WHEN THE CALL TO SERVE STRAINS THE IDEAL OF MARRIAGE

Horace Vernet, Jeremiah on the ruins of Jerusalem (1844) (from here)
Horace Vernet, Jeremiah on the ruins of Jerusalem (1844) (from here)

When I wrote WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE MASCULINE?, ColorStorm offered an objection.

Can I just then add CT that while all men are male, not all males are men.

Not quite sure though if the defining factor in manhood is determined by how a man treats a woman, as good as that idea is.

I think of the baptist, John, a man’s man, one not suited for life in the kings soft palace, but a man nonetheless, being sold out for a mission, and willing to defer to One greater, to borrow your words: ‘greater love hath no man than this,’ so it appears he did lay his life down for his friends, although not to put away sin, which of course He could not do. (he laid down his life by speaking the truth at all cost to himself) (continued here)

It is a curious thing. John The Baptist was the last prophet, but unlike the rest he did nothing that looked miraculous. He only announced the coming of the Messiah. In fact, he identified Him. Then, before any called himself a Christian, before the Day of Pentecost, John The Baptist died as Jesus’ herald. Mark 6:14-27 provides an account.

The Beheading of St John the Baptist, 1608 (Valletta Co-Cathedral, Malta) (from here)
The Beheading of St John the Baptist, 1608 (Valletta Co-Cathedral, Malta) (from here)

John spoke boldly. If John had been married, he would have found it more difficult to have spoken so boldly.

There is at least one place in the Bible that God tells a man not to take a wife.

Jeremiah 16:1-4 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 The word of the Lord also came to me, saying, “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place.” For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them and their fathers who begot them in this land: “They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.”

Knowing what was coming, then seeing it happen, the prophet Jeremiah cried over the suffering of his people. Can you imagine his pain if he had had to watch his own wife and children partake of Jerusalem’s fate?

Perhaps the oddest thing in the Bible is what God told the Prophet Hosea to do.

Hosea 1:2-3 New King James Version (NKJV)

When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea:

“Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry
And children of harlotry,
For the land has committed great harlotry
By departing from the Lord.”

So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

Hosea did have a wife, and he did have children, but why did God direct Hosea marry Gomer? We don’t exactly know. What we do know is that God used Hosea’s devotion to his adulterous wife to illustrate God’s devotion to Israel — and to us. In spite of her sin and the way it hurt him, Hosea resolutely sought to bring his straying wife home.

The Prophet Hosea, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, in the Siena Cathedral (c. 1309-1311) (from here)
The Prophet Hosea, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, in the Siena Cathedral (c. 1309-1311) (from here)

So what defines the word “masculine”? Even when a man does not have a woman or when his woman behaves poorly what makes a man “masculine”? Perhaps it has to do with how a man treats a woman or anyone in need of his protection.

  • Because he cared, John the Baptist cried out the need for repentance. He cried out boldly, even though his boldness cost him his life.
  • Because he cared, Jeremiah cried out the need for repentance. He cared enough to speak out even though his own people punished and derided him. He cared enough weep even when Jerusalem would not repent.
  • Because he cared, Hosea married Gomer, and he raised a family with her. He cared enough to forgive and suffer the shame of bringing her back home when she strayed.

God is our Father. He is the head of our family, and He cares about us. He forgives us, and He keeps after us even when we disobediently sin.  Men who would be good men must strive to follow His example.

32 thoughts on “WHEN THE CALL TO SERVE STRAINS THE IDEAL OF MARRIAGE

  1. Men are masculine by nature. Women are feminine by nature.

    So what does “nature” mean?

    What is human nature?

    Though hard to define, human nature becomes obvious when a pig is turned loose during church service.

    We can see with our own eyes that the pig is piggish and so, does not belong in church.

    Men and women are masculine and feminine by nature and the differences between masculine and feminine are allowed to accentuate themselves in civil society.

    Men take pride in being men and women take pride in being women.

    The Bible like all good ancient literature does a great job showing the masculine and feminine traits of the human being.

    It is from the life and times of Jesus that we are taught that:

    1. Women are the will of God (seen through the actions of Mary, Mother of God).
    2. Men are the Word of God (seen through Jesus, the Word of God who became man).

    Word and Will are the masculine and feminine aspects of God as they relate to humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Christ Centered Teaching

      It is curious, but even as you commented, I think silenceofmind answered your objection.

      It seems to me that our God did not make His world so simple. Our biological features make us biologically male or female. Those biological features give us the potential to be masculine or feminine, but our biological features don’t make a male choose to behave like a man should behave or a female behave like a woman should behave. Those biological features alone don’t make a manly man or a womanly woman.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. @Christ Centered Teaching

          There is also a matter of proper instruction. We are not born knowing all we should know. Yet we are teachable and willing to follow the example of our elders. So we need to be taught and shown a proper example. Unfortunately, that is not happening nearly as much as it should.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Had to look that one up.

      I am not here to defend stereotypes of femininity, but to try to focus on the Original Pattern. The first woman was made specifically for the first man, a helper, to meet, respond to, surrender to, and complement him. God made her from the man, out of his very bone, and then He brought her to the man. When Adam named Eve, he accepted responsibility to “husband” her—to provide for her, to cherish her, to protect her. These two people together represent the image of God—one of them in a special way the initiator, the other the responder. Neither the one nor the other was adequate alone to bear the divine image. God put these two in a perfect place and—you know the rest of the story. They rejected their humanity and used their God-bestowed freedom to defy Him, decided they’d rather not be a mere man and woman, but gods, arrogating to themselves the knowledge of good and evil, a burden too heavy for human beings to bear. Eve, in her refusal to accept the will of God, refused her femininity. Adam, in his capitulation to her suggestion, abdicated his masculine responsibility for her. It was the first instance of what we would recognize now as “role reversal.” This defiant disobedience ruined the original pattern and things have been in an awful mess ever since. (from => https://www.crossway.org/blog/2015/06/the-essence-of-femininity/)

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      1. Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’[d]? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? – John 10
        d – Psalm 82:6 says: ““I said, ‘You are “gods”;
        you are all sons of the Most High.’”
        Looks like we lucked out in that equation and are called gods anyway.

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        1. I first read her in 1996 when I was a missionary in south Korea. Came home and ‘ate up’ everything I could read by her. It’s where I learned about Amy Carmichael. Amazing missionary and

          Liked by 1 person

        2. She’s the biggest reason wife and I did Courtship before we married and our marriage has been based on the idea of masculine leadership/initiation and feminine following/response. Of course we are more egalitarian now but we still follow and lead. I lead where she tells me to go… and she’s always telling me where to go, if you know what I mean. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      2. KIA, on the subject of the idea of masculine leadership/initiation and feminine following/response – I don’t see much evidence that is a thing. At the moment, single individuals outnumber married couples and single Christian women outnumber single Christian men in the churches. If it’s masculine to initiate – then a lot of men just aren’t. Some of my co-workers have sworn off marriage and others say they’re waiting for God to introduce “the one” to them. With both men and women waiting on God, there’s precious little masculine initiation and feminine response and a massive number of single men and women twenty-somethings out there.

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  2. Part of the human race; but not the whole of it. Without women/femininity – men and their masculinity is short lived and soon forgotten.
    I’m not a fan of the idea of differentiating levels of masculinity among men, ascribing more honor to a man’s man and less honor to a mommy’s boy or saying that some men are only men but just barely.
    Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7 that believers ought to stay as they are – if married, remain married. If single, remain single. If circumcised, don’t get uncircumcised, if uncircumcised don’t get circumcised. If a master, then remain a master, if a slave, then remain a slave (though it’s good if they can get free.) He was worried that after he talked about how he preferred singleness as singles could devote everything to God that married people would divorce each other in order to live out the holier lifestyle of singleness. So it really should be the other way around: “When Pressure to Marry Strains the Ideal of Singleness”.
    People are all unique, that means that masculinity and femininity is just as unique in all sorts of expressions and modes. That’s why it’s so difficult to define.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Jamie Carter

      You are referring to 1 Corinthians 7, I think.

      Note that Paul was courageous and gave himself over to preaching the Gospel and protecting the people he had taught the Gospel. Although he was unmarried at the time, he exercised a high degree of manly courage.

      We each will have different level of success, but we each must strive to do our best. It is not our place to judge each other or to lord over each other. We must seek to serve, model, and please our Lord, who saved us when we could not save ourselves.

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      1. “Although he was unmarried at the time, he exercised a high degree of manly courage.”
        So manly courage is connected to marriage in some way, shape, or form, but can still be exercised by the unmarried?

        “We each will have different level of success, but we each must strive to do our best. It is not our place to judge each other or to lord over each other. We must seek to serve, model, and please our Lord, who saved us when we could not save ourselves.”
        I think that’s vaguely true – and somewhat true concerning masculinity. Why is it such a vitally important topic when no amount of it, is capable of saving souls in and of itself? After all, Jesus didn’t die that we may have masculinity, masculinity to the full. Jesus’ sole purpose isn’t to restore masculinity or to give extra masculinity to those who have little of it. He’s not here to sanctify masculinity as being right up there with hope, peace, love, humility, faithfulness, that sort of thing. Pretty sure he ain’t here to make sure we all get hitched either.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. @Jamie Carter

          We do not understand God or all His reasons, but I think it is safe to assume God does everything for a reason. With that in mind, consider. God made us male and female. He told us to be fruitful and multiply. Then His Son, Jesus, and His apostles used the ideal of marriage as a metaphor for His relationship with the Christian church.

          So what? A good marriage illustrates how we should love each other and our Creator. Even if we choose not to marry, we should strive to love God and our neighbor with the agape love essential for a good marriage.

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        2. God didn’t tell US to be fruitful and multiply, he told the man and the woman before they had sinned and Noah and his family after the flood. In both cases the world population was under a dozen, tops. Today we’ve reached over seven billion people that are alive at this very moment – factoring everybody who had ever been born and later died – we’ve around one hundred and eight billion people, give or take a few. I think we can safely say that Adam, Eve, and Noah’s family have successfully fulfilled that commandment and we don’t have to continue to keep it as if we were the only people on the face of the whole planet.
          Jesus spoke in parables and metaphors all the time – it doesn’t mean that women should lose coins and completely clean their whole houses to find them, farmers should cast seeds on all sorts of soil, or shepherds should leave behind ninety-nine sheep to go after the one. He tells them to show people what things are like – not create a literal instruction for them to follow. That’s why Paul can write both – a metaphor for marriage and uplift singleness as an option that’s on the same level as marriage, just different. One thing we seem to misunderstand is that metaphor is not a commandment or an instruction.

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        3. @Jamie Carter

          Bible interpretations can be a head-scratchers. When God said “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth”, He literally addressed Adam and Eve. What did He intend us to with that command?

          All I know is that we still marry and have children. And yes, we need to make certain as best we can that we properly tend garden God gave us to be our home. Otherwise, we probably ought to start making some really big spaceships.
          😀

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        4. But the Bible doesn’t say that we have God’s permission to build spaceships and colonize other planets or other earths. Have you ever watched Charlton Heston in Soylent Green? What struck me about that show was the shell-shocked nature of the priest in the face of all the human need – the hunger and homelessness – that he and others like him were powerless to stem the tide.

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  3. Interesting, Tom. I don’t really know what it means to be a man, but I never tire of talking about it. 🙂

    Masculinity is an elusive thing to define. John the Baptist comes to my mind too, and I think it’s his humility, his service, his, “I must decrease so he can increase.” Just beautiful. The Apostle Peter too, he always comes to mind. I think it’s his brash and bold ways, the way he lops off a man’s ear. It was the wrong thing at the wrong time, but it does speak to his protective nature.

    Jesus Christ was the perfect man, unmarried, but what defines Him so well really is His relationships with women, how He treats them, how he responds. I can see His Divinity in that alone, because He just exemplifies a kind of perfection that we women rarely see in human men. That’s probably part of the reason why so many women followed Him. Our culture has kind of created a gentle, more feminized ideal of Christ, but I don’t think that’s quite accurate, I think that’s more about our perceptions of grace and forgiveness, peace. If you study who Jesus is as a man, He is far more complex then that, not feminine at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @insanitybytes22

      If we make being a man all about having the right looks, choosing the right lines, and what the childish call scoring; we miss what is important.

      We can see the superficial by just looking, but that tells us only superficial things such as the sex the sex of a person. We cannot see another person’s heart and mind until we watch them live. To be a man is what we make of being male. To be a woman is what we make of being female.

      To know Christ, we must follow Him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “To be a man is what we make of being male. To be a woman is what we make of being female. To know Christ, we must follow Him.”

        Well said, Tom. I really do believe life is about what you do with what you have been given.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with Tony, very good post Tom. I never really thought about what drives masculinity and femininity but God definitely had a a purpose in making them distinctly separate but also complimentary.

    Liked by 1 person

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