Raising boys to become godly men
Table of Contents
Biblical manhood is under increasing attack in Australia, with factors including secularism, pornography and efforts to redefine gender eroding the Christian understanding of what it means to be a man.
To stem this tide, Christian families need to take courage and be deliberate about raising their sons to become strong, godly men.
What is a 'godly man'?
A godly man is one who respects or fears God. This is about having the reverential fear and awe that enables a man to put God first and fight against the temptations of this world.
Some attributes of godly manhood include:
A man of honour stands by his values. In the US, for example, the military training colleges’ honour code says:
“We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.”
In their quest to develop men of honour with the character required to defend their country, they take this code extremely seriously.
A godly man’s honour code comes from the Bible. He strives to uphold Christian values, whatever the cost.
Godly self-control, or discipline, is not about obsessively training at the gym or a regimented diet. Rather, it’s the ability to control your emotions and behaviour. For example, a man with self-control won’t explode in an angry outburst. If, however, you struggle to control your anger, or any other negative emotion, you might need to seek help from a counsellor or mentor. For some men, learning to control emotions and behaviour takes time.
A man with courage can face his fears and move forward, like Joshua did when God commanded him to “Be strong and take heart” when sending him to take possession of the promised land (Joshua 1).
Not all men will become leaders of a company, business or country. However, research shows that eight out of ten young men aspire to become a father someday. Being a father means being the leader of a family, and families can change the world. Hence, we need godly men who can lead their families with character and integrity.
The qualities of manhood
Recently, the American Psychological Association claimed that four characteristics traditionally associated with manhood – stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression – are harmful. These terms have been hijacked and labelled as negatives. However, when applied wisely, these are positive attributes in men.
Take stoicism, for example. It’s similar to self-control. I want my husband to not take things as emotionally as I do and be the strong supporter of his family.
Or competitiveness. We need men willing to stand up and fight for their families. Dominance and aggression may be negatives when used excessively but are qualities we celebrate in our sports teams and armies.
Can you imagine a sporting team comprised of men who were the opposite – emotional, non-competitive, weak and passive? Or an army? You wouldn’t want them playing on your side or defending your country! We even praise our favourite teams or players for ‘dominating’ the game or field.
In the Amplified version, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 says:
“Be on guard; stand firm in your faith [in God, respecting His precepts and keeping your doctrine sound]. Act like [mature] men and be courageous; be strong. Let everything you do be done in love [motivated and inspired by God’s love for us].”
These are the qualities we need to be nurturing in our sons.
Why parents must be intentional about raising their sons to be godly men
1. It doesn’t come naturally
Godly manhood comes through training, primarily in the home with a mother and a father. Parents cannot expect the school or the church to do it. They are helps and supports, but parents mustn’t abdicate their responsibility as primary trainers.
2. The church and the world desperately need them
We raise godly men for families, the church and the kingdom of God. Godly men build strong and flourishing communities. More importantly, the church desperately needs godly male role models.
I recently interviewed a young Christian man who’d been struggling with pornography since childhood (after coming across his mature Christian father’s pornographic magazines). He was unable to find one man at church who could help him. Instead he was told, “We all struggle with those things.” I hear this story over and over.
It is possible to break free from the stranglehold of porn - here are a few practical ways. Firstly, talk to your son about the dangers of pornography early. Educate him on how women are typically abused and degraded as sex workers, and how this distorts their God-given dignity. For this purpose, Collective Shout is a great source of information. Secondly, you might take this one step further and encourage your son to get involved in ministries that actively work against sex trafficking and similar practices, such as Destiny Rescuse. Lastly, you should consider installing an internet filter, such as Convenant Eyes or Family Zone, to restrict access to online pornography in your home.
The church needs godly men committed to their faith who can disciple boys and younger men.
3. Because Biblical manhood is under attack
Biblical manhood, including the role of fathers, is being subjected to a targeted attack. Our culture is trying to redefine manhood and fatherhood and our men and boys are in the midst of a huge identity crisis. Many boys don't know who they are or what it is to be a man, so it's crucial we are intentional about helping them establish their God-given identities and roles.
4. They bring joy to their parents
As Proverbs 23:24 says, “The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.”
Advice for raising boys to be godly men
We’ve examined why it’s so important to intentionally raise your sons to become godly men, but how do you go about it? Here’s some of the ways.
Cultivate a good marriage
The best gift you can give any child is a happy marriage where a father and mother love and enjoy each other and have peace between them. Do all you can to make your marriage a harmonious, godly one. If you need some help, Focus on the Family has a plethora of great resources to help marriages thrive.
Have a father (or father figure) in the home
Boys need a same-sex role model. It’s vital we stop dad-bashing. As I discussed on the Lost Boys Blog, Doctor Meg Meeker, a paediatrician and leading authority on children’s health, explains dads have unequalled authority in a child’s life and are the central figure in identity formation.
She says all children seek answers from a mum and a dad to these three questions:
- What do you believe about me? For example, am I capable? Am I good enough?
- What do you feel about me? For example, are you happy with me; proud of me?
- What are your hopes for me? Do you hope I’ll find a loving partner; a satisfying career etc?
These questions aren't explicitly articulated, but a child knows the answers by the way their fathers look at them, talk to them and act towards them. For example, whether dad turns up at sports matches to cheer them on.
Dr Meeker says: “Children who don’t have those questions answered by their fathers live in chaos, I know, I see this … our prisons are filled with men like this because they’ve never had these questions answered by their dads.”
Fatherlessness has become a national crisis. A 2016 Australian study showed that only 53 percent of children will still be living with both biological parents by the time they turn 17.
Fathers parent their children differently to mothers. When we were missionaries in Africa, my husband happily did things with our sons I would never have considered. One time, for example, I heard a commotion outside. Stepping onto our veranda, I discovered our three sons swaying on a tree about four metres above the ground, laughing and having a great time.
Their dad had assessed the situation and decided it was okay. My level of safety was way narrower than his. My sons got to explore and try new things because their father believed in them and didn’t get caught up in emotional fear.
Teach them to be men of honour
The US military college honour code holds cadets accountable to their peers and is taken very seriously. Cadets can be thrown out or put back a year for flaunting it. They are teaching cadets to be men of virtue, character, and honour for the benefit of society. These are biblical principles.
You can do something similar at home by developing a family code and reinforcing it throughout your children’s upbringing, so codes become habits. Children need to learn that societal norms – such as cheating or manipulating others to get our own way – are not okay. We raised our kids with this saying: “Others may do that, but we may not.”
The Christian honour code has always consisted of internal character values. You must teach character – it doesn't just happen.
Teach them to respect you
If your children cannot respect parents as the primary authority figure in their lives, they will not learn to respect God.
Be alert to the dangers of pornography
Pornography is rampant and it messes with a man's identity. As I wrote in my book, about one-quarter of all porn users worldwide are children under 18. One-tenth of them are children under 10. In my research interviewing boys, the average age for exposure to porn was around 6 to 9 years.
Watching pornography breeds what the world calls toxic masculinity. It’s been linked to domestic violence. Boys I interviewed spoke of being unable to chat with girls in the playground because the images that flashed through their minds made them feel so ashamed.
Pornography is part of the targeted attack on man and it's devastating the church. Five or ten years ago, we used to say it was unlikely any boys in youth group were consuming porn. Now, we say it’s unlikely any of them are not consuming it.
Be aware and prepared to address this vital issue.
Teach them a catechism
Catechisms are series of questions and answers designed to teach children and new converts the great truths of the faith, such as “Who is the redeemer?” and “What is the chief end of man?”
Some time ago, catechism teaching was abandoned, so children no longer learn the great tenets of Christianity.
As Timothy Keller explains in his book ‘How to Reach the West Again’, today’s culture has a secular catechism and our young people don't have anything to counter it with. For example, when asked “What is truth?”, the secular narrative says there's no actual truth; whatever is true for yourself is true.
Keller argues that we need a modern-day catechism to refute the ungodly cultural narratives that are bombarding our children 24/7 through TV ads, movies, social media, music and secular education.
The secular narrative is like a computer virus or malware – it perverts the machine’s function and corrupts files. Knowing the catechism acts like an antivirus – it gives young people the ability to recognise, understand and counter secular cultural narratives.
We can protect against malware through purposeful instruction and training in refuting non-Christian ideologies and through renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2).
The warning in Colossians 2:8 sums the situation up well:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.”
Why it’s more important than ever to talk about godly manhood
The world may be telling us that you can decide your own gender and consuming porn is normal. But God tells us we are to be in the world, not of the world. Godly manhood is prescribed by God and not the world. And because we're only hearing the world's view of what manhood looks like, we have to yell even louder.
The strength of the Christian church is godly men – if you take them out, you weaken the church.
Furthermore, traditional manhood has been forgotten and is being redefined by the world. In an article entitled ‘Be a Man’ in The American Mind, Spencer Klavan points out that “Gender theorists know what they are doing when they target children. We should know what we’re doing when we fight back.”
To elaborate, he recounts this story:
In the late 500s BC, the military dictator Aristodemus took over the Greek colony of Cumae. He slaughtered his enemies en masse and undertook to ensure that no Cumaean man would ever be more than his slave. Here is how he did it, according to the essayist Dionysius of Halicarnassus. “To ensure that no noble or manly aspiration would arise in any of the citizens, he decided to feminize every young man by means of his upbringing in the city’s schools.” Aristodemus had the boys of Cumae wear long hair and embroidered gowns; he made them listen to soft music and keep out of the sun; he starved them of adult male guidance. This was so none of them would ever grow up strong enough to stand against him.
When society redefines and feminises our men, we're weakening the church and leaving families vulnerable. Now is the time to withstand this attack on godly masculinity and raise our sons to be men of honour who fear God above all else.
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