Read 1 Corinthians 16
Focus on verse 13-14
So, what exactly does it mean to act like men? Is this one of those chauvinistic statements uttered by a male oriented apostle in a patriarchal culture? It certainly could be understood that way if one were to rip it out of is context and place it in the title as I did. It would also be accurate to note that the culture to which, and in which it
was written, was a largely a patriarchal and would, by our cultural standards, be considered a chauvinistic culture. What we miss until we set it into its larger context is that the way of life that Jesus taught, and that Paul now preached was very counter cultural in the way it elevated the value of women.
In today’s reading it would seem that Paul is actually specifically addressing the men of the Corinthian church and challenging them to be strong “in the faith”.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (v. 13-14)
It is critical to note also that Paul follows up the “be strong – act like men” statement with “let all that you do be done in love”. While there may be some who would try to defend selfishly motivated chauvinistic behavior with the argument that they are “doing this in love, and in obedience to the word of God” true love, as defined a few chapters ago, does not fit that model.
I believe it is possible to stand firm, to fulfill the role of a man by being strong in the faith, all the while acting in genuine love. I would also qualify this with the caveat that there may often be times when this is far from easy. It takes a generous amount of self-sacrifice and copious amounts of reliance on God for the strength needed to make this happen. What makes it work, and worth the effort, is that if one can let go of the inclination to do this in one’s own strength, and allow the Spirit of God to lead and empower, it may still require self-sacrifice, but it takes much less effort, and it really becomes rather enjoyable.
It is exactly this attitude and strength that makes it possible for Christians who are martyred for their faith to be able to face death boldly and with grace. Our modern progressive culture has so twisted the definition of manhood that it is sometimes nearly impossible to recognize. We tend to be extremists with matters such as this. We either paint manhood as the super ripped and masculine and obnoxiously arrogant Marlboro man, or we strip manhood of most of its masculinity and turn it into a wussy pussy genderless enigma that is void any strength whatsoever.
Somewhere in between these extremes is the stalwart man of faith, who stands strong for truth and righteousness without being an obnoxious bully. This kind of man will face opposition, but will also garner respect as he lays down his life for those he is called to serve. In this regard, Jesus was without question the perfect example of acting like a man. Perhaps if more of us followed His example the world might be a better place for both men and women?