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Men have been relegated to some thing less than masculine. As C.S. Lewis stated so powerfully in The Abolition of Man, modernists “castrate, and bid the geldings be fruitful.”It is impossible.
It is a tragedy. And our culture is in trouble. When men are not men, a civilization falls. When men let their masculinity drift with the winds of culture, everyone loses. When a culture is castrated, it dies. Compare that reality to these words found in scripture:
Be strong…and show yourself a man…Keep the charge of the LORD your God
David, 1 Kings 2:2-3
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act likemen, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
Paul, 1 Cor. 16:13
When was the last time you heard something like that spoken as positive encouragement?
Play the man! The words call to the surface something that all of us as Christian men need to think about carefully.
Manhood. It has been out of vogue too long.
LATIMER’S LAST STAND
It was a crisp October day in 1555, a day that dawned like a thousand October mornings before, but a day destined to stand out among the thousands. Two men, refusing to recant their personal faith in Jesus Christ, would die a terrible death that morning. They would be burned at the stake.
What crossed their minds, that fine autumn day, as these two men walked out of the doors of dreary Bocardo Prison and into the sunlight of their last moments on earth? We can’t know all their thoughts, but we have a few of their words to ponder.
We know that as they approached the stake, Hugh Latimer turned to Nicholas Ridley and said, “Be of good cheer, Ridley. Play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace as I trust shall never be put out.”
Play the man!
Three words. One point. Sound advice. As needed today, and more so, than it was on that day in 1555. In that moment, it was needed to lift one man’s soul in a moment of personal crisis as he faced the fires of the religiously correct. Today it’s needed even more, to lift an entire gender’s collective soul as we face the firestorms of the politically correct.
A WARRIOR’S HERO
Somewhere along the line, Hugh Latimer had evidently come across the account of a second-century martyr named Polycarp. Dying at his own stake in a Roman stadium before a bloodthirsty capacity crowd, Polycarp had literally blazed the path ahead of Latimer and Ridley.
An ancient account of that early martyr includes this extraordinary passage:
But as Polycarp entered into the stadium, a voice came to him from heaven; “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” And no one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice.
When Latimer, in that moment of supreme crisis, repeated those words, “Play the man,” was he remembering the noble Polycarp? Was he remembering the courageous believer who had died with such dignity before a jeering crowd in a stadium? Was he calling to mind those words of encouragement, spoken from heaven itself, to sustain him and his friend in that hour of their greatest trial? Seems likely, doesn’t it?
Questions to ponder? Have you ever thought through the reality of men before you, who throughout the centuries, have laid down their lives, literally, for the cause of Christ? How does that impact you? Does it inspire you? Does it bring remorse or guilt? Does it speak to your heart as an example, or do you simply process the story and move on?
How long has it been since you’ve heard those words, “play the man”? Probably awhile back. A long while back. And what would you think if you did hear them? What does the term man mean anyway?
WHAT MAKES A MAN?
It’s been a long time since a man was allowed to be comfortable with his masculinity, since a man has been sincerely encouraged to be a man. Our culture has struggled with the meaning of manhood for decades now. Today that culture is in serious crisis. It is entirely possible that our culture of crises is born directly out of a crisis inside men’s souls. We haven’t known how to act for more than a quarter century now.
What exactly was Latimer trying to say to Ridley in that moment? What exactly did it mean to “Play the man!”? And did Ridley understand his message? Probably so. It was, after all, the sixteenth century, and masculinity was not yet politically incorrect. It is likely that his words carried meaning that has spanned the centuries.
What was the intended meaning? Was Latimer calling Ridley to demonstrate certain qualities? If so, which ones? Courage? Possibly. Strength? Surely. What else? Integrity?…1oyalty?…bravery?…faithfulness?… sacrifice?
What are the qualities of manhood? What should we consider masculine features? When you hear the term man, what images should it conjure up in your mind? While both genders are certainly capable of demonstrating all the qualities noted just above, are there elements more characteristically identified with one gender or the other?
Questions to ponder? Stop right here and answer these questions yourself. What is it that a man should look like? Act like? Be like? Who are your role models for manhood/masculinity? Who have you attempted to emulate as a man? What one character/person would you most point to as your role model? Don’t be super spiritual here. If it is a Biblical character, so be it. If not, be honest about who it is.
The words of Latimer and Polycarp actually sound a lot like a kingdom here of an even earlier age. David! The son of Jesse was a man’s man. David’s heart called to the men around him-and to us. Even David’s dying words ring like steel on steel. They sound a lot like Latimer, on a crisp October morning, walking toward his destiny.
As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. And keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn.” (1 Kings 2:1-3, emphasis added)
Look at those highlighted words. They provide us some clues, don’t they? More than clues, there are instructions, expectations, even demands! Be strong; show yourself a man; keep the charge; walk in His ways; keep His commands. David said to Solomon, in effect, “Play the man!” And just in case young Solomon had any doubts about what a man was to be or do, David gave him some solid definition.
We’ll continue tomorrow to explore manhood and God. This series of posts will benefit greatly from the addition of your thoughts, experiences, questions and observations in the comment section.