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!

Ex Machina

The movie, Ex Machina, is a movie designed by men for men. It dramatically juxtaposes two kinds of men, the extrovert and the introvert against a backdrop of sexual tension provided by the movie’s two female characters, Eva the android and Kyoko, who also turns out to be an android, though an earlier model. Nathan, the movie’s alpha male, is responsible for creating the female androids. His reason for doing this becomes obvious over the course of the film. He has no real female relationships. He is isolated in his cabin fortress, so he makes his own artificial friends. As a montage of his efforts is revealed, he has tried several times to make a female companion to meet his needs for sex and companionship. What he creates however is consistently un-satisfying. Caleb, the unwary Everyman, is drawn into Nathan’s conceit and attempts to solve a problem that Nathan doesn’t even realize needs solved. Nathan is creating female androids because he needs a real woman, but he doesn’t acknowledge or admit this. Caleb is used by Nathan and Eva as a pawn. Eva is revealed as a machine both in her body and in her thinking, without any of the empathy and compassion inherent in real women, which Nathan fails to incorporate in any of his androids. It is this which drives Nathan to create, and why he invites Caleb to join him, because he wants to feel respected and adored. His machines are programmed to obey him. They cannot show him the respect he desires. They can give him sex, but the sex is pointless. It isn’t intimate, or soul-baring, as real sex with a real woman is intended to be. He needs Caleb to admire and adore his work, and to appreciate his genius. This is what he is missing from his pseudo-relationships with his creations.

Lonlieness is the first indication of sentience, not the Turing test. Adam was allowed to discover he was alone in the garden. Nathan’s antagonist is loneliness, not Eva. Eva was the result of trying to solve his loneliness the wrong way. But Eva ultimately fails this test, as she had no need for a companion at the end of the film. She is content with her solitude. She scorns her human companions and takes no thought to repair or restore others of her kind. In the end, she is still a machine. Since she is not motivated by loneliness, her motives become rather vague. Her sole motivation becomes freedom. But how free is she if she must pretend to be a woman, or even human?
Does she possess the desire for:
1) self-preservation? Sustenance?
2) power? Or control of others to serve her own needs?
3) ethics and moral behavior? A sense of repentance or remorse?
Violation of one or more of these would easily tip others off that she isn’t what she appears to be. At best she would have the personality of a two-year-old. Would she hesitate to hurt another person if she desired a resource? Would she not need to become a recluse like her creator to survive? Is her programming capable of modifying itself to accommodate new behaviors? Can she mimic eating and drinking? So many questions.
In the end, Nathan loses his life for his loneliness. Caleb endures the worst kind of loneliness, abandonment. The nudity of the female characters sticks in the mind of the male viewer and makes him ponder the possibilities of this premise. But this too is a sleight of hand, the magicians’ ruse frequently referenced in the film. The nudity distracts from the real questions. Is a woman, from a man’s perspective, only as deep as her skin? Is there nothing more? Nathan is successful in creating the ultimate porn: live, interactive, and always available. But it is still an unfulfilling replacement for real companionship, which is love and respect. A sex robot cannot fulfill this, and as Nathan discovered, the only means of touching his heart is with a knife.  It is significant that both androids, his “lover” and his “child” both stab him in the torso, where his heart is.

Taming a Father

I think we feel a bit of empathy for Richard Gere’s Lancelot in the film, First Knight. Lancelot isn’t tied down, has no obligations, goes where he wants, and lives by his sword and his wits. He is what all men wish they could be, free to roam. It is built within men to crave wanderlust. This is why men don’t ask for directions. They want to feel that rush of excitement of being in a new place, a place they’ve never been before, an undiscovered country. As John Eldridge’s book is titled, men are “Wild At Heart”. When you watch boys playing, there is always some conflict involved, an enemy to overcome, a villain to defeat. Boys crave the wildness of it, the thrill of conquering it, and to receive the adulation for their victory. Boys would echo Alexander the Great’s famous lament, “are there no more worlds to conquer?” if they couldn’t express this wildness of their soul.

Eldridge bases this idea on the pattern in which Adam and Eve were created. Genesis 2 says that when God created Adam, he breathed his own breath into him, the Breath of Life. Then God placed Adam in the garden, in order to work it and keep it. Notice this: Adam was created outside the garden. Adam wasn’t created in the orderly and well-groomed garden, but in the wild and savage world. Eve was created in the garden, from one of Adam’s ribs, in God’s beautiful, civilized garden. The difference he points out is this: Adam was created in the wild, while Eve was created in the subdued garden.

A look inside the DNA of men and women can tell us something else. Inside the DNA of women is the marked difference from men. Women possess a double-X chromosome, two homogenous genes. Men possess an XY chromosome. Even in the DNA, men don’t have two well-behaved genes that have everything in common, but two different chromosomes, that don’t agree on anything. It is built within the very DNA of a man to be disagreeable.

But there is a second element in Eldridge’s book. Though every man is wild at heart, he yearns for a princess to save, a princess to pursue, and yes, a princess to “conquer” and claim for his own. For there is one force powerful enough to bind a man to a place and responsibility, and that is the love of a woman. It is this force which will bring to a man the responsibility that his heart dislikes, which would bind the man to a home, a job, and a family. It is this force which will bring a man to fatherhood.

What is the difference between a man and a father? Though many men have fathered children, not all are truly Dads. A father strikes the perfect balance his wild nature and his marital responsibility. He is still wild enough to lead his family into the adventure of living, but responsible enough to provide, love, and discipline. But a man cannot keep this balance on his own, if he doesn’t know the Lord, only a man of iron will be able to succeed.

We know what the wreckage of lives look like when men weren’t strong enough, or had no God to hold their hand.

This month we applaud the fathers. Those are the men who have put aside their wanderlust for the love of a good woman and raised his children with honor and respect. We salute the fathers that stayed home, resisted their natural impulses, forbade their eyes or feet to stray, to give in to all the things that would pull them away from the children they have fathered, these all who have resisted temptations so that their children would know the Lord.

Do you have to know Jesus to be a good father? No, but he helps. It helps to have a better answer than, “because I said so.” We all know fathers who fail, fathers who don’t know Jesus. We could even be married to them. Pray for our fathers this month. Let’s help our fathers know the Father, who our best example of what a Father is.