Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr Connect on YouTube

A Model of Manhood – A Reflection on a Text from St. Paul to Timothy

April 24, 2016

This post is based on a talk I gave to a group of men in Scranton, PA. I preached out of a text from St. Paul to Timothy, whom St. Paul considered a son in the faith:

But as for you, O man of God … Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen (1 Tim 6:11-16).

I. Our ChaseBut as for you, O man of God … Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. First of all, note that the personal pronoun used is “you.” I even looked this up in the Greek text to verify the translation. So “you” here means you, you personally. This mandate is for you, not merely for others who don’t have their act together as well as you do and who need to hear stuff like this. So, man of God, pay attention, God the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.

Note, too, the phrase “man of God.” Our world often values a concept of manhood that is very different from what God expects. In this world, men are often esteemed for being rich, physically powerful, or socially well-connected. But what does it mean to be a man of God? As you might expect, it means something far richer and deeper than the externalities of the world. The Man of God is to be strong by being “of God,” by having his heart and soul anchored in the Lord and what the Lord expects of him. In so doing, he will be strong and an anchor for those he loves; they are depending on him to be a true man, not a passive husband or father, not a weak leader. Inner strength needed for this.

What are some of the qualities that God the Holy Spirit emphasizes in this passage? What are we to pursue? Let’s look at the initial list in this verse:

Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosune)) – When we hear words like righteousness or justice, we tend to think only in a legal sense. But in the New Testament righteousness has a more of a relational sense.

Righteousness is the gift of God whereby we are restored to a right relationship with God. It is the state of him who, by God’s grace, is as he ought to be. The righteous man has his heart set on God. He wants what God wants. He loves and desires God. He loves who and what God loves.

In so doing, his relationships with others are also right, proper, and just.

But at its heart don’t miss the relational dimension of this. Righteousness is no mere legal imputation. It is being in a right relationship with God. And relationship change us. Who of us has not met someone who changed our life? Maybe it was a teacher who inspired us, a co-worker or employer who opened doors for us, a woman whom we later married. If mere human relationships can be life-changing, how much more so can being in a right relationship with God!

Pay attention here: the normal Christian life is to be in a life-changing, transformative relationship with God. It is to be in living, conscious contact with God and through that to be changed by into the very holiness and righteousness of God, with whom we walk in an increasingly close, tender, and powerful way.

Jesus knew his Father and tenderly called him “Abba.” Because of this, Jesus feared no other man. He was strong, steadfast, loving, and clear. He was merciful but uncompromising. Jesus loved what His Father loved, whom His Father loved, and in the way His Father loved. This relationship (I refer here to his human nature) is what made Him strong, and a man among men. He was not, as some are, easily swayed, confused, or conflicted. Jesus’ firm and clear relationship with His Father steadied and made proper all His relationships with human beings.

Strong men are in a clear and deepening relationship with the Lord God. And by this they are in proper and right relationships with others.

Godliness (eusebeia) – This means piety or reverence (from eu (well) + sebomai (venerate)). The Godly man walks with a reverence, with a proper and holy fear of God. The Fear here is a holy fear, not merely a cringing fear. It is a fear that holds God in awe and deeply respects Him. Out of love and respect, a man does not want to offend God; and so he walks in reverence among his family, friends, and co-workers.

Out of deep love for His Father and (humanly speaking) a holy reverence, Jesus walked among His people with an absence of human fear and without the need to flatter others. Even His enemies said of Him, Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances (Matt 22:16).

If we want to be men like Jesus, we must first have a holy fear, a reverence. If we fear God in this way, we will increasingly fear no man nor will we fear any weapon drawn against us.

 

Faith (πίστις (pistis)) – This means to believe, to be persuaded. The root meaning of the Greek word pistis here is to be persuaded, to be moved to conclude something based on sound reasoning and proper judgment. God engages our intellect with His truth. The man of faith, through the gift of faith, rightly assents to these truths.

But note, too, that a merely intellectual assent, if it is true Faith, leads the man of God to trust. For if what God has said is true, then we are called to base our whole life on it and to walk in that faith. The truth, the Word of God, is not merely informative; it is transformative. And thus, to the degree that we accept it, our life and what we do begin to change.

The man of faith says, “Lord it is enough for me to know that you have said this. And even if it is hard or if I don’t always know every detail or outcome, I am going to follow you and obey you. Lord, I trust in you and the surety of your word and your promises.

So true faith results in the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5) and will thereby change our life by increasingly conforming it to the truth of faith.

Though He did not need faith, Jesus surely showed forth the obedience of faith. He never sinned and He kept His Father’s will, even when that obedience cost Him His life.

How about you?

Love – The gift of love (agape) is the gift to have a divine affection for God. By this gift, the man of God loves Him with reverence, but also with a tender and filial affection. God is my Father and I love Him! I really love the Lord. I know what my Heavenly Father has done for me and I am moved to great affection for Him who has been so very good to me.

This gift unburdens our walk. We do what God wants not because we have to but because we want to. Love lightens every load. By this gift, the man of God loves Him as well as what and whom He loves. If God wants it, I want it.

Most of us know the power of romantic love, which can move us to make great sacrifices and overlook many faults! How much more does divine love (agape) move us to undertake any number of things simply because we love God.

As He went forth to die, Jesus said, The world must know that I love the Father, and I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, then let us go from here (Jn 14:31).

Is your love this real and this practical? Does your love provoke you to sacrificial acts for God and for others? Do you love God more than your own comfort and your own prosperity? Do you love God more than your very self?

Steadfastness (ὑπομονή (hupomone)) – This literally means to remain under. And thus God enables the believer to remain under or endure the challenges He allots in life.

Life is hard and the challenges are many. We will either meet those challenges or cave under them. In this sense, life is a test. In hardship, we discover what we are made of; we learn where we are strong and where we need growth.

Our culture prefers to remove or defer challenges. Many parents are too protective. Schools want to remove tests and have reward ceremonies in which no one is overlooked. Ordinary boys are restless and full of “spit and vinegar,” but they are pressured to be more like girls and are medicated if they do not comply. Competition and winning are downplayed. Many never reach maturity or purity in their life let alone their faith.

But God, as a good Father, still extends challenges to us. Even if the world no longer esteems mature manhood or challenges us to be men, God does. But this means challenges, and it requires of us a steadfastness that produces greater perfection.

Jesus had much to endure and labor under in this world. But as a true and perfect man, He persevered and never wavered—all the way through to the end. And from His glorious throne Jesus says to us, In this world you shall have tribulation. But have courage, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). And we read in the Gospel of Matthew, He who perseveres to the end shall be saved (Mat 24:13).

Are you steadfast? Can you remain under burdens until the Lord shall deliver?

Gentleness/Meekness (πρᾳΰτης (prautes)) – This is a virtue whereby we master anger and do not compromise justice or truth (though in a meek or gentle way). Aristotle described this virtue as the proper middle ground between too much anger and not enough anger.

Indeed, there are some things that we should be angry about. But we must master our anger and direct its energy toward the good. Our anger must be our passion to set things right.

The meek and gentle are not weak; they are strong and can master anger and direct it to good ends.

Jesus was angry a lot. But it was a productive anger, whereby He manfully set His face to Jerusalem like flint and would not turn back until He had vanquished pride by His humility. Scripture says of Jesus that we should fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2).

Yes, out of anger (a productive and pure anger) Jesus took up the battle for us. He scorned the threat of suffering and led us over the hill of Calvary to Glory.

Have you found a good fight? Are you “angry” enough to endure it?

II. Our Contest – The text says, Fight the good fight of the faith. The Greek word used here for fight is πρᾳΰτης (agonizomai), which means to struggle as if engaged in an intense athletic contest or warfare.

We have already set the stage for this in the discussion on gentleness/meekness above. The point here is to understand the good fight. We are very quick to debate and to get passionate about sports, politics, issues at work, etc. But most of this is a “yawn fest” compared to the true battle between Satan, the Red Dragon, and the people you know and love. Satan is after your wife and children. He wants their souls and is working hard to corrupt them and rob them of faith. He is subjecting them to endless temptations. He is seeking to corrupt their minds; and frankly he’s pretty good at it. What are you doing about this? What are you doing about your own mind and the battle for your own soul? This is the good fight. If you find a good fight, get in it.

Scripture says that Jesus saw a large crowd and pitied them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. He taught them at great length and went out to the cross for them.

What is your fight? Are you fighting for your children and family? Are you fighting for people you love? Are you growing in your own faith and helping others to do so?

This is the good fight, the fight for faith!

III. Our Cause – The text says, lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In other words, actively work to acquire the life that Jesus died to give you. Seize it and don’t let go. As a servant leader and as the high priest of your family, help others to do so as well. Imbue your children with the faith. Read Bible stories; teach the faith; insist on what is good. Be the spiritual leader of your home.

IV. Our Charge – The text says, I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach.

Repent of your sins and allow the Lord to purify your life. The commandments are not mere abstract rules. The Commandments and the whole moral tradition are a picture that the Lord is painting of the transformed human person.

Therefore, let the Lord transform you and present you to others as “free from reproach,” that is, free from criticisms of hypocrisy. Let the Lord paint the picture of holiness and transformation in your life.

V. Our Crown – The text says, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

We have a King who is all-glorious and who has shown us the way. We must make this journey unto the end when we shall see Him in all His glory.

Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such are the men who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob
(Ps 24:3-6).

Filed in: Uncategorized

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. edraCRUZ says:

    Monsignor, you are right as always. We have been cowards and relegated our manhood and fatherhood to the environment like schools, government, friends of our children, even to our wives and just about anybody else, as long as we will not be bothered and hide in the guiles that we are working to feed our family and say we have more important things to do than rearing our children (as though it is not the most important thing to do). Our society is in so sorry a state because we as fathers did not bother to know what really is manhood and fatherhood and horribly and miserably failed to gain our children’s confidence with us. Thanks for this and we bless you. We still have time and must work hard to bring our family to wonders of faith and let them realize that there is more to life than these secular activities. St. Joseph, patron saint of fathers, help us. St. Michael, the Archangel, fight with us.

  2. Mike says:

    Thank you Monsignor Pope for coming to Scranton/Wilkes Barre this past weekend. I also grew up in the “Beige” church of the Seventies and remember it well. You gave a truly inspiring talk! The part about today’s secular society reducing our manhood to a more effeminate standard really rings true. With God’s grace and our perseverance of never removing ourselves from His Will, we will fight the good fight I assure you. God Bless you!

  3. Edward Short says:

    Words of great encouragement from which all fathers of families can benefit. Thank you, Monsignor Pope. God bless you.