watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be
strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
exhorts the Corinthians in his first letter (16:13-14).
We live in a
day that often lacks a clear understanding of biblical masculinity. Society does not
offer a strong definition to boys of what it means to be a man.
The examples in pop culture, sports, and politics often show weak and pitiful models of sensuality, selfishness, and foolishness.
However, the church,
and more specifically, Christian fathers, can carry the torch of challenging
the next generation to be godly men.
So if the
Bible challenges us to “act like men,” we should be able to answer
definitively, “What is a man?”
Lewis’ excellent work challenging fathers to raise their sons to be godly men
influenced me a great deal several years ago. Focus on the Family airs Lewis at
least once a year, and I commend his resources to you:
For my sons,
I crafted the following definition of manhood (modifying Lewis’ definition and
making it my own):
What is a
1. A man reflects God’s image consistently.
2. A man relates to his family and
3. A man rejects passivity.
4. A man accepts responsibility.
5. A man initiates and influences his
culture and world positively.
6. A man draws his strength from the
And for the
Wilson family, I came up with this acrostic to define manhood:
W – Worthy of
Initiates and influences others for God and good
L – Loves and
S – Sharpens
his character, skills, and strengths
O - Open to
God and meaningful relationships
N- No to sin,
selfishness, and Satan
Teenagers or Young Men?
of teenager never appears in the Bible.
American culture created an entire sub-culture for what we call
teenagers, but the Bible speaks only of children and adults, or men and women.
The book of
Proverbs, written to young men probably ages 12 and above, challenges these
young men to grow up to be godly, wise, and responsible.
Understanding this transition, Jewish tradition practices the bar mitvah. When a boy turns thirteen, the community celebrates
this passage, marking the milestone of beginning the slow but sure
transformation from boyhood to manhood.
son Dawson turned thirteen two weeks ago. As part of the rite of passage, I
invited several men I consider to be good, wise, godly, and responsible. These
men’s lives have intersected with his in different ways.
for supper at the restaurant of his choice – Milano Pizzeria in Simpsonville,
South Carolina. After a great supper and enjoyable conversation, I challenged
Dawson with the above definition of manhood.
asked each man to prepare a few brief remarks. We went around the table,
allowing each man to share Scripture, challenge, and/or exhortation with
Dawson about what it means to follow the Lord and become a godly man. What a joy to hear each of them encourage and exhort Him from their lives and from God's Word.
supper, we gathered around Daws in the parking lot, laid hands on him, and
prayed over him.
I hope he
looks back on the evening as one more solid memory that encourages and
challenges him to be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be
strong, and let all that he does be done in love. And, if the Lord tarries, I hope that 200 years from now there will still be Wilson men who know what it means to be godly men and who challenge their sons and grandsons to become such men.
Thursday night was Cosby night. Growing up as an '80's kid, I looked forward to watching the life of the Huxtable family on Thursdays.
TV Guide wrote that "Cosby" was "TV's biggest hit in the 1980s and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre." They ranked TCS as #28 in the top 50 Television Shows of All Time and Cliff Huxtable #1 in their top 50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.
My family enjoys watching TCS on DVD. Currently, we are watching season two. Besides having to get over the fact that it has been more than thirty years since it first aired, I see the show through a lens now that I missed in the 1980's. "Cosby" is a remarkable work of art. It was an incredible effort of Bill Cosby and company to present a healthy, happy, successful African-American family. This was not Sanford and Son, Good Times, or The Jeffersons. "Cosby" was The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie - only set in modern times in a black family that was living the American Dream. Cliff, a doctor, and Clair, a lawyer, afforded an upper-middle class lifestyle to their children. Extremely well-rounded, the couple enjoyed everything from participatory sports, Jazz music, art museums, and junk food. Bill Cosby's collection of fine, African-American artwork was often used in the series, decorating the walls of the New York townhouse. The show was a subtle, but firm, cultural statement. It was a way to celebrate a healthy, wise, and positive black American family.
At the heart of the show is the love and respect of family members. Cliff and Clair wisely shepherd their children, administering proper authority, discipline, affirmation, correction, and warmth. They challenge their children to excel. They require their kids to face consequences. And they shower affection on each other, like the famous "zerberts" that the show made into a cultural phenomenon. A zerbert, or ZRBTT, is a sloppy kiss, when you blow air out and make a loud sound.
Yes, I enjoy having my children watch the positive show. My sixteen year old even commented, "It is so nice to see a strong, good dad on tv." Good old Cliff Huxtable.
In recent days, my heart aches when I see the daily headlines regarding the ongoing trial of Bill Cosby. The reason for the trial does not need repeating. You have been under a rock if you are unaware of the accusations against him. As of the writing of this column, a verdict has not been issued. However, as Samuel Jackson said, when there is that much smoke, there has been a fire.
Cosby admitted to having sex with various females to whom he was not married. The Bible has some words for that behavior - fornication, sexual immorality, or adultery. We have heard in recent years of Cosby's numerous trips to hang out with his buddy Hugh Heffner at the Playboy mansion. The Bible has a word for that too - stupid. Bowley and Hurdle of the New York Times write, "In
recent years, Mr. Cosby, 80, had admitted to decades of philandering, and to
giving quaaludes to women as part of an effort to have sex, smashing the image
he had built as a moralizing public figure and the upstanding paterfamilias in
the wildly popular 1980s and ’90s sitcom 'The Cosby Show.' "
Though I know it is not fair to expect an actor to be just like the person he plays, I do believe that anyone in the public eye has responsibility to set a good example. And the greater your place of influence, the greater your responsibility of setting that example.
I cannot get out of my head the image of Cliff Huxtable. Would Cliff walk away from his love affair with Clair to chase after numerous women? Would Cliff, who enjoyed friendships with many influential and exciting people, run out on weekends to check out the Playboy mansion?
Pastor Jack Hayford shares in his book "Fatal Attractions: Why Sex Sins are Worse than Others" that though certainly forgivable, sins of a sexual nature carry long-term consequences physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and socially. Their affects far outlive the passing pleasures.
I believe there is still cultural value in The Cosby Show. Art can stand alone in spite of its artist. However, regardless of the outcome of a trial, the legacy of Bill Cosby is forever tainted.
The Greeks used masks in their dramatic performances. These masks hid the faces and expressions of the real people. The root of the biblical Greek word for hypocrite means stage actor, pretender, or dissembler. The Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy. They claimed great piety outwardly, yet they were "white-washed tombs." Their inner life did not match their outward claims.
Growing up, my mother occasionally warned me from the Old Testament book of Numbers. I still can hear her say, "Son, you may be sure that your sin will find you out" (32:23). In other words, don't be a fool. You can only hide dirty laundry for so long. If you choose to continue in wrong behavior, it will catch up with you, and it will often become public information. That is the nature of sin.
That can keep us humble, motivating us to keep short accounts with the Lord. Cosby's fall is astonishing, "capping
the downfall of one of the world’s best-known entertainers."
If I could ask Bill Cosby just one thing, it might be, "What would Cliff do?"
"At the end
of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not
winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not
spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent."
– Barbara Bush
Photo by White House Photo Office, courtesy George Bush Presidential Library and Museum (http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/image.php?id=2721) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Daddy, come outside and see my piñata,” my nine-year old
exclaimed on Sunday afternoon. After a long, full morning at church on Easter
Sunday we then spent several hours with my mother who was recovering from knee
surgery. Finally home, it was nice to just crash for a while.
Dawson led me outside to see his latest creation. My
creative boy had drilled holes into four of his remaining Easter eggs and
strung them together with yarn.
“Help me find a place to hang these in the woods and we can
have a piñata!”