The last couple of weeks, the news has been abuzz with allegations of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment, assault, rape, belittling, and threatening of women. He was a man of power and rather than using that power for good, he used it to abuse women and please himself.
Accounts of Weinstein’s abuses and the abuses of many other men before him have given rise to a new term: Toxic masculinity. The term is defined to include such behaviors as dominance and devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, hatred of women, and violence. Men can now take Rethink Masculinity classes at such institutes as Brown, Duke, and the University of Wisconsin.
Masculinity As God Defined and Designed It
Let me be clear: I think it’s a great idea to “rethink masculinity”—as long as we’re examining how God designed it. (Another time we can rethink femininity as well. But this post will get very long if we do it here.) Masculinity is not bad as God designed it. Genesis 1:31 even says God thought all His creation (including His creation of man) was very good.
It’s not masculinity that is the problem. Sin is the problem. For example, a man can take the strength God has given him and use it to mug someone and steal from them—or to force himself on a woman. That was never God’s intent. But he can also use that strength to defend his family or his nation.
Jesus As Our Example
When I think of good masculinity, I think of Jesus. Jesus was strong and sometimes He used that strength in physical pursuits—like cleansing the Temple.
Jesus also had a strength of character—courage—that enabled him to not back down in confrontations with the Pharisees.
He expressed His emotions. He didn’t back away from them. Matthew 9:36 tells us, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” When His friend Lazarus died, He wept.
Jesus didn’t insist on having His way. He didn’t push people around to get what He wanted. On the contrary, He served others—even when He was exhausted—even when He would have preferred some time alone.
And here’s the one that really spoke to me in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal: The woman at the well. She probably came to the well at that time of day because there was no one around. But there was this man. . . just the two of them. And while she was curious about why a Jewish man would talk to a Gentile woman, there is nothing—nothing!—to indicate she was afraid He would take advantage of her.
I personally appreciate many men in my life who have used their masculinity—their strength and their masculine perspective—to serve and do good. I see in them the imitation of Jesus. That’s godly masculinity. There is nothing wrong with masculinity. Bad masculinity is bad. Good masculinity is good.