An Open Letter to my Sons - A Better Picture of Manhood
Do you ever wonder what the world would say a guy is supposed to be like? Let me help you out. I think Budweiser captures it in one of their latest ads. Their slogan is: “Bud Light, the perfect beer for whatever happens next.” Those few words say a lot. This little slogan celebrates the idea that the ultimate in being a guy is being available…available for a party, available for a good time, available for a ball game, available for whatever. The problem is, in being available, guys are celebrating passivity. They don’t want to plan. They don’t want to lead. They don’t want to be intentional about the future. They want to be available…for whatever happens next.
Now I know that my bringing this up can sound like an old man complaining about the younger generation. Please don’t hear it that way. This is not a generational thing, because true manhood is not a matter of age. The truth is, passivity among males is sadly found at any age, and that is why I am talking to you about it now. I am talking about it because I love you, I know you can handle it, and because I am not raising you to be a guy. I am raising you to be a man.
So what is the difference between a guy and a man? A guy is focused on his image with his buddies or with the girls. A man knows he is created in the image of God. A guy is focused on himself, making himself happy, and getting things for himself. A man knows he is called to selflessly care for others. A guy doesn’t want to work. A man knows that part of being created in the image of God is his call to work in God’s image (Gen 2:15). A guy takes it as it comes. A man counts the cost (Luke 14:28). A man plans for the future, while submitting those plans to God’s design and wisdom (Prov 16:9). A guy views a girl as an object, or a plaything, or someone to serve his interests. A man is called to care for and protect a woman (Gen 2:15), and ultimately to sacrifice his desires, and even his life for his bride (Eph 5:25-27). The model for a guy is found in advertising, most any advertising. The model for a man is found in Jesus Christ (Heb 12:1-3).
Son, I am telling you these things now while you are young for several reasons. First, I have raised you to be able to handle these conversations now. We have talked, and will continue to talk about important things. Manhood is important. Second, you are bombarded everyday with images from the world that would tell you to merely be a guy. Now I don’t want you to think I am trying to isolate you from the world around you. I’m not trying to put a fence around you to keep all the bad things out. Instead, I am trying to pour into you to give you a way to see those messages for what they are, and to help you engage your friends in a way that is loving, and is strong. Thirdly, you will soon begin getting more interested in girls. I want you to feel safe in bringing your questions to me. Believe it or not, I’ve been there. Believe it or not, I’ve learned some things. Believe it or not, I have your best interests at heart. But also know that more than needing to learn from my lessons, you need God’s Word. My desire is to simply walk through His Word with you.
There is another reason why I am writing to you, though. We could simply talk about what it means to be a man, and how God’s Word gives us a different, and a more glorious view, than that of the world. We’ll do that, but when I write to you, I am not merely building in to you, but to your children after you. You see, you are my son. I am your father. God has given you to me as a gift, but He has also called me to be a shepherd over you and a steward of you. That means that I don’t really own you. God does (Ps 24:1). He has simply given you to me for a season. Through Jesus’ saving grace (Eph 2:1-10), our relationship in eternity will be less like father and son, and more like brothers. What I want you to know, is that I don’t simply intend to spend eternity with you as my brother. I intend to spend eternity with generations of sons (and daughters) after you. So while it is too much for you to think about now, I am trying to give you a vision for something you will pass on after you.
I know, this seems like a lot to handle right now. So let’s keep it simple. I love you with a love you cannot imagine, and God loves you with a love that I cannot imagine. You have a glorious heritage which goes way beyond our family. Your heritage goes back to your being created in the image of God. So instead of listening to a beer commercial to hear about how you should live in this world, let’s turn to God’s Word. The world wants to tell you to just be a guy and will encourage you to simply live up to the slogan: “the perfect ______ (you fill in the blank) for whatever happens next.” Instead, let me offer up a Biblical slogan for your life as a man. This slogan is not dependent upon your age. It goes much deeper than age. It speaks to your heart. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor 16:13-14)
My son…be different. But don’t merely be different just to be different. Be different for the glory of God. That means you do what 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 says. Be watchful. Be on guard. Do not be passive. Stand firm like a rock in what you believe. Do not change who you are to make friends. Anyone who would require that isn’t really a friend. Act like a man, not a guy. Be strong. That is who you were created to be. That is who you are becoming. And in all of this, know that your call is not to try and act macho…it is to doing everything in love, because you have been loved. Yes, your family loves you, but more importantly, you have been loved by Jesus (Rom 5:8). And that truth, more than any product slogan, is what I pray will stir your heart to action…and to worship.
I love you,