Life + Culture

Sing Like Men

Sing Like Men

I’ve never seen a counterfeit penny.

I suspect this is because the amount of effort required to generate a replica, and the severity of the consequences for being discovered, are far greater than any financial gain the counterfeiter could expect to achieve. Instead, counterfeiters tend toward highly prized items: the big bills, the expensive gems, the famous painting. When you find something imitated regularly, you can expect it to be valuable.

Biblical masculinity has many faux varieties and cheap counterfeits because Satan is eager to keep us from experiencing the real thing. We should not be surprised that true masculinity has many forgeries, because it is so important to understanding the drama of redemption (Ephesians 5:32).

A leading masquerade of biblical masculinity is a species of gruff stoicism that treats affection as effeminate and that prizes isolation. This kind of “lone ranger” manhood ignores truths from the first pages of Scripture. Even prior to the intrusion of sin’s curse, the Lord God determined that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Song of Unfallen Masculinity

Man was created in the image of the triune Godhead, the eternally loving community of Father, Son, and Spirit. To exist in community is part of what it means to be human, and is a necessary component of the masculine fabric. And what makes counterfeit masculinity look so close to the real thing is that it often zooms in on the God-given mandate to “work and keep” (Genesis 2:15), ignoring that God also designed this work to be done best with a helper.

When the unfallen Adam first sees his helper, his response is not casual indifference, but he erupts into passionate poetry. The first recorded words of any human being is a man’s love song about his bride (Genesis 2:23). What does this tell us? The first man — the only man until Christ to experience manhood without sin — expressed the fullness of his masculinity through song.

Stoics Don’t Sing

Singing is an impassioned activity: we sing when we are happy, and we sing when we are sad. As Paul Westermeyer writes,

Joy inevitably breaks into song. Speech alone cannot carry its hilarity. The physical equipment we use to laugh is the physical equipment we use to sing. From laughter to song is but a small step. . . . The same can be said for sorrow, the opposite of joy. Sorrow also inevitably breaks into song. Speech alone cannot carry its moan. The physical equipment we use to cry is also the physical equipment we use to sing. From mourning to song is but a small step.

Our corporate singing is a profoundly physical activity and wrought with passionate expression. Our voices rise toward the pitch of a celebratory shout; and they drop and elongate into groans of lament and anticipation.

It is no wonder, then, that many men feel uncomfortable during the activity that makes up somewhere near half of the corporate worship gathering. If emotional expression is falsely viewed as opposed to masculinity, many men choose to opt out and play the lone ranger, instead of joining the song of God’s people.

Sing Like Men

Scripture has something to say about manliness, and it directly opposes the stoic counterfeit:

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13–14)

How striking that Paul elaborates on his command to “act like men” with “let all that you do be done in love.” Biblical manliness extends itself in love, especially toward our helpers in the work of gospel ministry, the church. Manly men are loving men.

Let Your Heart Burn

Pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards discussed the relationship between singing and love when he said,

The duty of singing praises to God seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.

Some men may feel uncomfortable singing in corporate worship because they do not find in themselves the affections expressed in loving prayers of adoration or hymns of exhortation. But Edwards’s insight is instructive here. We don’t only sing because we feel. We also sing in order to feel.

Singing requires a great deal of physical involvement: demanding posture, deep breathing, vocal exertion, bodily energy. It has a unique capacity to take mental truths and involve our whole person in response. It can help fan sparks in our affections into flame.

Other times, men find singing with God’s people to be uncomfortable because they do not believe the emotional expression of singing to be appropriate for masculinity. This is the result of embracing a counterfeit definition of masculinity, rather than a biblical one. Manly men sing with passion and with love for God and their church family.

So, to paraphrase the apostle Paul, let’s sing like men. And let everything we do be done in love.

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