Our western culture places a high value on competition. Whether it be sports, business, or simply hanging out with friends, it can be hard to resist the urge to come out on top or to look the best. The male gender especially enjoys challenging their peers and friends to take things to the next level in order to impress, entertain, and flaunt their “manliness”. Although the concept to “man up” is not a bad thing, it often times draws upon our selfish desires such as personal wealth, fame, and prestige. Furthermore, our culture mistakenly places more value on personal profit, performance, power, popularity, pleasure, promiscuity, and possessions than it does character, integrity, service, faith, piety, sacrifice, worship, or chastity.
At my church, there is a men’s event that is called “Man Up”. The men’s gathering has the purpose of uniting the men of the church together to encourage each other to “man up” to be the Christian men and leaders that God has called us to be. As I contemplate what it means to “man up”, I find that it can have different meanings in different contexts.
I can imagine an army sergeant, a coach, or a personal trainer, yelling at their subjects, MAN UP! In this context the phrase is intended as a sort of battle cry to inspire greatness from within oneself, to endure, to overcome fear and pain. In this context, the phrase would encourage physical and mental strength. This could be honorable.
I can also imagine the same phrase being used at parties among teenagers, young college men, and even adults, as a type of peer pressure with the intent to spawn the compromising of morality when in fact the yielding to such a challenge in this context displays cowardice and weakness. One such challenger might say something like, man up and watch this movie, come to this nightclub, or take this drug. The tempter in this context seeks personal satisfaction at the expense of the compromiser. This could be ignoble.
However, as a husband, father, and most importantly a follower of Jesus, I must ask myself what it really means for me to man up. What would Jesus imply if He challenged me, or implored His disciples to man up? In this context, I believe it means to serve and to sacrifice. This is most admirable.
I believe that Jesus challenges His followers, us Christians, to “man up” in a way that is counter culture. In the context of a Christian man (or woman), the challenging phrase “man up” carries the opposite meaning than what the world attributes to it. Rather than “man up” to gain something for ourselves, as Christians, we are called to “man up” and sacrifice and serve. We are called to crucify our flesh, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.
To man up really means to man down!
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it (Luke 9:23-24 NLT).
We are called to seek the approval of God rather than people. Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10 NIV).
We are called to sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh, to invest in eternity rather than temporary pleasures. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Gal. 6:8 ESV).
We are called to be like Christ by selflessly serving others and by thinking of others more highly than ourselves. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-4 ESV).
Jesus said that concerning the kingdom of heaven, the first will be last and the last will be first (Matt. 20:1-16). Also, the greatest in God’s kingdom are those that learn to be the servants of all (Mark 9:35). Ultimately, Jesus summed up what it means to man up when He said this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39 ESV).
The charge to “man up” is really meant to inspire and challenge others to do the right thing no matter how difficult, threatening, frightening, or costly. So I challenge you to truly “man up” regardless of the cost. Be willing to sacrifice your comfort and your time, be vulnerable and be willing to be criticized for the greater good of bringing glory and honor to God by serving Him and others rather than yourself.
No matter how uncomfortable or awkward you may feel, I challenge you to pray aloud with your spouse, with your children, with your friends; give a word of encouragement to someone who rubs you the wrong way, take a stand for Jesus at your workplace, admit you were wrong, let someone change lanes in front of you, give up the better parking spot, make church a priority, volunteer your time and talents at church, give to those in need, resist temptation, join an accountability group, share the good news of Jesus Christ when the Holy Spirit prompts you, get to know your neighbors, ask for forgiveness, take the first steps to reconcile broken relationships, pray for your enemies, bless those who persecute you, compliment the players on the opposing team, worship the Lord with all abandonment, and seek the approval of God rather than people in everything you do, say, and think. As for me, I know that I need to “man up” and get better at all these things. This is so counter culture. It is challenging. It is radical. Let’s “man up” and make room for the Holy Spirit to rule and reign in every area of our lives, no matter the cost. But remember, in order to “man up”, we must be willing to “man down”.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives (Gal. 5:24-25 NLT).