2019-04-15
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Toxic masculinity has been making the news lately. It's become such a term in our society, that it has shown up everywhere from American Psychological Association publications to the online dictionary of slang words, Urban Dictionary. There tends to be some confusion on what the word actually means, but at its core toxic masculinity refers to actions and behaviors of manhood that cause harm to both men and women.

What would the Bible have to say about toxic masculinity? God has clear visions of what He believes is a good person, and lays out those standards for His children. Men can rise to the occasion and be the best version of themselves through understanding God's teachings.

What is toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity can be defined as "a social science term that describes narrow repressive type of ideas about the male gender role that defines masculinity as exaggerated masculine traits like being violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth. Also suggests that men who act too emotional or maybe aren’t violent enough or don’t do all of the things that 'real men' do, can get their 'man card' taken away." This can include things such as bullying, harassment, and believing notions like "boys will be boys." It refers to masculinity that encourages aggressive and violent behavior and discourages emotion and self-control.

It is also crucial to note that toxic masculinity does not mean that all masculinity is toxic. For example, murder would require a degree of bravery and risk-taking which are typically thought of mainly traits, but so does the job of being a firefighter. What separates the two is a how they are applied.

What does God say about being a man?

The Bible says that everything God created is good when used for a good purpose (1 Timothy 4:4), and that includes God’s created pattern of male and female (Genesis 1:27). The Bible does not say there is anything wrong with masculinity, but there are behaviors that are toxic.

Scripture debunks all notions of toxic masculinity by condemning inappropriate behaviors and applauding positive ones. There is no better example of real manhood than Jesus Christ. His example, as given in the Bible, not only confronts over-masculine attitudes, but it also shows how it’s possible to express male traits in a positive way. These are attitudes and behaviors we should be promoting in the Christian church, and teaching our sons from an early age. Our teenage boys, especially, should be encouraged to promote this kind and strong behavior that Jesus Christ displayed.

Jesus was unafraid to show His emotions (John 11:35), and yet He was also willing to chase crooks out of a temple with a whip to protect others (John 2:13–16). Christ cared for the needs of others (John 6:5–13) and demonstrated compassion (Mark 1:40–41), sensitivity (Luke 10:38–42), forgiveness (Luke 7:44–50), and humility (John 13:1–16). At the same time, He exhibited bravery (Mark 11:15–18; Luke 22:39–46), righteous confrontation (Matthew 23:13–36), proper judgment (John 4:15–18), boisterousness (John 7:37), self-control (Matthew 4:1–11), and even playfulness (John 1:47–48).

More generally, God’s Word speaks against those attitudes that are truly toxic. Scripture denounces domineering (1 Peter 5:3), greed (Hebrews 13:5), promiscuity (Romans 13:13), selfishness (Philippians 2:3), arrogance (Romans 12:3), vengeance (Romans 12:19), and so forth. It extolls the value of love (John 13:34–35), openness (Galatians 6:2), gentleness (Galatians 5:22–23), and peace (Romans 12:18), while promoting strength (Ephesians 6:10), bravery (1 Corinthians 16:13), respectability (Titus 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:7), and boldness (Ephesians 3:12; Titus 2:15).

Why should Christian men care?

Toxic masculinity has been a big topic of concern lately, due to many feminist waves hitting the nation. There is a lot to be concerned about. For instance, we live in a world where one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes, and we know that 90 percent of perpetrators of sexual violence against women are men.

This is important for the Christian man to learn about, understand, and ponder on. Writing in USA Today, Kirsten Powers states: “When a man speaks up about sexual harassment, it carries a different kind of weight than when a woman says it. If men feel they are risking the respect of their colleagues and fellow men, they are more likely to alter their behavior than if they are confronted by the office feminist.”

Promoting a biblical model of masculinity leads to a greater respect and appreciation for women. Attempting to make men and boys just like women and girls isn't the correct point here. It’s been said that God did not create women to do everything men can do, but to do everything men cannot do (Genesis 2:18–24). Celebrating the unique and precious gift of femininity isn’t possible unless we also celebrate the appropriate way God wanted masculinity.

In the masculinity embodied by Jesus, there is room for every man except for the toxic ones. The stereotypical definition of masculinity has run its course. Some men are assertive, while others are collaborative. Some are “the strong silent type,” but others are loud and expressive. All are welcome in God's eyes, as long as they continue to stand strong in their level of integrity.

A truly biblical approach to manhood is not toxic nor should it be labeled as such. Toxic masculinity refers to some terrible things that men can do, but it is not the standard God has set for them. The Bible clearly lays out exactly the type of person a man should be, and it's important to follow His guidelines.