“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)
As a man and a Christian, I’ve been given some heavy burdens. In a society characterized by a long history of male privilege, that may sound like a strange statement. Nevertheless, it’s true.
In the first church I attended, I learned that to be a man is to be a leader, a provider, and a protector. I learned that it was my responsibility in church to discern truth from error. It was my responsibility to accurately and effectively convey this truth. I was responsible to shepherd God’s people, and even to apply biblical discipline when needed. Evidently, something about being male made me a suitable candidate for these responsibilities.
Someday, God willing, I would be married. Maybe we would have children. My wife’s spiritual health would be my responsibility. Providing spiritual leadership would be my sole responsibility as the “head” of a Christian home. I would also be the bread-winner for our family, earning enough money to provide for all of our needs. I would have the deciding vote regarding all major life decisions, regardless of my level of knowledge or experience with a given issue.
Failure to shoulder this burden was referred to as shirking God’s call on my life to be a servant-leader to my family. The Bible and the commentaries I was reading seemed to confirm that these responsibilities were God-ordained. Though I accepted what I was taught as “the infallible word of God,” and believed that it was communicated to me by godly men that I could trust, I began to have questions.
The longer I was a Christian, and the more I thought about these issues, the more the questions multiplied:
-What is it about being a man that makes me uniquely qualified to discern spiritual truth from error?
–Why was I asked to lead Bible study when I had only been a Christian for a few months, and some women in the group had known Christ for many years?
–If I got married, wouldn’t my wife be responsible for her own spiritual health?
–If I was responsible for everyone else’s spiritual development, how was I to ensure compliance with God’s will?
–Will I find a job that meets all of our family’s needs in a society shaped around a dual-income household?
–While I’m working all of those hours, how will I effectively provide godly leadership to my wife and children?
–What does it mean to be a “protector”? Can I prevent harm from coming to those I love?
Thankfully, when I went to Bible college, I began to find answers to some of these questions. Most of the answers were in passages that had somehow been overlooked in my earlier discipleship.
I learned that Jesus alone is our Leader.
“Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ” (Matthew 23:10, NASB).
I learned that God is our Provider.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33, NIV).
I learned that God is our Protector.
“Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:24, HCSB).
I learned that each person is responsible for his or her own spiritual health (with God’s help).
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13, NIV).
I learned that Christian men and women are meant to function as equal partners.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NIV)
What about all of those responsibilities I was taught are my duty as a Christian man? As much as I searched the Bible for commands that I was to be a leader, provider, and protector because I was male, I simply couldn’t find them. Someone had given me the job of being God!
This left me wondering, “What in the world does it mean to be a Christian man?”
I found the answer to this question in the words of Jesus: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35, NIV).
With the help of God—my leader, provider, and protector—I’m learning just how much I am loved; and I’m learning how to love others in this way.
His yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
For more on how biblical equality impacts men check out these posts from the archives.