THE BIBLE REGULARLY REPRESENTS THE CHURCH as “The Bride of Christ.” This naturally provokes an adverse reaction from SOME men. I remember the reaction of one visitor to our church. He had spent over eight years in the military and did not want to think of himself in the feminine.
“I don’t like all this talk about the church being the Bride of Christ,” he said. “I’m a man, not a woman.” His reaction was to be expected. It is compounded by the constant denigration of masculinity in our culture. For example—
Masculinity is treated like sex in Victorian England: a fact of life that the society largely condemns and tries to suppress and its intellectuals deny…The result is a society that at once denies the existence of natural male aggressiveness and is utterly preoccupied with it.George Gilder, Men and Marriage, (Gretna, LA: Pelican, 1986) pg ix
At times, I have felt like this visitor. But the position of the Bible is straightforward. Only One has been fully masculine—the man Jesus Christ. In addition, femininity is usually a reaction to masculinity. The more masculine a man becomes, the more feminine become the women around him. That is true of Christ and his church. It is also true in Christian marriage. In the words of C. S.Lewis,
We are all, corporately and individually, feminine to Him…That is because we are insufficiently masculine.”God In The Dock
So whether we are masculine or feminine depends upon to whom we are compared. Ultimately, God is so masculine that everything created is feminine by contrast.
Although compared to Christ, the church is feminine; compared to the world the church is masculine. Revelation 17 describes the world as an alluring prostitute, seated on a great red Dragon, attempting to seduce God’s masculine people away from a pure devotion to Christ.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations (Revelation 17:1–5).
The church, when it is truly the church, in its relation to the world is truly masculine as God intended masculinity. What would that look like? Masculinity is faithful to its covenant relationship with God. That is why our relationship with Christ is described as a marriage. It is not about sex. It’s about a covenant.
When the world attempts to seduce us away from a pure devotion to Christ, masculinity is willing to suffer to be faithful.
Masculinity also initiates. It goes out to convert the nations.
Masculinity thinks objectively. It clings to the authority of God’s objective word no matter how it feels.
Masculinity fears God.
Masculinity protects others, even at the cost of its life. Here are some attempts by Christian leaders to define masculinity.
True manliness is in harmony with gentleness, kindness, and self-denial.The McGuffey Reader, 1901
To be a man means that you are brave, loyal, and true. When you are in the wrong, you own up and take your punishment. You don’t take advantage of women. As a husband, you support and protect your wife and children. You are gracious in victory and a good sport in defeat. Your word is your bond. Your handshake is as good as your word. It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. When the ship goes down, you put the women and children in the lifeboats and wave goodbye with a smile.”Charles Murray, Coming Apart
At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women and children in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.John Piper
What is the take away? The first is that there is such a thing as masculinity and femininity. Compared to Christ we are all feminine. Compared to the world, the true church is becoming increasingly masculine. Relating to Christ makes us more feminine in relationship to him but more masculine in relationship to the world.
Christ is our model of true masculinity. Men and women become appropriately masculine or feminine as they relate to him.
Beholding the glory of the Lord we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another. This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:18
Would love to hear your thoughts.