What is a ‘real man’? Are men even different to women? And if we are different, do we have any specific role to fulfill in relationship? Perhaps I should justify why it’s important to read on. Consider these global stats (www.fathersforlife.org):
40% of children live without their biological fathers. In the cities this figure goes up to 80%
85% of children with behavioral problems come from fatherless homes.
90% of homeless children come from fatherless homes.
63% of children attempting suicide come from fatherless homes
Most of these stats come from a book written by assistant Professor for political science, Stephan Baskerville, from Howard University who summarizes the issue this way:
“Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherlessness….violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide—all correlate more strongly to fatherlessness than to any other single factor.”
These are more than just empty stats. To those who have grown up without a dad or with an absent father you know firsthand that much pathology social, psychological and spiritual is rooted in the role men play in relationships.
Different by design
The Bible starts off by establishing that real men are different to real women. Simple, yet insightful. In Genesis 1:1 God creates the earth. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all involved in creation. The Father leads, the Son is the submissive agent through whom everything is made (John 1:3) and the Holy Spirit is actively helping (Genesis 1:1). In verse 27 God creates them “male and female”. They are different by design. They are both made in the image of God but they are different; complementary. I heard a talk by Dr. Tim Keller tell how psychologists know that baby boys are innately different from baby girls.
Research shows that, for example, when little boy babies approach an obstacle they try to push it over.
While baby girls approach an obstacle they go around it.
When 6 month old girl babies have jazz music played to them their hearts beat faster.
When boy babies hear it they just ignore it.
Keller concludes by quoting second stage feminist author Carol Gilligan who wrote ‘In a different voice’; Gilligan did lots of research trying to find out whether men and women who share the same jobs do them in the same way or in different ways. And her conclusion is basically that they don’t do it the same way:
“men see themselves as maturing as they separate. Women see themselves maturing as they attach. Men see themselves as maturing as they separate, become independent and make impact. Women see themselves as maturing as they attach themselves, as they invite one another into networks and become interdependent. Men, therefore, have the gift of independence. Women therefore have the gift of interdependence”(Carol Gilligan)
Ultimately she concludes that women are better than men!?
But I’d like to suggest it’s just that we are different. What is better? What always works?
Interdependence or independence for success?
Answer? Neither and both.
We are different but because we both share the image of God we need each other. We are different yet equal. We are designed to complement each other. One is not better than.
He made them different and by verse 16 God starts to treat them differently. To the man he gives the command not to eat from the forbidden tree. He makes the man functionally responsible, a gatekeeper or pastor if you will. And when they disobey God who does he go looking for? The Man (vs 9)!
George Barna did some research for a programme called ‘Faith at Home’ and asked what percentage of teens have a regular dialogue with their father on faith/life issues? Only 5% of American Christian teens do. I doubt it’s any higher in Cape Town.
Fathers are supposed to be responsible for giving identity to their families. Adam names the animals and he names Eve (Genesis 2:19, 23). Parents name their children and essentially give them a very big part of their identity. We live at a time when so many people are looking for identity. God’s plan is to use men and fathers to bring this identity. Fathers shape identity in their absence or in their presence. Something like 80% of everyone in South African jails is fatherless. You may be struggling with your identity because your dad was absent, passive, tyrannical or he wasn’t around at all. And if that’s you, you need to know that God is your Father and the church can become your family.
Ultimately Jesus is the perfect man. He came to show us what God is like. He is the man who comes to reveal to us what a true man is. He is neither passive like Adam who did not protect his family from sin. Nor is he tyrannical as many men are as a result of the fall, neither needy nor tough, absent nor brute, chauvinist nor bully. Jesus is loving. Loving enough to leave heaven’s throne, search the world for you and patiently disciple you, day after day. And yet strong enough to face rejection and the excruciating cross. He alone is our hope. While we may disagree on many points of gender issues, we must agree that Jesus ultimately is the one our hearts long for. The grand Designer. The God Man. He alone can transform our sin-stained and marred identities into its original grand design.