Outrage and offense operate on a rotational basis these days. Every few weeks there is a new story, event, or report that leads to a certain segment of people feeling insulted, while another segment of people belittle the anger of the offended. Most often, it seems, the segments are distinguished between conservative and liberal. This trend only serves to further cement us in our polarizing positions and strengthen the barriers between us. The reality is these barriers are not walls. They are more like noise-canceling headphones that make us inept at listening to anything that is not blasting directly into our ears.  We have entered into a time, and have been here for quite some time now, in which any opinion I don’t hold is inherently offensive. Every thought or idea that might challenge my conviction on a certain topic must be automatically belittled and disregarded. All tribes are guilty. Week by week a new issue is at the forefront, with the outrage shifting from tribe to tribe. This most recently manifested in response to an advertisement produced by Gillette.

Gillette, a shaving company that targets men, seems to target men in a way that they never have before. Rather than focusing on their product (the best a man can get), they focus on the conduct of their consumer base saying, “Is this the best a man can get.” They intertwine images of men at their best with images of men at their worst. The implication being that masculinity, if left unchecked, is toxic. As many things do now, this implication has struck a nerve. Many can agree that companies taking up social or charitable issues for the purpose of increasing sales (it is an advertisement) is completely disingenuous.  The main problem with this ad is that it is an ad.  However, if we can forget the source, and look only at the message, we will find that the implication is true. Masculinity, if left unchecked, is toxic.

One reason for the outrage over this message is that it feels like an attack on our identity as men. Manhood is a status that young boys aspire to. We know that it’s possible to be an adult male and not be a Man. There is a point in time where I went from being a boy to being a man and it had nothing to do with my 18th birthday. This is why so many cultures in history have a right of passage tradition to celebrate a boy becoming a man. Manhood is a deeply rooted aspect of our identity, as it should be.

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Genesis 2:7

Manhood was God’s idea. He gave man life, gave man identity and gave man purpose.  According to God, man is to play a role in filling, subduing, and having dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). Man is also to work, as God worked, for the good of the world (Genesis 2:15). Man, God gave you an identity and purpose when he created the world. God, wants you to be a man that lives that purpose with power and strength. However, we revolted against God’s design and purpose.  

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

The Creator gave the created instructions on how to thrive in creation. The first man (Adam) neglected his responsibility to creation. In doing so, sin became the defining feature of manhood. Masculinity, if left unchecked is toxic.  Due to sinfulness, that is now inherent in all manhood (and all mankind) man has a toxic nature that naturally brings about death. The power and purpose that God gave us at creation we use to seek our own pleasure rather than the good of the world. This doesn’t always show in the grand evils (sexual assault, abuse, violence, bullying) that are shown in the Gillette commercial. More often than not it’s much more subtle than that. It’s a slight leaning toward being harsh with your kids. It’s a pride that might be nearly invisible to other fallen people.  

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

When addressing men, Paul, uses all of the “typical” phrases. Be watchful, stand firm, be strong. These are all things that we rightly associate with manhood and masculinity. However, he also tells men to “Let all that you do be done in love.” Why would he address these things to men (we can all agree that all people are to demonstrate these qualities) unless men have a natural tendency to fall short of these qualities. In addition, Paul tells fathers…

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4

Does this mean that mothers are free to provoke their children as often as they want? There must be a reason that he directs this at fathers. There must be something about men, in general, that causes us to tend towards harshness rather than instruction. There must be something in us that distorts what it means to be a man. Masculinity, if left unchecked, is toxic.

The Man Everyone Wants
If there is one thing that this Gillette ad, in conjunction with the growing cries of “toxic masculinity,” demonstrate it is that our society longs for better men. We long for a more complete man. We want a man who is both strong and tender. Powerful and graceful. Fierce and Loving. If there is ONE thing that is clear it is that, though we might not know it, we long for Jesus. Jesus is the one man to perfectly embody everything that God intended man to be. The King of Kings that stepped off of his thrown to suffer for the good of his subjects. The perfect man that traded his perfection for your imperfection. The man that drew lines in the sand, confronting those casting judgement while protecting the judged.  The innocent man that willingly, in love, died so that you can live. Masculinity, if left unchecked, is toxic. Jesus is a better man. Jesus is the perfect man. Jesus is the man everyone wants.