Much ink has been spilled over what makes a man within Christian circles. I really don’t want to dive into the debate on Biblical Manhood or Womanhood, I’ll leave that to Mark Driscoll, Rachel Held Evans, and many others to robustly argue it out. Instead,I wanted to take a different approach by using Eric Metaxas excellent book Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. In his book, Metaxas highlights (wait for it) seven men to help convey character and encourage the reader to cultivate positive traits that marked these seven. Out of those seven, I wanted to highlight three figures that stood out prominently to me. The next three weeks will center on the lives of William Wilberforce, Jackie Robinson, and Pope John Paul II.
Just to clarify, I am writing as a man (just in case you were wondering) and my appreciation of these highlighted men will come from that perspective. I also want to mention that these brief biographies will not be marked by hero-worship or overly critical treatment of these men. I believe we are in critical need of heroes, as imperfect as they might be, to help point us to being rooted in positive character. There is neither naivety nor cynicism in these posts, instead I wanted to draw some helpful good from these heroes of the faith for both men and women.
Manhood and Fatherhood
These posts came about through my own adventure into fatherhood and it made me want to read more about solid men from our past. In his introduction to the book, Metaxas pointed out that fatherhood is marked by a strong and loving heart demonstrated by sacrificing for those he loves. It’s choosing to be more than just a boy who can shave, it’s found in a love that is costly. That’s real manliness.
Strong men ought to protect the weak, whether it’s a child, other men who need help, or disadvantaged people in need. Through these principle, he can exhibit the same mind of Jesus, while having all power, courageously chose to serve others, not being a macho “tough guy.” Interestingly enough, to have courage (rooted in the Latin cor) means to have heart. It means that the man is strong and does the right thing even when all else points towards not doing it. Courage is sometimes quite costly! Having heart is like the boyfriend who shielded his girlfriend from an evil man’s gun at a movie theater in Colorado. Having heart is the father who choose to be present with his family, instead of constantly placing himself in his work at all hours of every weekend.
With these men, they were courageous by “surrendering themselves to a higher purpose, of giving something away that they might have kept.” In short, they had heart.
Wilberforce gave up the comfortable life to stop slavery within the British Empire and the world. Robinson chose to give up fighting back in order to lead the way for minorities to become integrated in American society. John Paul II chose to give up his former life to vulnerably lead the Roman Catholic Church for decades. These and the other four had heart.
As will be seen this month, these men took their Christian faith seriously and changed the world because of it.