Will Boys Become Men? — Part 2

Is there a manhood crisis in our society? Those who study this subject seem repeatedly to say, in essence, “Yes, in numbers large enough to be troubling, men today are not “manning up.”

They say that too many appear to want nothing more than an easy job that pays well. They observe that many young men seem reluctant to launch a serious career because it would limit their freedoms. Furthermore, for some, the demands of marriage and fatherhood appear to frighten rather than challenge. The path to maturity seems arrested.

Certainly the manhood crisis is not universal. There are brave men who offer themselves freely in service to their country, and many young men from varied backgrounds are committed in their pursuits, including establishing a family, and treating life as a challenge worth pursuing.

Yet, it is a problem sufficiently large that it should engage every local church.

Thankfully, In Jesus we have the example of perfect manhood. Who of us is not moved in reading of Jesus’ strength in the face of severe mistreatment and at the same time his compassion in the presence of those he found suffering? Who is not drawn by his readiness to lay his life on the line for others? What an example to hold before the young!

Even more amazing is his offer to enter the lives of the young in a transforming way. This is called the New Birth or conversion. It is a moment of yielding oneself, at whatever level of understanding one has reached, to become a follower of Jesus. It includes a life-giving quickening of the Holy Spirit. Today I speak to that issue.

Jesus went to the Passover in Jerusalem for the first time at 12 years of age. ( Lk. 2:41-52). When his parents discovered that he was missing from the pilgrim band as it wended its way toward his home in Nazareth, his parents searched for him and found him in the temple. He was listening to the rabbis and engaging them with questions about the faith of Israel. In this awakening he called the temple, “My Father’s house.”

An adolescent conversion to Christ will not completely parallel that moment but a conversion can be a major step in a boy’s life toward becoming a man after God’s own heart. It may be as simple as his saying “yes” at his present level of understanding, or it may involve a complex struggle dealing with an awakening conscience or a resistant will.

In this struggle, the church has a role to play by instructing and coaching — all with patience and persistence. Jesus said, “Feed my lambs” (Jn 21:15) and that is the church’s ongoing assignment.

In the light of all this, a genuine conversion can set the stage for a life that unfolds with purpose and that moves toward a manhood that is strong and resolute. When an adolescent boy is led to know and follow Christ one can’t even guess what the life-shaping, long-term results will be.

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