The following is the transcript from the May 29, 2016 service at Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.
Today, in our series on ManLaws, we’re going to talk about one of the most important things of all about boys – which is raising them to be just that.
Because it’s something we’ve started to lose sight of.
But we shouldn’t. Because as we discussed last week, the Bible says that our sexuality is rooted in creation itself. In our foundational text, Genesis 1:27, it says:
“… God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27, NIV).
So in review we were made, by God, male and female. From this foundation we then began our study by looking at the responsibilities of being a man. This week I want to do a prequel – and look at what it means to raise a boy to be a boy; letting God’s design for their lives as boys – and future men – to play out.
So let’s look at three critical areas the Bible would encourage us to take note of.
I. Take His Sex Seriously
That means we must take the Genesis narrative seriously; which means to see sex as something that is real, and that matters.
In his book Taking Sex Differences Seriously, University of Virginia professor Dr. Steven Rhoads writes about an incident that took place in 1966.
A botched circumcision left one of two male identical twins without a full male organ. A leading sex psychologist at Johns Hopkins University persuaded the parents to raise that toddler as a female. So they completed the castration, constructed what appeared from the outside to be female genitalia, and called him Brenda. They raised him as a girl, and even gave him female steroids to mimic female pubertal growth and feminization.
And all seemed to be well. Well, it obviously hit the news.
Time magazine called the case “strong support” for the view that masculine and feminine behavior can be altered. Even a 1979 textbook used the case to discuss how human gender identity was flexible and plastic, and how being male or female was the product of social learning and conditioning.
Numerous psychology and sociology texts cited the case as proof that sex roles are basically learned.
But Rhoads points out that people didn’t follow the case through. Even with the injection of female hormones, the absence of male hormones coming from testicles, and being raised as a female, Brenda did not turn out as, well, Brenda.
In the early 1990’s, a team of researchers caught up with the boy who had been turned into a girl to see how she was doing. They found that she was no longer Brenda. She was now David – working in a slaughterhouse, married to a woman, and the adoptive father of three children.
What happened was that at the age of 14, Brenda decided to start living as a male, and at 15, she was told that that was indeed what she had been born as. She then announced that she had always felt like a male and wanted to become one again.
She was given a mastectomy, male hormones, and constructed genitalia.
When researchers dug further, they found that the first time Brenda had been put in a dress, she pulled it off. When given a jump rope, she wanted to tie people up with it or whip them with it.
At nine, she bought a toy machine gun when she was supposed to buy an umbrella. Her toy sewing machine went untouched because she preferred to build forts and play with dump-trucks. She was never interested in make-up, but instead wanted to shave with her father.
On a trip to New York, she found herself attracted to the Rockettes. She even felt the urge to urinate standing up. From this, researchers at Johns Hopkins felt they should go back and study other children who had undergone similar operations – boys who, for whatever reason were born without full male organs, had then been fully castrated, and raised as girls.
Of the twenty-five they were able to locate, ranging in age from five to 16, every single one exhibited the rough-and-tumble play more characteristic of boys than girls; every single one.
And even at their early age, fourteen of them had already declared themselves to be, in fact, boys – against everything in regard to how they had been raised. From this, and scores of other studies, Rhoads concludes that instead of thinking that the difference between the sexes is something learned, or imposed by society, it is rather something larger, something deeply rooted, in our very nature.
It’s part of who we are. It’s not a role we take on; it’s the very nature of our being.
This is critical, because there are those who would view sexuality in a different way. I’m not trying to be coarse here, but they would have it to do with what’s between our ears instead of what’s between our legs.
I don’t know if you’ve heard about what’s happening out in Colorado and Virginia and several other states. An eight-year-old boy is being encouraged by his parents and school officials to come to school as a girl. In fact, the school is setting up two unisex restrooms for him.
Now there’s no doubt that the boy suffers from what’s known in psychiatry as Gender Identity Disorder. But what’s different about this case is that the parents and the school don’t want to see it as a disorder to be treated.
They want to see it as something positive to be encouraged! Instead of professional counseling, he’s being mainstreamed as normal!
At eight years old! When you’re eight, you have about as much maturity and sexual self-awareness as a garden slug!
Now that’s extreme, I know, but there are those who feel that sexuality is almost like a favorite color – something to be chosen, a preference. And even if they feel it is hardwired into you that you should somehow grow up experiencing both sides of the sexual coin; that girls should play football, and boys should learn how to play with dolls and have tea parties; as if that’s what would be normal.
No! Let a boy be a boy. It’s who God made them to be. This is why I love this book: It’s called the “Dangerous Book for Boys.”
Have you seen it? It’s a book full of all the things we’re losing as a culture for boys to be boys. It tells you how to make paper airplanes; how to tie the five basic knots; how to play stickball; how to build a tree house; how to make a bow and arrow; how to play table football; how to fish; how to make a go-cart; and how to skip a stone.
And along the way there are stories about pirates and spies, heroes and battles; and information about insects, spiders and dinosaurs, the moon and the stars. In an age of video games and cell phones, there needs to be a place for a boy to be a boy.
II. Bless Him
A second important dynamic in raising a boy to be a boy has to do with his self-esteem. Or as the Bible would put it, a boy’s blessing.
Let me tell you about a story in the Bible. It involved a father named Isaac, and a son named Esau. In biblical times, a father’s blessing was a very special and formal event.
In their book on this, Gary Smalley and John Trent write that a blessing:
• was when the father would lay hands on them,
• speak a verbal message, expressing encouragement, love and acceptance –
• talk positively about their future,
• pledge themselves to making that future happen
Well the day for Esau’s blessing came. He hunted for the right game, cooked it to his father’s taste – all to gain his father’s approval and favor.
And then he brings the meal to his father; only to find that his father had been deceived into giving his blessing to Esau’s younger brother, Jacob.
His father’s sight was poor, and Jacob tricked the old man into blessing him, instead, which was highly significant, because in biblical times, once a blessing was given, it was done – irretrievable.
Look at how the Bible records the scene:
30 After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father's presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, "My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing." 32 His father Isaac asked him, "Who are you?" "I am your son," he answered, "your firstborn, Esau." 33 Isaac trembled violently and said, "Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him — and indeed he will be blessed!" 34 When Esau heard his father's words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, "Bless me — me too, my father!"... (And then he says it again) Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud. (Genesis 27:30-34, 38, NIV)
Bless me too, father! That is the cry of every boy’s heart.
Because while the Bible’s concept of a formal blessing was unique to those times, the idea of a relational blessing is still alive and well – and important.
We can, and should, build these blessings into our children’s lives.
Children need to hear words of love and acceptance from their parents.
“I love you.”
“I’m proud of you.”
But there are other words that sons, in particular, need to hear; and to hear from their fathers. It’s because they are key to a boy’s self-esteem and because boys look to their fathers for what it means to be a man. And to feel like they are one.
John Eldredge, in his book Wild at Heart, points out how men compliment differently – how they speak to a different part of a boy’s ego. Men rarely praise each other directly, like women tend to. When a woman compliments a woman, it might be “Oh, I love what you did with your hair.” Or, “Where did you get that blouse?”
Guys don’t do that.
In fact, if I went to a guy and said, “Love what you did with your hair,” it would feel a little weird. Guys tend to compliment by way of accomplishment.
We’re out on the golf course, and someone hits a great shot off of the tee, and we say, “Whoa, you’re da man.” “You got every bit of that!” “You didn’t shave your legs this morning.”
You know sophisticated stuff. If we don’t – “hit the ball, Alice”
But do you see what we’re doing? We’re affirming each other as men. And the only person who can affirm that in a growing, developing boy is another man; and no one more so than his father.
Miss that moment, and you miss a boy’s heart.
It’s the question boys have for fathers. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man knows he’s a man he will forever be trying to prove he’s one, and often in destructive ways.
Men, your boys need to hear what only you can say to them – which is that they ARE a wild man. But it’s not just a blessing on their masculinity. It’s a blessing on their person; on their life. It’s speaking into and onto their life in a way that shapes how they view themselves.
Take a look at what the apostle Paul had to say to a group of people on this subject. He said:
"With each of you we were like a father with his child, (and now look at what he said was the way fathers should deal with their children): "holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step by step how to live well before God" (I Thessalonians 2:11-12, MSG)
Who wouldn’t want a father like that - understanding, encouraging, merciful, compassionate, loving, tender and patient. It’s a blessing only a parent can give.
III. Build in Respect for Women
A final issue with raising boys has to do with the opposite sex – and specifically, building in respect for women. Boys should be taught that while they are a man, women are different and should be treated differently. With respect, honor, deference.
There’s lots of ways of doing this. I’ve taught my son and grandson to open the door for women. They have been taught to say, “Yes, ma’am,” and “No, ma’am.” It’s just how we treat women.
But the foundation of it all is respect for their mother. And that lays groundwork for treating all women with respect throughout their life. Respect that will involve more than courtesy, but the proper use of power, of strength; Respect that will later on will result in an effort toward sexual restraint in dating, and an avoidance of abuse in marriage. And the way that’s established, with a boy, early on, is through discipline. And again, this is a father’s deal.
And this tie between the importance of appropriate discipline with a son – and specifically in relation to their honor for their mother - is all through the Bible. Take a look in Proverbs 29, it says:
“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother...Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:15, 17, NIV).
And that matters; all of this matters – letting boys be boys, blessing them, and teaching them to honor women.
From the 127th Psalm, it says:
“Sons are a heritage from the Lord...Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5, NIV).
Sons are like arrows. They are sharp, powerful, and important. But they are meant to be launched and guided into the world with direction and purpose and meaning.
And as I’ve said throughout this talk, fathers play a crucial role in that. And that needs to stand – unqualified. But that means men must step forward.
Step forward with your families and father your sons. So men, be fathers – to your children, and to the children of this place. It will mark their life.