Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. | Philippians 2.5-11
When I was in college, we had weekly speakers come in for chapel. One of them came in to speak to us about the false identity of masculinity. After showing us a montage of scenes from 80s action films (basically the cast of the Expendables), he told us that we had been sold a false vision of what it means to be men (he wasn’t wrong). He then opened up to the Sermon on the Mount and crafted for us a different kind of man, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. The only problem is the way he spoke about Jesus rendered him genderless. What I mean is, his redefinition of masculinity did not show itself to be any different from femininity. It also did not take into account many of the other stories of Jesus that the Bible gives us: like where He got angry and flipped tables (Matthew 21.12-13), or when He verbally crushed the Pharisees (Matthew 12.33-37), or how He will return in glory (Revelation 19.11-16). The Jesus ‘meek and mild’ version of masculinity is just as incomplete as the MMA fighter one, possibly more damaging.
The issue is that men were created to be strong and assertive, but to be these things toward specific ends. Men are to fight against the injustices being forced on those who are weaker. Men are called to protect those entrusted to them (wife, children, community). Men are called to sacrifice toward a healthy environment for others. They do this first by not being an abuser. The problem with denying the strength of men and pushing a narrative of anti-aggression (rather than giving it an aim) is that it finds unhealthy ways to come out. There is a reason why most domestic violence is perpetrated by men. There is a reason why the majority of mass shootings is carried out by men. There is a reason why our prisons are filled with men. We have created a definition of masculinity that is: your strength is bad. Those who succeed at this get really good at doing nothing, staying out of the way and getting along with everyone (filling the pews of far too many churches). Those who can’t control it are labeled ‘angry’ and sent to have it removed; OR find a destructive outlet for their inherent desire to exemplify strength.
This is why the Biblical description for husbands is so necessary. By telling men that they were created to initiate, lead, protect and sacrifice gives a purpose to all of this strength. It isn’t a design flaw that needs to be cured. It is an essential part of how God created the intricate relationship of one flesh to work. We don’t need a purging, we need a purpose. Men need to be strong so that it isn’t so easy for abusers to get away with it.
The fear is that encouraging strength is going to lead to its abuse. Following God’s order makes abuse impossible, because you cannot protect what you are attacking (and vice versa). The only way for us to overcome the abuse of women in our society is to connect male strength and responsibility. It starts with the people of Jesus taking seriously what it means to be strong for the sake of others. Just like Jesus.