“You have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
“Be a man!”
How many of us have heard that phrase- Sharply spoken to the teen who cries at a movie scene, rebuking that team captain who isn’t leading his team to victory, shrewdly whispered to the young man who is being pressured to make his first sexual conquest?
Our hearts cringe at this scene from Law and Order: SVU – Watch Before Continuing
What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be masculine? Is it the passing on a list – men do these things and men do not do these things (we all know what that list is). If a young man is found in violation of this list, then he is labeled gay, feminine, unmanly, unwelcome, outcast. Fathers pay close attention. Brothers observe. Families watch for the signs. They will not be embarrassed or have their name and image or perception smeared by an unmanly man.
A Christian man adheres to these things (whether we admit it or not). Men’s church activities most often involve the “masculine list.” The typical “manly activities” separate the true men from those who aren’t strong enough to be a man.
Is that what God calls a man? In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien portrays Aragorn (the lost king of Gondor) as the manly man. He embodies what it means to be a true man as he will become the king over men. Aragorn is admired by many who travel the journey to save Middle Earth.
Yet, Aragorn is more than chopping the heads off of orcs, commanding an army, and becoming king. Tolkien’s portrayal of true masculinity adheres to many biblical principles forgotten by men.
Surrounded and outnumbered, Aragorn summons the courage to lead the armies of men against the army of Mordor. He knows the freedom of Middle Earth is in the hands of Frodo, a hobbit. Throughout the entire series, he is purpose driven – for Frodo.
Men must be purpose driven. It is not just a choice in a career. It is a cry in the depths of our souls sounding the trumpet of war to one cause. With everything (relationships, careers, life choices, etc), we pursue the purpose God planted in our souls from the beginning.
Since we are to be like Christ (the perfect man), we are to have a purpose driven life. Mark 2:17 states clearly Jesus purposed to call sinners to a new life. No matter who they were (outcasts, pharisees, tax collectors, children, women, the sick, etc.), Christ’s purpose was (and is) to see sinners experience the new life he gives. Even near the end, Jesus determined to finish his purpose (Luke 9:51). It was not for a final paycheck. It was to fulfill the will of his Father – his purpose.
What is God calling you to? What is that deep-seeded yearning he wrote in your book before you were born (Psalm 139:16)? A true man is determined to never give up on the purpose God bestowed on his soul. Aragorn kept focused, and he led the final battle in the name of his purpose – For Frodo.
Charging into the battle of the everyday, what do you say?
“There is Always Hope”
The army of Uruk-Hai, sent by Saruman, corner the people of Rohan at the fortress of Helm’s Deep. The king recruited any boy, teen, or man who could carry a sword. Aragorn, seeing a frightened young man, gives encouragement. The battle seems impossible to live through, yet Aragorn has hope and gives hope.
Men are to be hopeful. We do not give up hope. We have hope and we give hope. Gideon’s story overflows with this characteristic. Judges 7:1-23 shows the army of Israel severely outnumbered, yet Gideon goes forth. He sees God’s working and has hope. God is on his side, so who should he fear (Psalm 27:1)?
A hopeful man is a trusting man. When we put our hope in God, we will never be put to shame (Isaiah 50:7). No matter the circumstance, the struggle, or the people surrounding us, we can be assured God is working all things for his good (Romans 8:28). The hope inside us swells as we trust the God of creation.
Aragorn knew Gandalf would come to Helm’s Deep. As soon as the sunrise of the fifth day appeared, the tables turned (Watch Scene). The hope was not founded in the strength of men, but in a promise.
Men do not rest in the strength of men. We rest in hope, and we gift that hope to others. Politics, world events, and family strife happen, but we hope constantly in God.
“Not if we Hold True to Each Other”
Gimli’s comment sparks these words from Aragorn. The fellowship remains as long as they held true to each other. This means Aragorn is not individualistic. He is not a lone wolf anymore. He started as a wandering ranger, now he is loyal to the fellowship.
Men are to be loyal. We are not created to be lone wolves. We were never meant to do life alone. Look throughout Scripture. The majority of men have another man in his shadow. The church is made up of individual parts working together. True men of the faith see this, and they act on it (I Corinthians 12:12-27). This means men cry with each other. This means men strengthen each other. This means men show affection with each other, and do not let each other go.
Yes, this counter cultural in our churches. Romans 12:10 commands us to love each other deeply. Loving another person deeply goes beyond the phrase, “I am praying for you,” or “Trust God.” Deep love is close, affectionate, unselfish – Christ-like love. Jesus perfectly displays this. He cries multiple times (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). Jesus is affectionate. He portrays God, who he is, as the father in the Prodigal Son. The father, seeing his son, runs to him, embraces him, kisses him, and restores his son’s soul (Luke 15:20). This is a core characteristic of Christ. If we are to be like Jesus, then we need to follow his example. Stop expressing love for your fellow brothers with a hug only to qualify it with, “No homo,” or “Not in a gay way.” The world can think what they want. The early church in Rome was accused of incest for calling each other brothers and sisters and loving on each other as such. The world will not see our savior through the tracts we give and sermons we preach. The world will know we belong to Jesus by the ways we love each other (John 13:34-35).
Loyalty, love, and affection go hand in hand. Aragorn shows this in the death of Boromir – Watch this scene. He is not scared to show his love of Boromir through closeness and affection (even the shedding of tears). Even at the end of all things, Aragorn (as king) shows loyalty to the hobbits as he recognizes how he would not be where he is without them. In a simple act, Aragorn does this – Watch this scene.
Men are called to be loyal. In this loyalty, we are to show our love, compassion, and protection. Loving another person is not weakness. Loving another shows strength.
A Call from the King
Tolkien said that the consultation of fairy-tales dawns a sudden and miraculous grace. It is because in fairy-tales, we see good, evil, and a glimpse of how we should live in our world of reality. Why do you think the world of The Lord of the Rings is called “Middle Earth”? It lies between the natural world of Earth and the supernatural divine world of Heaven. In Middle Earth, we encounter the truths of Heaven in a story to give us feet to our lives on Earth.
Our world claims what a man should be. We poison our minds with a toxic masculinity. We fall to a false image of man. We forget that the actions of man occur because of the true heart and character of a man. Aragorn would not have killed orcs, treated women the way he did, rescued his friends, bowed the knee to the the small hobbits, or any of the things he did in the story without the characteristics mentioned above. There are many more to be covered, but it is a start.
We parade the idea that it is the actions of a man that makes him a man. No, it is the heart that makes him a man. Anyone can act, but a man called by God will act out of his heart.
When you look at your friends, your children, your brothers, what makes them men? Is it their actions or interests? Is it their heart? The heart of a king rests in all our chests. The question is are we willing to let our hearts be led by God in making us a man or will we let the world decide what makes a man?
Look at Aragorn – a lone, wandering ranger becomes king. It is true that not all who wander are lost. It is with his strength of heart and character he stands from the throne of Gondor giving the call – Be men of the heart!
The call of Gondor goes out.
How will you respond?