Let’s face it, “Jesus” and “masculine” are probably not words that we would immediately associate with each other. In fact, we may never really think or say it, but I’m pretty certain that the picture that many of us carry around of Jesus in our heads is one that is fairly effeminate. Nice, soft spoken, sort of delicate are all characteristics we are prone to attach to Jesus. Brawny, calloused, gritty, tough just aren’t words that quickly come to mind when we think about him.
In attempts to highlight Jesus’ manliness, people typically point to his profession as a carpenter as an indicator that he was probably made of hardier material than we usually assume. But really, that only underscores our culturally conditioned views on what it means to be manly. Jesus was a carpenter. Carpenters are manly men. Therefore, Jesus was a manly man.
But what if Jesus hadn’t been a carpenter? What if he had been any number of other professions… an accountant, computer programmer, teacher, pastor, hair stylist? You get the idea. Would he still qualify as a manly man? Add to that, he didn’t trash talk, guzzle Coronas, shoot animals for sport, play football. Now, we’ve got a real problem.
And then final straw… he wasn’t married. Which we take to mean (mistakenly, I think) that he wasn’t attracted to women. Needless to say, on all the things we are most prone to associate with manliness, Jesus comes up a distinctly lacking.
And yet, I think something in us knows that we should affirm the masculinity of Jesus. Our problem is that we don’t know how to reconcile the tension.
But… what if we started with the affirmation that Jesus was the ideal embodiment of a man. And from there, we began to adjust our understanding of masculinity with Jesus as the starting point, rather than trying to fit Jesus into some superficial (and artificial) mold of manliness. The beauty of the four-point definition I’ve been working with recently is that seems to attempt to do just that. Here’s that definition again…
An Authentic Man…
– Rejects passivity
– Accepts responsibility
– Leads courageously
– Expects the greater reward; God’s reward.
Now, I’m not going to take the time to connect all the dots, but meditating a few moments on Jesus’ life should be enough to affirm that he lived a sort of masculinity that is a far cry greater than what the rest of us are doing. Again, I don’t think that definition is necessarily all that there is to manhood. But it is certainly a better starting point than what most of us have been handed.
Certainly, there is lots more that could be said about Jesus’ masculinity, but the very idea of starting with Jesus as the ideal man should be enough to keep us thinking a while.