Being a Man – Askrigg Friendly Society – 1 June 2023

Psalm 34 – of David

8Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear (Honour) the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear (honour) him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek after the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the importance of honouring (knowing) the Lord

12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

There’s a story of a man visiting his local GP surgery with a Penguin attached to his head. The Dr asks: “What seems to be the problem?” The Penguin replies … “I’ve got something growing out of the bottom of my foot”

The way we see the world depends very much on our own particular perspective. King David who wrote the words of this psalm some 3000 years ago saw the world in a very particular way and wanted his warriors and leaders to do the same. David is taking his perspective from God himself and sharing it with his warriors, with his men, about the qualities he sees as being important in a man, fighting for what is good and right and just. He’s reminding them that who or what they choose to follow will influence and affect their lives. He’s calling them to follow God’s leadership because David has found Him to be totally trustworthy. A faithful and courageous leader – one that David looks to as a role model.

I love the book of Psalms in the Bible – I always have – perhaps because it’s written by blokes, in a blokey way, about blokey things … Here, David is dealing with issues of leadership and what he looks for in his men.

There’s been a lot of comment about the role of men in the news again recently. How we should behave, think, respond and lead … in a rapidly changing world what it means to be a man is under continuous scrutiny – hardly a day goes by without some new story of a man getting into difficulties because he is deemed to have said, done or not done something that has then caused offence.

I was interested in listening to a podcast interview series by the celebrity Rylan Clark, simply called ‘How to be a Man’. In it he interviews other male celebrities about what they think it means to be masculine in the 21stC. Hamza Yassin, last year’s winner of ‘Strictly’, spoke most positively about the need to be prepared to stand out against the crowd and to have the courage to speak out about the things that really matter; Andrew Tate, the controversial social media influencer currently under house arrest in Romania, gives a very negative picture of what being a man is all about and has been banned from social media platforms for his destructive and demeaning misogynistic comments, whilst Bear Grylls, the man of  action noted for his Christian faith, emphasises that it’s about so much more than just strength or bravado.

The Bible has a great deal to say about what it means to be a man – qualities of honesty, integrity, wisdom, love, faithfulness and courageous leadership feature – especially the courage to discover who God really is and then to have the strength and courage to lead their families and friends into that fuller understanding. That’s a tough call and takes courage and determination.                 It’s not a call to some soft, weak, emasculated and domesticated expression of Christianity. You do not see that anywhere in the Bible and you do not see that reflected in the life of Jesus.

The message of Jesus is one of revolution and that’s why it has always excited me. It’s uncompromisingly forceful and resolutely determined in its mission to change things for the better. It’s tough …. It’s not for the faint hearted – not everyone can hack it – you need courage to dare to explore what Jesus really said, because it’s revolutionary and challenges our perceptions of who we are – real courage comes from realising that the first thing that needs to change … is ourselves.

The American Rock singer Alice Cooper is a Christian. He says the following:

“Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s real rebellion.”

This is what Jesus is calling men like you and me into – into revolutionary activity to change the world into a better place.

The Bible speaks of followers of Jesus as being an ‘unstoppable force’ waging war against evil, oppression and injustice – The call of Jesus is for men like you and me to wise up and to dare to become who we were made to be. Following Jesus is revolutionary. Daring to be different.

The history of the AFS is one of good leadership – Of taking a stand for what is right and good and just. That’s why it was founded; fighting for and supporting the weak and the vulnerable. Daring to be different. It stood up against injustice to help create something new and better.

It’s stood for this in the past, it stands for this in the present and I hope and pray that it will stand for this in the future.

It’s tough being a bloke in the 21st century – those of you with young sons or grandsons are trying to model something healthy to them and know that it’s tough right now, but as a Christian I can tell you that I’m on the winning side and I have the very best role model that there is and I long for other men to discover the same.

The God that King David and so many other men in the Bible write about is one who gives good, strong and courageous leadership and isn’t this what the world needs right now? You and I can make a difference. We would all do well to take notice of Him again.