Defining the Genesis Man
What is a man?
The potential problem with Men’s Ministry is the definition of what is masculine. If our definition of masculinity is culturally based, it may not be inclusive enough to embrace all men. If it’s just about sports, what about the man who isn’t athletic? What about the man who may enjoy a hobby that’s not considered “manly”?
I’m not saying that to be effeminate is acceptable; rather masculinity should be defined in a biblical context which is free from the vacillating culture. What does culture say about men? Physically men are to be big, burly “hunks”. They should have tattoos, participate in activities that are adventuresome, dangerous, competitive, loud, and violent. They should drink beer, have a strong sexual drive, be objective, problem solving, rationalizing, assertive, controlling, egocentric, controlling, autocratic, dictatorial, performance/ achievement, goal oriented, detached, emotionally suppressed and uncommunicative beings. (To name just a few…) Now I am not saying that we should abandon all cultural norms of masculinity, I am just saying that we should be aware of what the Bible has to say regarding the subject.
Now, who is a man? What is more devastating than when a woman (or even another man) utter the epitath: “You are not a man!” If a male (of age) is not a man, then what is he? Is it a wonder that there tends to be confusion out there? There is a lack of on the job fathers and male role models, and maybe even a slight feminization of education. A man should never be accused of not being a man. The real question is not whether a man is a man, (God settled that when he made the person male) the question has always been, “What kind of man is that man?” Men should strive to be like the “Genesis Man.”
In Genesis 2:7 the Bible states quite magnificently that God created man –Adam. God made him from the dust of the earth and “man became a living soul.” God made man to become “living” –meaning lively, active. Man was devoid of life and activity, and then God breathed “soul” into man. It is a term that comes from the idea of breath. Soul: the seat of emotion, a platform for eternal life –God gave this to man.
Everything that God made in the beginning was perfect, including man. Adam, the original Genesis Man, was made in the image of God. By examining Genesis 2, and treating Adam as the prototype of masculinity, we can find elements of true manhood. Specifically, these elements are revealed; Work/Purpose, Moral Responsibility, Family Relationship, Wisdom and Declaration. From these ideas Men’s Ministry can be transformed. However, let’s unpack it through some closer observations.
Scripture References Genesis 2:15-23
15Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”
The Genesis Man could be defined by these five elements. Although they are revealed in the above order, it may not necessarily indicate hierarchy. The Genesis Man seems like a “Genesis Hand” involving five fingers. No digit is more important than the other, but together the hand functions in unity and purpose.
Elements of Manhood and Masculinity [cont]
Work and Purpose
As soon as Adam is created –a fully grown man, God’s first inclination is to put him to work. God took the man and put him in the garden and said “tend and keep it.” It seems that work is an important part of the identity and purpose of a man. Underneath the activity of work lies the element of being committed to care and tend for something -purpose. God’s desire for a man is to take care of something; it is to work in whatever “garden” we find ourselves in.
Now I do not know if there were any weeds, probably not, but whatever is implied by tending, there was work to be done. Maybe Adam had to keep the lions from eating the bark off the mango trees, I’m not sure. Nevertheless Adam was involved in some kind of physical labour. Even before there was need for a paycheque, there was need for a job.
During the 1930’s when North America was in the grips of the Great Depression, it was particularly difficult for men. The inability to work and provide for their families had a devastating impact on men. A man needs to be active –God has hardwired this desire into the very fabric of our being.
“Tilling the ground” goes beyond just the idea of merely punching a clock. In Genesis 2:5, God makes the statement; “and there was no man to till the ground.” What a curious thing to say before His creation of man. He spoke in that same scripture about the mist watering the ground, highlighting the organizational processes of natural creation, and then He makes the previous mentioned statement. “There was no man to till the ground.” This was not just about real estate ownership. This seems to indicate an important relationship between men and the earth. There are those who for various reasons can not work. In the deepest sense we can see that tilling and caring speaks of purpose. It is indicated that men have a special purpose and their presence is required for the earth. Men were created to be an integral part of the earth. Men are created for a function and a purpose. God made the garden before He made man and therefore men were designed with purpose in mind.
One aspect of Men’s Ministry is need to create a network to help support those who are looking for jobs, and provide opportunities to prepare our young men for the workforce. We need to help each other discover our purpose.
Can the ability to make moral choices really be considered an element of masculinity? In verse 26 we see that God tells men that there is a need for parameters in his life. We see Adam (our prototype) being given a commandment to righteous responsibility. “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
There was a moral choice, and Adam was responsible for doing the right thing. He was given the opportunity to obey. This leads me to believe that living right must be an element of true manhood and masculinity. Don’t you hear Jesus’ words a few thousand years later on the hillside in Palestine? “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Why don’t we associate morality with manhood? Adam was expected to live in obedience to God.
Interestingly enough there is much freedom in the parameters of righteous choices, and if one examines carefully, it is noticed that the parameters are not narrow at all, but quite wide. God told Adam that he had the freedom to eat of any of the trees in the garden but one. With my imagination, there must have been hundreds, maybe thousands of consumable possibilities, each tastier than the next! All God said was not to eat of that one. Like the men we are, isn’t it always those few choices, those few things that constantly trip us up? Sex, power, money… Is this not where many make questionable choices?
A man has an obligation to making righteous choices because God has commanded him to make them –with the understanding of dire consequences.
Isolation is not good for men. All through the beginning God’s pronouncement on things are; “good”. Throughout his creation be it animals, or land masses or constellations, we see that they were declared “good.” After man’s creation God said that it was not “good” for man to be alone. Why? Maybe it was the plurality and partnership that naturally existed and was contrasted by the singleness of man. The Father, Son, and Spirit were the Trinity. The animals were created male and female. There was a connection between things; heaven and earth, land and sea… Still, man did not have an equal or a balance.
Why would God insist that being alone was not good? Personally, I find that those times of lonesomeness often bring the greatest opportunity of temptations. Also, it could refer to the gregariousness of the human heart. Solitude is good at times, but aloneness is not good.
God then decides that Adam’s life needs a family, (verse 18). The Genesis Man is not alone; he has a wife made by God. He has a responsibility to care for his family for it is given by God. By no means is a man not a man because he doesn’t have a wife. A man is a man. Period. That doesn’t let a man “off the hook.” Mentorship is also family responsibility because we are all children in God’s family. Men are responsible to care for and lead boys and other young man, just as if they were their own.
Why did God give Adam the opportunity to name the animals? (verse 20) The Genesis Man has some connection with wisdom. As men we need to have wisdom, knowledge and understanding –the clarion call of Solomon. Looking further, how could Adam name the animals? Isn’t that a rather lofty expectation? As far as he (Adam) was concerned, he had just gotten there not too long ago. God, however, knew His creation, and He must have designed Adam with the creativity, capacity, and resources to accomplish this task. Adam with the insight of observation perhaps was the very first naturalist. Before we (our organization) were the Genesis Men’s Ministry it evolved from the Proverbs Men’s Ministry. As a matter of fact, the vision of our Men’s Ministry flows right out of Proverbs:
Prov 4:4 He also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live. Prov 4: 11 I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths.
SPEAK: Men engaging others into conversations –transferring their experiences and Knowledge – guiding youth through manhood (Prov 4:4)
TEACH: Sharing the Word of God with youth and each other –travelling together and supporting one another through the Journey of Manhood. (Prov 4:11)
LEAD: Leading boys and young men into and through manhood through ceremony, special projects and events. (Prov 4:11)
As of November 2012 the key words of the mission change to more tightly express what we were doing. ( An effective ministry is always tightening and sharpening its vision and mission. The more you grow in a ministry, the more you learn.) The above words are still essential elements in what is done, however the change was as follows: Share, Encourage and Honour.
SHARE values with “Josiah” boys through trips, “Rites of Passages”and pre-teen programs.
ENCOURAGE maturity in our young men through planned ceremonies, celebrating “growth check points”, while guiding and challenging them.
HONOUR our Senior men through “Legacy Interviews” and participating in “Acts of Service.”
The Genesis Man is a man of declaration. When Adam saw Eve, he declared “she is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Who was he talking to? God did the operation, so He already knew. Adam was making a declarative statement –probably to Eve, saying “How can I not love and care for this woman? After all, she is literally made up of my bone and my flesh.”
On that same level, Adam named Eve, he defined who she was. Adam said that she should be called Woman. Declaration is the God given responsibility to guide those like our wives and children in understanding who they are in Christ, and who they can become. As men, when we seek to be God-breathed and living in that right relationship in Christ, we can with all confidence help those know who they are, as we remain under the consultation of the Holy Spirit.
The words we speak to the people in our sphere of influence –be it family or those we mentor, matter and define the quality of men we are. I would argue that true masculinity can be reflected through our lips. Mom might talk too much and dad too little, but when he speaks the children listen. This is not just a 1950’s (now extinct) father-knows-best mentality, but it is one of the key functions of a man.
On a personal note, because I find it difficult to say planned words of encouragement to my children (I don’t know why) I decided to do so with journals I purchased from the dollar store. I write in those journals and I tell my children in descriptive language who they can be and who they are. It doesn’t matter if they have not arrived there as yet. Children look forward to the words of their fathers, as a matter of fact when I did not write in their journals for a while, I get a reminder from my children to say something. (They also like to write back to me sometimes, and I find it to be such an encouragement to me.)
There is more to say, but I’ll save it for another time. I will say, however, that as I was working through these truths I realized that I overlooked a key linchpin… the most vital aspect of masculinity and manhood is relationship with God. Without this, it is impossible to be a true “Genesis Man”.