A Field Guide To Being a Man

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

The Jagged Word has always been a place that encourages meaningful conversation about what is happening in the Church as it intersects with, reacts to, and challenges current cultural trends. The friends that make up The Jagged Word and have written every week for the last few years have found that there are some common topics that tend to come up over and over again. While we certainly see topics of all things church reoccur, such as worship or preaching, we have also noticed that there has been an ongoing discussion about what it means to be a man.

Such writing reflects a longing that is common in our age. There is a sense that what defines a man has been blurred and confused. Without intending to do it, the authors below have been conducting their own explorations to uncover something we’ve lost, trying to paint a picture of masculinity.

This collection of essays explores masculinity in an unsystematic way. We’ve found that the various ways we’ve approached masculinity tend to fall into some broad and practical categories in our writing. To be a man means to be free to be what God has already declared we are in Christ: His saved and redeemed men. A man is free. We are free from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Being free, a man is then honored to work for his neighbor’s good. A man also knows that his closest neighbors are those whom God has placed closest to him in his life: his family. And just as a man speaks to and cares for his own, so also a man needs to be spoken to and cared for at times. He needs the mutual consolation of the brethren, a brotherhood. To put it simply, a man needs good friends. Over and over again, we find praise for fun, the love of good fellowship, good drink, and good smoke.

We might well say that being a man looks like 1) Freedom, 2) Working for our Neighbor, 3) Caring for Family, 4) Having Good Friends, and for fun, enjoying Good Smoke, Good Drink, and Good Fellowship.

Admittedly, this may be more of a jagged manhood, but it is the type that we think best describes what we truly long for. In any case, it describes our friends and the other men we have come to respect. And to be sure, much of what we think is wrapped up in a particular theology. We believe that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That means that all men are sinful and unclean. They sin in thought, word, and deed, and they need a redemption and a Redeemer that is outside of them. All men need Christ.

Thus, all men are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, and for the sake of Christ alone. Our salvation is, from beginning to end, to the glory of God alone. None of our works merit anything. All that we add is sin; Christ alone adds all the merit and in turn gets all the glory. We are saved. We are free. We are men standing in the mercy of God because of Christ alone.

Freely, we are privileged to serve our neighbor. When those who are in Christ serve, they do so in love, not from the perspective of fear. However, when those under the curse of the Law who are burdened by death and the power of the devil serve others, they do so from fear. But the free man’s service is out of love. We desire to serve God, yet part of us knows that He does not need our service, and part of us does not know how to serve Him. And then we see those whom God has called to our lives, and we free men see that, in working for our neighbor’s good, we thus are serving God. We have heard it said that when we stand before the throne, the King will say, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

Sometimes it’s difficult for us to realize that serving our neighbor often means nothing more than moving through the motions of everyday life. We are called to serve our families, those God has placed closest to us, even in our homes. When asked “what do these good works look like in everyday life?” often the answer is too simple for some. For me, it often looks like the mornings when I stumble out of bed and make coffee before my wife wakes up. It’s those all-too-rare occasions when I actually remember to pour her cup first, bring it to her, and hand it to her with a kiss on the cheek, telling her that I love her. It looks like men serving their families in love.

Serving our neighbor often means having good friends who serve us in return. It is important for men to have good male friends. In many ways, the importance of having friends in life is ineffable; it goes beyond the words we can use to describe it. We know that the love we feel towards our friends is a gift from God to men. Unfortunately, it is a gift that many men struggle to find and keep. Having good male friends is part of the vocation of being a man.

 

Lastly, men like to have fun. Their joy often comes in ways that are hard for women to understand. It often means hitting each other, making fun of each other, and calling each other horrible names. Free men are secure in who they are, confident enough to give and endure the type of fellowship that dances the line between comradery and insult. These “good times” are often aided by good drink and good smoke. The great authors of the past probably knew this better than we do today. How many scenes of male friendship in great literature are pictures of men surrounded by other men in bars or pubs, all enjoying a good pipe? Think of The Lord of the Rings. As trivial as such things might seem on the surface, this is not the case. These are some of the most critical times of a man’s life!

When men know that they are free in Christ, they also know that they are free to be good neighbors, husbands, fathers, and friends. They are free to have fun enjoying the mutual consolation of their brothers. These free men also know two things. First, they will fail because they remain sinner-saints. Second, they know that when they fail, they are free to flee to the cross of Christ, who has already covered all their failures.

Be the men you were called to be. You are free men who are freely in service to the neighbor, loving family, and enjoying God’s good gifts. Most of all, remember: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

This book is not a systematic exploration of what it means to be a man or how to better live as a man today. It’s not a how-to book or some sort of twelve-step guide promising you’ll lose inches off your waist or grow more facial hair. We are not life coaches. Rather, this is a collection of some of the writings from The Jagged Word over the past four years that have highlighted the topic of being a man in one way or another.

To help you join us in this conversation, we’ve grouped these musings into the five categories referenced above:

  1. Free to be a man
  2. Working for our neighbor
  3. Family
  4. Friendship
  5. Good Smoke, Good Drink, and Good Fellowship

The beauty of this is that you don’t have to read it from cover to cover, from beginning to end. Each article is independent of the next, so you can read around as you wish. Leave it on the back of the toilet or proudly display it on the coffee table. Read a few while waiting at the dentist or digest the whole book on a long flight.

This collection of articles is our attempt to have you join us in this meaningful discussion. Pick a topic or a title and dive in. Of course, you can always interact with us at thejaggedword.com. And who knows, over time, you may very well notice some inches off your waist and your beard coming in a little thicker, but that will probably just be a coincidence.

You can find the Jagged Word Field Guide to Being a Man here:

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