Oorah! Most will recognize this manly yell as coming from the soul of the United States Marines. While my wife and I served with the Third Marine Division, I as a Navy Corpsman, the thought of being a Christian didn’t sound very manly.
The conventional view of manliness includes adequate physical strength, combined with an adequate degree of intelligence and the moral qualities of courage, discipline and perseverance. In connection with this idea of manliness, all of these virtues are compatible with pride as seen in the self-development philosophy of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
But, become a Christian? Was Jesus of Nazareth even a manly man?
In brief, Jesus Christ obviously had a lofty degree of excellence when it came to physical stamina and intellectual ability. History records in Luke 2:40 that Jesus grew physically strong and was filled with wisdom in his human dimension while being the God-man. Combined with intense moral courage, he physically cleared the temple grounds of the unscrupulous religious predators of his day in Matthew 21:12-13.
As for his endurance, it is enough to quote from the historical record of Philippians 2:8 that Jesus was obedient unto death, even the horrific death on a Roman cross. Thus, the Christ-like life is far from that of being a sissy, though the exercise of aggressive courage is always consecrated to the furtherance of noble ends, leaving no room for pride. Case in point: “turn the other cheek” (i.e. “absorb an insult”). The call to practice Christian manliness is seen in the courage of endurance and self-sacrifice much more frequently than in aggression. Such a life does not court danger, but faces it when it comes.
Therefore, God can honestly exhort the followers of his Son in I Corinthians 16:13 to “be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, ACT LIKE MEN, be strong.” As Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll says, “Rose gardens and pillow fights went out with the flood. These are rugged days ... for tough hides and tender hearts.”
Such a man was John the Baptizer, in Matthew 11:7-8, where Jesus sarcastically asked the spectators (I’m paraphrasing), “Did you come here to see John, a sissy?”
Consider the 16th century Scottish reformer, John Knox, of whom it was penned upon his death, “There lies one who never feared the face of man.” And how about the grizzled trapper, Jedediah Strong Smith, the Bible totin’ mountain man? He was called ‘Diah by his loving Christian father, and saw more of the West 10 times over than Lewis and Clark, with Jim Bridger thrown in to boot.
Dale Morgan, Smith’s biographer, calls Jedediah “an authentic American hero” as a Christian. ‘Diah loved the Lord Jesus Christ, was always clean shaven, and was the only one to receive an issue of soap before the southwestern expedition of 1826.
The mural in the Capital Building of South Dakota shows Jedediah holding the first public act of worship in that state. He is depicted officiating a Christian burial for his comrades who fell in the Arikara massacre of 1823.
Then there’s the famed grizzly bear mauling of Jedediah when the diarist wrote, “What was to be done, none of us having any surgical knowledge,” as the men sewed ‘Diah’s left eyebrow, right ear, and scalp back in place without anesthesia. As for the ear hanging by a shread of flesh, the Cap’n ordered, “Stitch it up some way or other.”
Are only sissies Christians? No. In fact, they are the highest style of people because they are copies of the perfect model.
For to even become a Christian a person has to be man enough, so to speak, to humbly own his personal sins and turn away from practicing them. He has to be man enough to make amends where needed. He has to be man enough to cry out to Christ to be merciful and to save him. He has to be man enough to do all of this without fearing what others might think.
And by God’s inner strength, he has to be man enough to walk forward into his new life, being “on the alert, standing firm in the faith, ACTING LIKE MEN, and being strong.”