Let me start by saying that I love the Art of Manliness.
If you’re unaware, the Art of Manliness is a website run by Brett Mckay that is devoted to all things manly. And if you’re a man, you should visit it regularly. It covers everything from men’s fashion to whittling to surviving an avalanche to Hemingway. It is refreshingly devoid of near-naked women and it rejoices in the classic idea of a rugged, sophisticated, compassionate, competent man.
For years I’ve enjoyed reading their articles and gleaning from their manly wisdom. It’s changed the way I dress. It’s changed the way I shave. It’s changed the sorts of books I gravitate towards. It’s increased my love of movies starring Steve McQueen.
I shave with a Merkur.
Nearly my entire wardrobe is interchangeable.
I don’t buy shoes that won’t last a decade (unless they’re Converse).
I read Robert Frost.
I always carry a pocket knife.
I avoid Maxim magazine and anything having to do with Megan Fox like it’s the plague.
And I think Ron Swanson is the greatest thing to happen to T.V. since they canceled “The Man Show”
What I appreciate most about the Art of Manliness is their commitment to a higher ideal of manhood than 6 pack abs and the UFC. They are concerned about how a man conducts himself, how he treats women, how he stewards his possessions, and how he cares for his family.
But, I have one critique to offer. And I offer it because I care. I hope that anyone involved in the Art of Manliness who might read this will be encouraged and not offended. I hope they will be encouraged to look at manliness through the lens of the Bible. And the Bible has a lot to say about being a man.
The one critique I have is this:
Even though the Art of Manliness offers an alternative to the weak and image driven vision of man to which our culture subscribes, they still are only offering an alternative. They are simply offering a different way to do manhood.
A different way to dress.
A different way to act.
A different set of values to live by.
They do not offer some thing deeper, something lasting.
The guy who wears skinny jeans to every event and the guy who idolizes his six pack and the guy who goes hunting in the outdoors with his kids are all going to die. And their stuff, their clothes, their toys, and their way of life will end with them.
If you don’t offer a deeper and more eternally satisfying way of life, then you are not offering anything better than anyone else. It will simply become another way to enjoy life from open to close.
But the Bible offers a better alternative, one that leads to a life full of joy for eternity.
The prophet Micah explains the way in which a man is supposed to live his life. In Micah chapter 6 verses 6-8 we read:
“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
The people of Micah’s day lived life for the image of godliness. They offered sacrifices and performed rituals as generally prescribed in God’s Law, but they did so without a true understanding of what made someone right before the Lord. Micah explains here that what truly pleases the Lord is to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly before the Lord.
How does this apply to the art of being a man?
It describes the way in which a man should live His life, and it does with an outward, inward, and upward understanding of things.
To do justice. This is a popular phrase today. A lot of people talk about “social justice.” They talk about it so much that I’m not sure how our culture would define it. I think what people generally mean is that we are to care for those who are in need. And who can argue with that?
To do justice means just that. It’s what the Apostle James calls “true religion,” to care for orphans and widows, the most needy of our society. But it goes deeper than simply caring for people’s physical needs. Scripture reminds us constantly that we are all in great spiritual need. Jesus goes so far as to say that we are spiritually bankrupt (poor in Spirit).
Our care for people, our “doing justice” should involve caring for people both physically and spiritually. They are to be done together. The example that Jesus sets for us is exactly this. When He healed people, He always addressed their sin or their faith. He wanted people to understand that their physical needs are a symptom of their much greater and much more dangerous physical needs. This is our call as well, to do justice by seeking to help people physically, and by showing them their great need for spiritual healing through the grace of Christ.
To love kindness. This is about what we value. What sort of person are we on the inside. Do we love divisiveness? money? arguing? trouble? Or does our life reflect a deep love for kindness? It’s interesting that such a tender quality would be associated with true manliness, isn’t it? I mean, what is more tender than to be kind to someone?
This displays the sort of attitude we should have, one of kindness toward others. Why? Because the Lord has been so kind to us. If we understand our true natures as the Bible suggests, then we know that we are not worthy of much kindness. In fact, we are worthy of wrath. Yet God is kind with us, He sent Jesus to take our wrath so that we might receive grace and life forever.
A heart that displays love for something other than kindness is a sure sign that you have misunderstood God’s grace to you, or that you have misunderstood how great your need is for God’s kindness. He gives it in abundance to all who come in need of it, and our hearts will show how well we understand this. God wants kind men.
To walk humbly before God. This flows right out of the other two. If we understand our great need for grace and if we understand the kindness God has shown to us, then we will walk humbly before Him. Humility is not a trait that is associated with the manliness of the world. We are taught to be proud, self-made, confident men.
But God would say differently. He would say that to achieve greatness we must humble ourselves. To live a life of true manliness involves giving glory to God for His greatness, not robbing Him of glory to make ourselves look great. Humility is the true mark of manliness. It displays a true understanding of the grace God has shown to us in Christ.
In a world that values bringing attention to ourselves, it is the man who draws other people’s attention to the greatness of God who understands that true nature of manliness and therefor is truly a manly dude.
This is my bid for a new section on the Art of Manliness. I don’t think I’ll get hired, but I hope that what comes across in this post is a love for all things manly and a love for the God who has called men to be those who defy cultural norms and follow the path of a wandering desert preacher who made no complaints or excuses as He hung and died in the place of those who did not deserve such grace.
That’s a man.
That’s my King.