I have a confession to make. It may make you think less of me as a man. It may seem to undermine everything I have said on these pages before, it may allow you yourself to open up and confess yourself. Here it is, in print: I have a thing for cardigans. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if it is something of an addiction. The other day I found my self purchasing my 8th item of knitwear (a cream and blue stripy number if you’re interested).
Now, I realise this will do nothing for might street cred. I mean, picture a man in a cardigan and he’s probably sipping a mug of Horlicks and smoking a pipe (either that or he’s Graham Norton). Yet, thanks to the recent influx of well dressed *ahem* boybands and the sword wielding antics of cardigan wearing Neville Longbottom in the final Harry Potter film, the cardigan revival has begun.
And I’m not even the world’s biggest fan of all that is made with wool. So great was their love of knitwear that, when I was at university, a couple of guys I knew donned the needles and started producing their own. Suddenly it is appropriate to dress like your aunt or borrow your mum’s clothes (fellas, we know who you are). We are abruptly presented with the ever uncomfortable and unanswerable question, what does it mean to be a real man, and what is this elusive ‘biblical masculinity’?
The truth is the men in the Bible are a mixed bunch, and not all body pumping hunter gatherers with the ability to ‘slaughter other men’ as one American pastor would want us to believe. You see, there’s Daniel a scholarly vegetarian, or Gideon the nervous wreck, Timothy a great listener (certainly more of a stereotypically female trait) or Joseph, with his pretty dreams and fancy clothes, Jacob, a proper biblical mummy’s boy and tee-total Samson. Yes, there’s Caleb the warrior, Joshua the Spy and Ehud the Assassin (who knew the real creed), but these are only a small part of the overall blue-print for a man of God.
You see, we are called to be radical Disciples of Christ. Paul, in his letters to his apprentice Timothy, outlines 3 things that we, as men of God, are called to be, whether tea sipping scarf knitters or bench pressing executives. First, we fight the good fight with prayer (1 Timothy 2:8). We must acknowledge our weakness and complete dependence on God, bringing all things to him. Secondly, we fight the good fight with Holiness (1 Timothy 6:11-12), it’s a two stage battle; we must both flee all sin and pursue righteousness. Finally, we must fight the good fight with the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), battling day in, day out to read, learn and be chiselled into shape by the Bible. And, I’m sure you would agree, all these can be done whilst wearing a cardigan.
The thing is, a real man doesn’t mind looking a fool in order to stand up for what he knows is right. A real man works for an audience of One, he will go against the flow to keep his integrity, he will fight not with fists but with faith and his banter is biblical not downgrading or sexist. Most importantly, we must learn what masculinity is from the perfect man, Jesus Christ. A bloke with so much love that he gave up everything he had so that we could have everything we don’t deserve. He gave up his life for his friends. Cardigans or no cardigans; this is our calling.
This article was originally written for Sorted Men’s Magazine (May/June 2012) To purchase this edition or other editions click here
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