[This review was originally written for my congregational newsletter].
For these last several years as Father’s Day nears I’ve looked for books to help[This review was originally written for my congregational newsletter].
For these last several years as Father’s Day nears I’ve looked for books to help me grow and reflect on my vocation as father and husband. Last year’s book “Being Dad” by Scott Keith still has my recommendation as I have revisited many chapters in that volume recently. I have to be honest I almost balked on this year’s book simply because of its title. I confess that I judged a book by its cover. The title “Man up! The Quest for Masculinity” sounds like a corny chest-beating self-help book that will include tips for beard grooming and power lifting.
Well, I was surprised once I started reading. The author, Jeffrey Hemmer, does have a substantial beard. I think he also is into weight lifting. Yet, he does not suggest what so many other books about masculinity do by asserting that the cliché archetypical burly-bearded male is truly masculine. In fact, he’s quite critical of any cliché thinking regarding the subject. This is not a book that tells men to assert their masculinity against a feminized culture and to force others to accept them. Rather, the thesis of this book is quite simple. Real masculinity starts with giving of yourself for the good of those around you and in your care.
“Man up!” directs all men to put their hope in the one and only Man who is truly masculine. This Man never failed His bride. This Man never shirked His responsibilities or forgot His mission. This Man never did anything for selfish motives or self-serving ends. This Man was willing to suffer for others no matter the pain or cost. This Man protected His fellowman when all others would have retreated. This Man, is the “Man Up” on the cross, Jesus Christ, who is the perfect example of masculinity in a self-centered culture.
Throughout this book Hemmer compares and contrasts the true masculinity shown in Christ with the effeminate sinfulness of men. When you hear the word effeminate, you may think only of men who act womanly and are physically weak. The effeminate can look like that, but the word means more than that. Hemmer explains that the Greek word for effeminate, is “malakia”, this is the anti-masculine man. The effeminate man is any man who is self-serving and self-indulging. He is a weak man because he is selfish in all things. Therefore, men that look and act in way the culture consider “manly” may still be effeminate, because they are still immature boys who only think about themselves. Effeminate men do not give of themselves by selflessly serving others. Hemmer spends a lot of time ironing out all the ways the sin of being effeminate rears its ugly head in our lives and culture.
Hemmer warns his readers early on that this is the reason he hates his own book. He hates that he even has to write it because modern men have lost so much of true masculinity. He also hates it because it points out weakness and softness in himself. He knows that this book will offend his readers because it offends him. It holds men accountable for their unloving and unsacrificial behaviors. This book points out how we men have been poor sons, brothers, fathers, and leaders.
He does not leave us condemned though. The entire book is a Biblical tour-de-force which consistently shows God’s ideal for masculinity and how Jesus Christ fulfills it. Hemmer walks you through numerous Biblical texts that forgive your sins and challenge you to see Jesus for who is He is, the God-Man who came to save you. Time and again Hemmer will point you to man’s only hope, Jesus Christ. And by doing so he encourages the reader to live confidently in their baptismal identity as real men who give of themselves for the good of those they are given to serveC
Finally, Hemmer does pepper his book with a lot of practical advice. The last two chapters are dedicated to outlining what masculinity looks like. Hemmer’s manifesto can be divided with the words pray, love, give, and fight. The masculine man is a man of prayer who paradoxically becomes strong by recognizing his weakness and depends on God. The masculine man is a man who knows that God has given him to love outside himself and has given him a wife, children, family, co-workers, and a community to serve. The masculine man is a man who gives of himself and approaches each day asking what he may do to serve his neighbor. Finally, a masculine man is a man who fights for a purpose, whether it’s to make sure his team meets the deadline at work or defending his family from false teaching about Christ or defending his nation on the battlefield.
I look forward to reading this book with my sons when they are older. I also plan to add it to my reading recommendations for all men, but especially young men and new husbands. It is challenging. It makes men take a hard look in the mirror and see how sin has caused them to fall short of true masculinity. Yet, it also rebuilds them in their Christian identity and gives them encouragement to “Man Up!’ and follow the truly masculine Man, Jesus Christ, as they serve others in their vocations. ...more
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