are locked into the mindset of the average American junior high youth. His heart is easily captured by the latest fashions, pop and reality show idols, superheroes, electronic games, sports personalities, junk foods, sexual enticements- both real and virtual, chemical stimulants- both legal and illegal and the crude and sensual humor and violence of the most popular video clips and blockbuster movies. He is easily bored and resists correction. He endures work and school as necessary evils between pursuits of pleasurable experiences offered on the midway of the world’s carnival”
Spiritually, this kind of male has little tolerance for preaching unless it is high in entertainment value and instead of spending the formative teen years preparing for adult responsibility, these years are thrown away in the pursuit of pleasure.
With these rather depressing descriptions before us, what then is biblical manhood? A few quotes to provoke our thinking will suffice.
“God has bestowed on man both supremacy and a mandate, both an authority and an assignment. Man is God’s deputy and representative on the earth. Therefore a man is obligated to exercise an assertive, aggressive and godly rule over the various realms of God’s creation” Mark Chanski
“Someone who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and expects a greater reward” Robert Lewis
“Masculinity means initiation. To be masculine is to take initiative. To provide direction, security, stability, and order, to lead, to head, to husband… initiation is the bottom line of masculinity. It means taking the lead; the lead in providing, protecting, mentoring, and befriending. It means caring for developing our mates, our children, and ourselves. It means taking the lead in apologizing, the lead in seeking forgiveness, and the lead in vulnerability. Masculinity means initiation.” Stu Weber
When you look at these definitions you right away see dominion and responsibility. But you also see that been a man is impossible unless you are God-fearing, led by the word of God and living by the grace of God.