Due to the easing of COVID-19 measures, the Boys Brigade 94th Company was able to conduct our Enrolment Service in church again on 2 April. It was truly a memorable event as our entire Company was able to gather physically on-site to worship God and give thanks to him for his faithfulness and goodness towards us. Apart from making our pledges to dedicate ourselves in faithful service unto God, we also took the opportunity to affirm the labour of love and faith of various individuals, including our out-going BB Captain, Jonathan Tan. Indeed, it has been such a joy and privilege to know that God has used True Way to positively impact the lives of many boys over the years since the church started sponsoring the Company in 2010. Prior to that, it was FCBC who was the sponsoring church.
If you read up about the history of the Boys’ Brigade (BB), you will learn that its founder, Sir William Alexander Smith was keen to reach out to the boys during his time in the 1880s. He believed that Christianity was mistakenly seen as a “weak or effeminate” religion and was concerned that such a wrong perception of Christ and the Gospel was hindering boys from putting their faith in God.
In addition, Sir William A. Smith wanted to engage the boys with more meaningful activities, where they could direct their youthful energies into the right channels and ultimately to be “led to the service of their Master”. Thus he set forth the Object of The Boys’ Brigade as “the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect and all that tends towards a true Christian Manliness”.
For us today, a biblical understanding of what constitutes Christian manliness is also very much needed. Even amongst Christians, we sometimes mistakenly equate masculinity with machismo or chauvinistic behaviour. It is as if somehow one is manlier if he grows facial hair, enjoys the great outdoors and scarcely showed his emotions. On the other hand, there are some in society who decry the intrinsic differences between masculinity and femininity and are even seeking to legislate for a more fluid sexuality where one is free to switch gender identity according to the individual’s feelings. Thankfully, Christians do not need to be confused as we have a sure foundation to stand upon.
Firstly, we can always look to Jesus Christ, who is the picture of true humanity and manhood. Although the humanity of Jesus is something He shared in common with all of us, Jesus nevertheless lived out his humanity in distinctively masculine ways, not as a woman or some androgynous sexless being. In the Bible, we learn that the two genders are part of God’s creation (Genesis 1:27) and not a result of the Fall. More importantly, God’s Word also reminds us that while there are distinctions and differences between the genders, both male and female are equal before God (Galatians 3:28).
Historically, Jesus would have conformed to the cultural norms of his days, whether it is with regards to his dressing, lifestyle and interaction with others. As Christians, we understand that in and of themselves, cultural norms of gender identity and expression need not be something sinful. As long as what it being expected or expressed is not contrary to God’s Word or compromising on the inherent value and dignity of the individuals, Christians need not be troubled in their conscience.
With this in mind, we can better understand why a man is not allowed to put on a woman’s cloak (Deuteronomy 22:5) – and no, a Scottish kilt is not exactly a skirt- while hardly anyone these days will raise an eyebrow when a woman wears pants. Without going into details, it is suffice to say that out of practical reasons and other social factors, it is generally accepted that pants are no longer the exclusive domain of males.
Traditionally, it has also been understood that Jesus’ gender as a male is not an arbitrary aspect of his incarnation. Scholars believe that it is a necessary and significant part of God’s redemptive plan as the offices of prophet, priest and king found in the Old Testament were all held by men. Jesus needed to be born as a man so that as the sinless man, he could fulfill all of these roles and exemplify obedience and love perfectly in his life. Likewise, Christian men must learn to live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) and faithfully live out our God-ordained roles as sons, husbands, fathers and leaders in church.
More importantly, we see that Jesus gives us a pattern for true manliness in the way he takes active responsibility and demonstrates sacrificial love for the Church, his bride (Ephesians 5:25-33). It is most unfortunate that some men can be rather passive in almost everything and shirk away from responsibilities, becoming selfish husbands, absent fathers and commitment-phobic worshippers. Likewise, for many guys, their only heroics seem to be behind a computer screen, through the flexing of muscles or in the company of beers, but seldom for the cause of God’s kingdom and the pursuit of holiness.
There is certainly much more we can say about Christian manliness. But as True Way continues to nurture and reach out to these boys in our BB, I urge you to pray for them as well as the boys in our church. By God’s grace, the seeds of Gospel truth and acts of love sown into their lives will go a long way in their transformation of “boys to men”. And as more True Wayans come alongside in this area of discipleship, may the words of Sir William A. Smith ring true that “in the service of Christ, they will find the truest, bravest life that a man can live”.
Rev Edwin Wong
April 3, 2022