'Stand firm in the faith' 1 Corinthians 16:13.
Ann Douglas, the feminist Harvard professor, in her book, The Feminization of the American Culture has observed that by the late 18th century America was jettisoning her God-centred, strong, objective Calvinism for a man-centred, emotional, subjective Arminianism which paved the way for feminism in our culture. In a chapter entitled, 'Ministers and Mothers', Douglas says that by the mid 19th century preachers like Horace Bushnell of Hartford and Henry Ward Beecher of Brooklyn had deliberately and consciously distanced themselves from their Calvinistic upbringing, being deeply affected by Unitarianism, thus softening and reinterpreting Calvinism. Mothers like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catherine Beecher (both sisters of Henry Ward Beecher and daughters of Old School, turned New School father Lyman Beecher), along with Lydia Sigourney, all of Hartford, became accomplished and popular authors (primarily in magazines and newspapers) at the time, making huge amounts of money, much to the chagrin of real authors like Edgar Allan Poe who said that the energetic, busy spirit of the age tends wholly to the magazine literature. Douglas says that the initial liberalization of theology affected literature, eventually assimilating and subordinating theology to literature. This all contributed mightily to the emotional, sentimental, feminine view of life.
I suggest that for at least the last two hundred years men in America have suffered an identity crisis. We donít know who we are and what is expected of us. On the one hand we have wimps who refuse to lead their wives and children, abdicating their calling from God; while on the other hand some men embrace a machismo lifestyle, convincing themselves that they can run roughshod over their families. Paul the Apostle, at the end of his first epistle to the Corinthians, gives five admonitions for men. These are all present tense, imperative mood verbs, meaning these are continual, perpetual commands. They are not suggestions. I am speaking to men, but, women, you need to read and pray for your men.
First, men are to be on the alert. In Ephesians 5:15 Paul says the same thing, urging men to be careful how they walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of their time because the days are evil. The King James version translates this as walking circumspectly, looking around, much like a SWAT team does when storming a fortified position, looking in each direction, guns in a ready position, like a Commanding Officer does in a theatre of war, being careful to know his enemy, how strong they are, where they may attack. To be a man means to be proactive. Our tendency, since Adamís fall into sin, is to pass the buck, to blame our wives or others for our troubles. 'The woman who Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.' Men are to be on the alert, to be proactive as providers and protectors. A manís job is to provide financially, spiritually, and emotionally for his family. These are not the womanís responsibility. I am not saying a woman cannot work outside the home, but I am saying she should not be required to do so by her husband, and she ought not do so if her work conflicts with her primary responsibility of caring for her children and husband. Men are to shepherd their wives and children, praying with and for them, instructing them formally and informally in Godís Word, taking the lead in disciplining the children. Men are to be proactive in protecting their families, keeping out unwelcome guests like certain television programmes, movies, and internet pornography. Men are to protect their wives from verbal abuse of the children. Men are to make sure the wifeís car is road worthy. Men are not their childrenís best buddy.
Second, men are to stand firm in the faith. Paul is encouraged by the report of the Thessaloniansí faithfulness, saying that he lives if they stand firm in the faith, 1 Thessalonians 3:8. Men, your wife and children are strengthened, encouraged as they see you stand firm in your convictions. You need to decide beforehand what you will do and not do in certain potentially compromising situations. Will you or will you not have a private lunch with a woman other than your wife? Will you or will you not flirt with another woman? Will you or will you not succumb to marketing ploys which plunge you into short term, credit card debt which you cannot adequately cover? Will you limit your spending, no matter what your income over the remaining years of your business career?
Third, men are to act like men. In 1 Samuel 4:9 the Philistines are struck with terror when hearing that Israel is coming after them with the Ark of the Covenant, and they are told to take courage and be men, lest they become slaves of the Hebrews. You have daily choices which profoundly affect you and your family. You can choose cowardice or courage. You can choose to look at a porn site. You can choose to neglect the discipline of your children. You can choose to buy that new toy you 'must have', but remember this - what you sow, this you will also reap. To not be a man, to not have courage, means slavery of your will (I canít help it), your heart (I love this other woman, I must have her at all costs), and slavery of your conscience. King Saul, early in his career was fearless, but at the end of his life, having been reduced to seeking intelligence from a witch at Endor, he is terrified, paralyzed with fear. Slavery of will, heart, and conscience rob men of their resolve to hold fast, to do the right thing.
Fourth, men are to be strong. One does not decide to run a marathon two weeks before the race without any prior conditioning work. He must train for an extended period of time, daily adding miles to his regimen. Only then will he have the strength and stamina to succeed. Men, if you are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, then you must daily spend private time with God. This is essential, a non-negotiable. You must take the lead in family devotional times as well as Lordís Day worship. You must cultivate a heart for the Lord Jesus. Only then can you stand in times of duress and trial.
And fifth, all you do, men, is to be done in love This summarizes everything. Your life is to be marked by self-denial (I am tired but I will help my wife tonight with the children) and servanthood. Who is sufficient for these things? We all are miserable failures. Thatís why we must cling to Christ who makes possible our biblical manhood. He exhibited all these traits in his life; and his death and resurrection provide us the grace and power to be what God calls us to be. Will you be a man? Will you be on your guard? Will you stand firm in the faith? Will you act like men? Will you be strong? Will you love?
Rev Allen M. Baker is pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.