Friday, July 26, 2013

Man's Greatest Fear

SCRIPTURE: Genesis 1:27
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: July 26th, 2013
"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Gen 1:27)

Real men?
(Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein/20C Fox/AP)
What do you mean by real men? If we were to buy what Hollywood is offering, real men tend to be those who spot a macho moustache like Tom Selleck; a muscle heavy body builder like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone; hairy-chested males like the star of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman; or the dashing superstar with a boyish look, Tom Cruise.  Maybe it is the Lone Ranger type individuals like James Bond,  who seems to be able to single-handedly defeat foes; or the sole heroes in Superman or Batman. Look at all of these examples carefully and one will be quick to notice how great looks and super-skills dominate the definition of the masculine hero. Maybe Cruise and Selleck are the famous "ladies' men," while Jackman, Schwarzenegger, and Stallone let their muscles do the talking. Are these the only real men in the world? Of course not.

A) What is "Male?"

If we press for an answer what precisely is masculinity, we will probably be challenged to go beyond the physical and the external. What then is masculinity? Biology classes will teach us that men are people who have both X and Y chromosomes in their genes. Genesis tells us that Adam was created first, and Eve then created out of Adam's rib. In Genesis 1:27, the word for male is "zakar" which Larry Crabb calls it "to leave a mark, to make an impact." Tying it back to the Triune Godhead, he points out that what makes a man a man, is how "he bears God's image" and impact the lives of people. A man is one who is weighty enough to make a difference in another person's life. This is different from "throwing one's weight" about, which refers to boastfulness and authoritarianism behaviours. Zakar is about influence. It is about living impactful lives in the Name of God.

Danger of People finding Fulfillment in Busyness of Work

If that is true, then man's greatest fear is essentially the opposite of Zakar. Crabb calls it "weightlessness." Rick Warren calls it the lack of purpose. I call it the loss of self-identity. When we fail to know who we are, what we are created to be, and the purpose of living, we will tend to doubt ourselves. For males, they tend to be people who adopt the mantra: "I do, therefore I am." A major problem is this: When people let their work and their accomplishments define their identity, when the flow of work and accomplishments end, there goes their identity.

B) Problem: Lack of Self-Identity

If the workaholic finds his self-identity being dissolved in his work, the other extreme happens to be those who loses their self-identity simply because they do not have any work. Living in Vancouver, I have met many immigrants from Asia, and one of the common observations is that the men tend to do worse than the women. One person stays home while the wife becomes the main breadwinner. Another volunteers part time while depending on handouts from the government. Some force themselves to take up entry level jobs despite them having top qualifications and solid work experience in their home countries. Some decide to cut their losses and head back to Asia to find work. A number of people who linger on go into depression. Those who survive the first five years testify to how tough it is to find work, meaning, and self-identity.

When one's self-identity is challenged, it affects one's self-esteem, the family, as well as overall perspective of life. How then do we regain our sense of purpose and of identity? We go back to the source: Our creator. For if God is the one who has created us, surely He knows who we are and what we are created for. This is the critical starting point of life, failing which men will fall head long toward more and more "weightlessness." Work or the lack of work thereof cannot be allowed to define who we are. Both leads to one or more of Crabb's "weightless men."

C) Three Types of "Weightless Men"

Crabb, in his latest book highlights three types of weightless men:
  1. The Shallow Man
  2. The Secularized Man
  3. The Spiritually Addicted Man
The Shallow Man is one of indifference, preferring shallow comfort instead of meaningful struggle. The Secularized Man tries to live a life that is independent of God. What is most intriguing in Crabb's list is the "The Spiritually Addicted Man," who are confused about their sense of priorities, getting a wrong sense of their deepest needs, and thirst for things temporal and easy.    

"Spiritually Addicted Men display power over people through whatever resources they have that win respect and admiration" (Larry Crabb, Fully Alive, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013, p123)
Weightlessness will cause men to fall into one or more of the three categories.  The common symptoms are: not knowing what to do; unsure of oneself; inability to make any difference, thus the indifference; total lack of purpose in life; no relationship with God. Looking at Genesis 1:27, one cannot help but notice the important need to get back with God to God's original plan. When God made man as "zakar," there is purpose and there is a divine self-identity. Man is created to make a difference.

D) Masculinity of The Fourth Kind

Thankfully, there is a fourth category that Crabb is arguing for: The "Sincerely Struggling Man." Such a person will recognize one's limitations, embrace one's weaknesses, and ready to throw himself at the feet of Jesus to ask for help. He knows how formidable sin is, and as he tries his best to be holy, he will often fall and fail. He will however not give up trying. He is broken inside but hopeful that God will heal him from the inside out. He may fail on the outside, but he knows that what matters is not how the world sees him, but how God sees him. He may continue to struggle and the trials will seem to storm unabated, but he knows who holds the future for him. He knows the need to exercise faith. He is both realistic and optimistic, knowing that both needs to be centered on the Person of Christ. Realistic like Jesus who willingly risks his own life for the greater cause. Optimistic like Jesus because far greater than the greater cause is the perfect promise of God.

What makes a man a man is one who will not quit on the eternal hope and promise. Like Billy Graham, who states with conviction about hanging on to God's promises.

"God takes the weak and makes them strong.
He takes the vile and makes them clean.
He takes the worthless and makes them worthwhile.
He takes the sinful and makes them sinless." (Billy Graham)

It is this promise that ought to energize men of God. It is the promise that is incarnated in the Person of Christ. This promise is fulfilled in the death of Christ. This promise will continue to be resurrected when Christ comes again. One more thing. Remember the word "zakar" for "male?" Christians who do not know what to do with their lives, ought to consider seriously their role with regards to gospel living. Carry the good news. Spread the message of Christ far and wide. Talk about Jesus. Brave through the skepticisms and criticisms. Be sure of one's faith. Be so focused on Christ, that nothing can deter us from testifying. Can we dare ourselves to offer our utmost for God? Once we start living more and more for things eternal, and less and less of things temporal, we are on our way to a great run for God. Counter man's greatest fear of weightlessness, but hanging on to what CS Lewis calls: "The Weight of Glory" in Christ. History is full of people who in spite of their weaknesses make a difference for God. Think of Augustine's Confessions, whose classic book of the same name has warmed the hearts of thousands. Think of King David's honest psalms, that have guided the prayers of millions of Jews, Christians, and others. Think of the brave prophets in the Bible, and the men of faith in Hebrews 11.

If you think you cannot make a difference, you are probably right. What we need is to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. That is the basis of weightful living.

The world has yet to see what God can do in and through and for and by a man whose heart is totally His. I will do my utmost to be that man.” (D.L. Moody)


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