In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.
~ Rabbi Hillel, Pirke Avot 2:5
A college professor tells how every spring he can count on having a stream of students come to his office for the annual Identity-Crisis Whinge.
“Professor, I don’t know who I am, I need to take time off to find myself. I need to peel back the layers that society has imposed on me and find out who I am at my core.”
He says that he’d love, just one time, to be able say, “What if you peel back all the layers and find that you’re an onion, with nothing at your core?”
Are You Your Roles, Or Something More?
There is a kernel of truth in the whinging of these collegial snowflakes (and yes, I know “snowflake” is a microaggression; I just don’t care.) There are roles for us that we are to grow into as we mature, as we move through the different stages of our lives, but instead of whinging about these roles, those who truly mature grow into these roles and learn to embrace them.
I get that I am an imperfect commentator on today’s society, but I’m pretty sure that much of what we are seeing from these whinging snowflakes is the desire to be like Peter Pan and never have to grow up and assume the responsibilities of being an adult. Instead of seeking to acquire skills to make a living for themselves and for any family they might create, what we are seeing is a collective flight from reality.
Starting with my generation, a rebellion against the “expectations of society” rose up, and society’s so-called norms were flouted as old-fashioned Puritanism. Instead, a follow-your-bliss mindset began to be propagated and was embraced by increasing numbers down through the following decades. We have finally arrived at the point where we are seeing the creation of a generation fleeing responsibilities of making a life.
I think that one of the reasons that Christianity is so unpopular with contemporary society is because it makes demands on its adherents to grow and mature in their faith, which includes assuming the roles and responsibilities of caring for yourself and for others. And by caring, I mean actually working for their benefit and support.
There is no other way to interpret such statements as:
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10)
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Tim. 5:8)
The Role We Should Accept, And Gladly
Pure and simple, Christian men have roles and obligations that they have to grow into, as they mature and become men.
The quote at the beginning of this article is one that I’ve come across recently in my readings about the historical context of Christianity. It comes from the Pirke Avot, (The Ethics of the Fathers,) a collection of rabbinic teachings that predate Christ. Rabbi Hillel is considered the greatest rabbi ever (that’s why you will find Hillel Houses on most college campuses) and is obliquely referenced in the Gospels. (You will have to read my Scarlet Letter series to see his significance.)
I could attempt to tick off a list of the different roles that Christian men are called to fulfill: disciple, son/father, husband, church member, etc., but I would face the same difficulty of one preacher that I know of. He was asked by a man to give a list of sins that would keep a man out of Heaven. He refused to do so, saying, “I might accidentally leave off yours off the list.”
Instead, I’m just going to say that Christian men, be they meek or macho, must realize that there is a call on their lives to serve God and those whom God places in their lives. The apostle Paul studied under Rabbi Gamaliel, who was the grandson of the Rabbi Hillel I quoted, above. Given that rabbinic teaching was handed down from rabbi to disciple, and so on, it’s probably a given that Paul learned by heart, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”
The reason I believe this is because the teaching showed up in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians…
“When I became a man, I put away childish things.”
It would be impossible to attempt to dictate what constitutes being a man, and I’m not going to try. But we do know that the Bible places on us the onus of growing in our faith and into roles of service and responsibility. If we can accept the moral strictures of Christianity, it shouldn’t be so hard to understand that we have a place within the societal structures of Christianity, as well.
After all, someday the older generation in the church is going to be you. It’s for darn sure that Peter Pan will have to grow up then.