Updated: Nov 7, 2020
father and son at sunset
Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. – Genesis 2:7-8
Somehow, Father’s Day escaped me, which is odd because I am really grateful for the father I have. When I hear complaints against men in general, I always think the complainers must have had bad dads. Don’t get me wrong. My dad is not a perfect sort, but he loves so much. Love really does ‘cover a host of wrongs…’ (see 1 Peter 4:8), which I hope works in reverse since I forgot.
Men are, in my opinion, the most under-respected people in America today. Yes, I know the feminists howl at that, but who else are we free to mock and malign with impunity? Men are routinely portrayed as hapless, confused, beer-drinking, couch bums. Sometimes, it’s funny, but then, sometimes, dumb blonde jokes are funny. As Dolly Parton is reported to have said, “I don’t mind dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb, and I know I’m not blonde.” But worse than jokes at men’s expense, the essence of masculinity with which they were created and for which men should strive is routinely rejected in our society as we try to make men more like women. Regardless of how hard we try, this project was doomed to fail before it ever started. We should want it to fail for our own good.
After forming the man from the dust of the ground, the Lord God breathed into the man the “breath of life.” The breath of life sustains all of creation – the animals, the vegetation, everything. But only the man received the breath of life from God Himself. This “breathing the breath of life” into the man nostrils gives the man a soul and a conscience. He becomes a sentient being, self-aware. Most importantly, within the man is the echo of God. As in Genesis 1, the close connection between God and human beings is clear. No other created thing receives the breath of life from God – only man.
We call the first man Adam, but in reality, Adam is a form of the Hebrew word adamah meaning dirt. Thus, before Adam was a formal name, the man was called something sort of like man of dirt, a reference to his origins. Adam, then, prefigures Jesus Christ – Son of God, Son of Mary. He is “of the dirt,” and his life is the breath of God. That is important to understand because a great deal of what Jesus does and accomplishes for our salvation corresponds inversely to what Adam did and accomplished leading to our fall from grace. God’s ruler over creation, formed from the dirt, became the dependent subject of creation, at the mercies and whims of a creation held in bondage to sin – sin that came into creation through the man. Repeatedly, Jesus acted to reverse that relationship, restoring the order of creation as He exercised authority over creation.
The creation of Adam teaches us about the meaning of masculinity. Adam was placed in the garden as the caretaker. He is responsible for the garden’s flourishing. In the image of God, the man is the created king of creation, ruling in communion with the Lord God, manifesting God’s care under his dominion. What a lovely vision, but how far it is from how we experience rule and dominion today. Nonetheless, this was God’s intent, even as He knew rebellion against Him would bring an abrupt end to paradise.
When we speak of man as kings of creation, we must see kingship through the lens of Christ Jesus, the King of kings, the crucified King. His reign is that of Servant, the One Who lays down His life for the salvation of the world. This is the kingly office of men today and in all preceding and following generations. To be God’s man, a man is called to lead by laying down his life after the example of Christ. He takes dominion over creation by offering creation back to God and helping creation toward its designed function and end, which is praising and glorifying its Creator.
Ephesians 5 becomes clearer when we read that “women are to submit as to Christ, and men are to lay down their lives for their wife.” This whole passage offends modern sensibilities. But we are not modern people. We are God’s people. The church has confused the two for far too long. We are created to submit to one another. The creation of man is the creation of a noble, responsible, sacrificing being – a being who is intimate with his Creator, able to walk and talk with Him, and to serve as His appointed governor or representative ruler in creation.
As we know, Adam cannot do this alone, not even in companionship with God. Adam needs woman in a way that many women no longer understand and or even try to understand. Men are by nature protectors, providers, defenders, and guardians. That is who God made them to be. Women can be all of these things as well, but we must learn and cultivate these traits in ourselves. Women are not less than men by enjoying being feminine. Women are simply different from men, and that is good, because women have the capacity to draw out authentic masculinity in men.
Confusion reigns in our society in so many ways, seemingly, on every front. One of the greatest tragedies of the last century is the confusion born of the intentional, focused assault on all things masculine, even as women sought to become more like men in thought and practice, while decrying masculinity as the great evil. It is not. The qualities of masculinity are wonderful and necessary, though they are just as susceptible to sin as are the qualities of femininity. Even so, our thought is wrong when we try to diminish masculinity. Masculinity does not disappear from boys and men when we deny it. Rather, when suppressed, masculinity becomes perverted, but never erased. The problem with men is not that they are masculine, but that they are infected with sin. Not surprisingly, this is the same problem with women. The God-given essence of masculinity bestowed on Adam can be seen in men throughout the ages into today, but we see it in its sinful expressions, which are myriad. Yet, at the same time, the masculine reflects God just as the feminine does, and we gain nothing by pitting one against the other or trying to collapse both into one.
On Father’s Day, when I realized it was Father’s Day, I gave thanks for my dad. In fact, my sister and I have commented more than once that we were fortunate to have the father we did. He set the bar high, and he expected us to reach it – no excuses. He didn’t much care whether it was our brother or us. He expected the best at all times from all three. That was equality in our home. I suspect that is equality in the household of God, as well. He wants our whole being, the best we have (and the worst) all the time. I am also certain that the Lord has more patience with our disobedience than our dad did, but we were well-served in the long haul by our dad’s high expectations.
The world needs Christian men in the likeness of Christ. Indeed, every generation has needed men like Christ – men who rule by serving, who exercise dominion by helping creation to fulfillment, who lead by laying down their lives. These qualities require ferocious strength and determination and are not attained by accident nor by mockery. Yet, these are marks of the godly and noble character of God’s man, seen perfectly only in His Son.
But for those who strive so to live, I salute you. Belatedly, but I salute and give thanks for you.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau ã 2020