Act Like a Man

Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Your every action must be done with love.
(1Co 16:13-14)

Ok, so I wouldn’t have caught this if I hadn’t looked into some other translations. In 1 Corinthians 16:13, Paul uses a single word, andrizomai, which is translated in the HCSB as “act like a man”. In the verse in the image, it is translated, “be courageous.” I can attest that those aren’t always the same thing. I suppose in this context, that is it’s intent, for men are supposed the stronger sex, the more courageous sex, and so this verse assumes those qualities. I find it interesting in the text of the verse image, that instead of using “act like a man” it gets to the point of what “act like a man” is intended to mean, to be courageous, lest anyone mistake “act like a man” to be anything else.

But what else could it mean? These days, that is open to interpretation. To act like a man may be an incentive for women to cross gender barriers and act like a man in every way. I had a conversation with a mother a few weeks ago who lamented her daughter’s transition to manhood. She said her daughter had taken up chewing tobacco and considered it a mark of manhood to spit wherever she/ he chose. I doubt Paul had in mind, “spit your tobacco like a man” in this context. I have no doubt some would consider “act like a man” could mean to take on the “macho” persona, much like the above, but to include not caring for others, being fiercely independent (“I don’t need to read the instructions!”) or being a lecherous jerk. In the case of those transitioning to the opposite gender, it is not uncommon to take in the extreme stereotypes (extremely macho or extremely femme) as the standard to shoot for, so that men who are transsexual will put on beautiful dresses and thick makeup, neither of which most normal women do.

Rather, Paul employs this word, used alone here in the New Testament, to describe something else. If you are familiar with the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is also used in an area around Joshua 1 (Dt 31:6-7; Jos 1:6, 9; 10:25) and is translated “be strong and courageous.” In context, this is what God tells Joshua as he is preparing to take the people of Israel into the Promised Land, despite the dangers that he faces. God is telling Joshua to “Act Like a Man” as he prepares for this role of leadership. Besides that use, only Paul uses the word here. The Complete Word Study (AMG International) also supplies this definition on this word here: “to behave oneself with the wisdom and courage of a man, as opposed to a babe or child in Christ.” In other words, behave yourself as a mature adult and not as a child.

I don’t believe that men have the corner on courage necessarily. We apply this virtue to men historically because the dangers of past centuries required men who stood up to evil and fought for good. We still need men like that. And men still need to aspire to this because this is a man’s role in society. He is to defend the home while the woman’s role is to care for the home. But even as I say that, I know that there are always exceptions. And today’s society had blurred the lines between the classical roles. But that really isn’t what Paul is after here.

This command isn’t given to the men in the church, but to the church as a whole. The church includes women. To be alert is something all must do. Likewise to stand firm in the faith and to be strong. To act like men is to be mature and to be courageous in defending the faith, especially against false teachers and in persecution. But he also says that every action must be done in love. This qualifies everything he just said. We must stand firm, but in love. We must be alert to dangers, but in love. We must be courageous but in love. Does this apply to the men in the church? At the very least! Does this mean the women are off the hook? By no means. All are responsible to carry out these instructions because the Christian faith is everyone’s responsibility.

So church, it’s time to man up. It’s time to put on the armor and stand for the faith. If we don’t, who will? God bless you today!

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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