My good friend Julia Bickley wrote a piece on a YouTube video that’s been making the rounds (as of today it had 350,533 views) called Who You Are: A Message to All Women. Julia makes some great points about this piece, and I asked her if I could write the rejoinder for the men’s side (which has had 131,000 views). So here it goes. I’ve embedded the actual video in the page for reference.
I found this video on one level refreshing, calling men to be men. There’s enough out there to deny men their God-given, innate push to be men. In the place of godly masculinity, the culture-at-large has sought to feminize men and to declare that there are no differences in the genders. Anima does well to declare that men are strong, brave, courageous, and powerful. The passionate declaration against not only a culture of foolish deception but also against a Deceiver who would destroy manhood is admirable. At many points I found myself cheering for this clip, rightfully agreeing on how God has designed men. I was thrilled as he lays out a vision for manhood that accomplishes something, produces something, defends someone, wins, achieves, and makes his life count. And as the Anima group seeks to engage artists and give them a platform for Kingdom effectiveness, I applaud that.
However, at another level I found this clip to be like the fake pair of Beat by Dre one of my students bought on a mission trip, or the pair of Foakleys I bought in Chicago once in middle school. In an e-mail exchange with Julia, I remarked that I felt like I had read this before, Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. Just like Dr. Seuss’ work, the emphasis in this piece is YOU, and in many ways it plays like the gospel of self-esteem we’re surrounded with on a daily basis. Everything about this clip played out about who you are and what you can do, and makes the declaration that “there is a man inside you who is waiting to burst forth to change the world, and your responsibility is to set that man free.”
In one vein, this deserves a hearty yes. But at the same time, I can’t help but ask the question “Where is Christ in this?
Ephesians 1:3-14 is a run-on sentence to make any English teacher cry. But in that passage, Paul does what Anima also does, call out who we are. The difference is, in Ephesians everything about identity is tied to the person & work of Christ. The crux for Paul is our union with Christ. That’s all throughout Ephesians 2, where Paul lays out our identity before and after Christ, focusing on Jesus as the center of our being. It’s not about who we are. It’s not about what we can do. It’s all about who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and what Jesus does in us and through us. Only in Jesus are we freed from the chains and restraints of sin, foolishness, and the Curse to fully pursue the life and purpose God has for us.
On our own, we aren’t the men that God has designed us to be. We fall into apathy, laziness, indecisiveness, inertia, followership, and at the worst we fall into machismo, lustful pursuits, viewing women as objects, and avoiding our responsibility as a father. Only as our hearts are transformed by the redeeming power of the Gospel are we really able to release the “man inside us” that can change the world. Anything else is going to be the same as building a ladder to the moon, a noble effort but doomed to fail.
Does our world need changing? Absolutely. The news headlines every day declare to the world that all is not well. Where will the change agents come from? I firmly believe that will be from men finding their purpose and calling to be men, but they won’t find that within themselves. They’ll find that from the Man of all men, who not only showed us what manhood really is, but who changes the hearts of guys to turn them into men. The man inside us is not really inside, He sits at the right hand of the Father, calling on men to repent and trust in Him, and allow Him to change their hearts, equip them, and empower them to do what God-called and God-empowered men have been doing for hundreds of years, turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6).