We saw in a previous article that men are called to exercise leadership by taking the initiative in several crucial areas of life. In this article we are going to examine the second responsibility of mature manhood. Let’s look again at our definition.
Out of a heart of courageous love, mature manhood senses and assumes a God-given responsibility to lead, protect, and provide for those under his care, for their temporal and eternal benefit.
It is important to say that a mature man senses and assumes his God-given responsibility to protect those under his care because there may be times when he is unable to assume this role of protector. Physical injury may hinder him, for example, from swiftly and decisively confronting an intruder in the home or assailant on the street. Or, a man may be away from his family on a business trip and not immediately available to handle spiritual problems and fend off false teaching that the enemy has recently launched upon his family. In both cases, however, a godly man will sense a desire to exercise this kind of protection and find alternative ways to ensure his family’s physical and spiritual safety when he is inhibited from doing so either bodily or geographically.
What Kind of Protection?
What I’ve already assumed in the previous paragraph is that there are two kinds of protection men are responsible to exercise among those whom God has entrusted to his care. The first, and what should be the most obvious is the call for physical protection. I say “should be the most obvious” because there are some today who teach that the notion that men are called to be the primary protectors of women is an outmoded social convention that smacks of the paternalism of a by-gone era. Women today have learned they must protect themselves and not depend upon the protection of men.
Because we live in a fallen world and people with violent, evil intentions lurk in the shadows in order to harm or take advantage of vulnerable women, it is right to encourage females to be vigilant and teach them how to protect themselves from potential enemies. But this affirmation of the importance of women protecting themselves does not undermine the fact that God has given men a unique responsibility to protect those around him, particularly women.
Adam’s responsibility was to “work and keep” the garden. The word “keep” (שָׁמַר; shamar) in Genesis 2:15 indicates that one of Adam’s clear tasks was to protect the garden. This word is used often in the Old Testament, and regularly with reference to a man’s responsibility to guard another person. For example, after he spares Saul’s life a second time, David rebukes Abner, Saul’s military commander, for allowing him to come within striking distance of the king.
Then David went over to the other side and stood far off on the top of the hill, with a great space between them. And David called to the army, and to Abner the son of Ner saying, “Will you not answer, Abner?” Then Abner answered, “Who are you who calls to the king?” And David said to Abner, “Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people in to destroy the king your lord. This thing you have done is not good. As the Lord lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the Lord’s anointed.1 Sam 26:13-16
In this passage, שָׁמַר (shamar ) is used twice with the idea of “keeping watch” (for other examples of this usage, see 2 Sam 11:16; 18:12 Ps 121:7). The word also implies that this guarding will be exercised with diligence and watchfulness.
When God used this word to describe Adam’s duties in the Garden of Eden, He was instructing the man to carefully and judiciously guard his new home from potential intruders. As the narrative unfolds, it becomes obvious that the man was responsible to protect the woman from enemies but that he had failed to do so. God told the man to guard the garden from evil intruders, but the skeptical, crafty serpent didn’t get as much as a word of warning from Adam.
Nevertheless, as the biblical story progresses, we see that men are those to whom the primary responsibility of protection is given. God establishes men in the role as judge and king for the military protection of Israel, and authoritative male prophets for the nation’s spiritual protection. Although God used a woman to deliver Israel during the times of the judges (Judges 4-5) and spoke occasionally through prophetesses throughout Israel’s history (Exod 15:20; Judg 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron 34:22; Neh 6:14; Is 8:3), the pattern of men providing military and spiritual protection for the nation is essentially seamless throughout the Old Testament.
This pattern continues into the New Testament. As soon as we step into New Testament revelation we find that the man is the one to whom the duty of protection is given. In Matthew’s birth narrative, for example, it is Joseph who is responsible for guiding his family safely out of the reach of the murderous king Herod.
Now when [magi] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.Matt 2:13-15
Why did God send His angel to Joseph instead of Mary in this case? A divine flip of a coin? No, it was fitting for God to choose Joseph to lead his family out of harm’s way because from the beginning of creation the man has, by God’s design, borne a unique responsibility to protect his family, particularly the women and children of his family.
With regard to spiritual protection we must note that although God speaks through women in the New Testament (see Luke 1:46-55; 1 Cor 11:5), it is the men to whom God has entrusted the role of authoritative preacher, teacher, and overseer. That is why only men are allowed to fulfill the role of pastor-elder (1 Tim 3:1-7), preacher (1 Tim 4:1-3), and authoritative teacher (1 Tim 2:13-14; 1 Cor 14:26-40) in the church setting. In the home, men bear the responsibility to wash their wives with the water of the Word (Eph 5:26), which means nothing less than spiritually protecting them from that which is contrary to that Word. When these considerations are placed along the fact that only men were called as authors of Scripture and apostles of Christ, and that Paul instructs specifically the men at Corinth to be “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith [and] . . . be strong” (1 Cor 16:13), it becomes clear that both the Old and New Testaments lay upon the man a unique burden to protect women both physically and spiritually.
It’s no wonder, then, why the New Testament often speaks of our spiritual struggle in military terms (see 2 Cor 10:4; Eph 6:10-18) and why, when referring to fellow soldiers in the battle, Paul only refers to other men (see Phil 2:25; 2 Tim 2:3-4; see also 1 Tim 1:18). This distinction between the roles of the man and the woman in this regard is brought out vividly in Paul’s letter to Philemon when he addresses “Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier” (Philem 1:2, emphasis added).
Of course, none of this is meant to imply that a woman should neglect waging her own spiritual warfare for the sake of her children or friends or physically protecting the people she loves (see Eph 6:10-18). Everyone knows how quickly a mommy’s protective instinct engages when the lives of her children are threatened. And there may be times when a woman will need to protect a man who is physically incapacitated and unable to wage any kind of self-defense toward an assailant. But Scripture makes it clear that it is the man who bears the unique responsibility to protect the woman, not the other way around.
Protecting the Women and Children in Our Life
Now that we have established the biblical foundation for our understanding of man’s role as protector, what does this mean practically for us? Consider with me the following implications.
(1) A mature man will gladly and proactively protect the physical welfare of the women and children in his life
The obvious implication of what we have seen in Scripture is that mature manhood will be measured, in large part, by a man’s willingness to protect those who have been entrusted to him. This means that a man must be willing to take risks to protect the women and children in his life. Courage, then, is essential to fulfill this calling, which is why we started chapter two with an exhortation to cultivate this vital spiritual virtue. The world is fallen, and, like it or not, there are people out there who desire to harm others. And their desire to harm others may, at some point, be directed at your family. If you are going to grow as a man, you must be willing to lay down your life to shield your loved ones from danger.
But what does it look like to protect others physically? It means, most literally, fending off attackers and those who seek to physically harm the vulnerable. It means embracing the “women and children first” rule and resisting the pull of self-protection. You may not consider yourself an athletic person, and you may not be someone who is particularly imposing; athletic prowess and size do not matter, however. Your manhood hangs on whether or not you will be the first to engage someone who attempts to harm your family. Nor does it matter whether or not your wife is superior to you in self-defense or martial arts. Our masculinity is expressed by taking the initiative to confront and subdue the aggressor. One author helpfully explains:
It may be in any given instance of danger the woman will have the strength to strike the saving blow. It may be too that she will have the presence of mind to think of the best way of escape. It may be that she will fight tooth and claw to save a crippled man and lay down her life for him if necessary. But this does not diminish the unique call of manhood when he and his female companion are confronted by danger together. . . . A mature man senses instinctively that as a man he is called to take the lead in guarding the woman he is with.1
There may be times when a woman is more physically prepared to fend off an attacker because she is more fit or better at jiu-jitsu than the man. But a man will feel the God-given call to protect the woman he is with, not yield to her protection.
Men should also play an active role in protecting children. Godly men will sense a responsibility to make sure the children around them—in their home, their family, at church, at a park—are safe. I am not talking about how children play, specifically. Men are often more willing to let their kids and the kids around them play in ways that appear too risky for mom’s comfort. Rather, I am referring to specific forms of child abuse perpetrated by older children or adults. Practically, men should be constantly aware of potential predatory threats, physical abuse, and kidnapping. Although women are often better at sensing when a child might be in danger or when someone is acting suspiciously around children, men cannot yield to passivity in this area. We must see ourselves as soldiers, called by our King to stand guard at the parameter of the palace so that those inside can live and play without fear.2
(2) A mature man will gladly and proactively protect the spiritual welfare of the women and children in his life
Unless a man is entirely bereft of healthy masculinity, he will mostly likely agree with the above exhortations, regardless of his religious commitments. Men are designed by God to protect the women and children around them. Christian men, however, will sense an additional responsibility. As we noted above, men who follow Christ will make it a priority to protect the women and children in their life from spiritual harm. And, given the nature of our task, we must apply Spirit-empowered diligence. “Men, spiritual warfare is not child’s play,” one author reminds us. “Satan is not simply seeking to injure your children—he is seeking to devour them.”3
One of the ways we protect women and children in our life from spiritual harm is by we guarding them from false teaching. For husbands and dads, this means we take an active role in regularly praying for our family, gathering them together for devotional reading of Scripture, and keeping a careful eye on the influences that we allow into the home. A man should initiate spiritual and theological conversations with his wife and children and invest time into personal study so that he might have the intellectual tools with which to discern the possible threats to their spiritual health. Again, you may not consider yourself a scholar or much of a reader. But regardless of our personal inclinations or perceived strengths, our call to spiritually protect those under our care and in our sphere of influence requires that we give some time to personal study of Scripture and theology. Granted, this may mean you need to watch less television or set aside a few hobbies, but the sacrifice will pay rich dividends as you grow in the discernment and wisdom needed to guard those around you from spiritual harm.
Dads will also need to take an active role in determining what movies and television shows our children are allowed to watch, and what kind of access they should have to personal technology like smartphones, tablets, and computers. But if you think this last exhortation is overreaching and overbearing, you may not be fully aware of the role personal technology plays in influencing your children. Consider the following few issues.
Addiction to Unhealthy Stimuli
While I can say with a good conscience that I am grateful to God for how my iPhone and iPad have facilitated efficiency and productivity in my life, I am also fully aware of how easily it is to become addicted to certain forms of unhealthy stimuli produced by these two devices. But now that smart phones and tablets have been on the market for years, we are able to draw from countless studies and form fairly consistent conclusions on the ways personal technology is changing us, for good and for ill.4
But we don’t really need studies to confirm what we already know from experience. If we are honest with ourselves and our own hearts, we will have to admit that we sense an addictive craving for what our smart phone can offer us. Just ask yourself: how long do you typically go without looking at your smart phone? How long do your kids go? This growing addition for immediate sensory stimuli from images and entertainment is already having a detrimental effect on our child’s brain development, ability to concentrate, and capacity to interact appropriately in social settings. Awareness of others is drowned by attachment to virtual interaction, and the mind is slowly numbed and inhibited from thinking clearly, connectedly, and carefully. A young Christian’s taste for deep spiritual enjoyment will be muted by constant engagement with the trivial.5 Men, wake up to how your children’s devices are affecting them and take action. You cannot afford to be passive in this area.
Ease of Access to Pornography
But the above problems with regard to our children’s addiction to unhealthy stimuli pale in comparison with the danger of your child’s access to pornography. Brothers, let me be plain: you should be more willing to take a bullet than for your son or daughter to view pornography even one time. Just one glimpse of pornographic material can lodge itself in the mind of a child for years and have enduring effects on how they view sexuality, their friends, the opposite sex, and their own bodies. If you think that you can slouch into your easy chair, turn on ESPN, and leave it to your child’s discretion and wisdom to navigate their smartphone or tablet use, you will one day find out—I promise—how wrong you really were.
The Internet and the various apps available for smartphones and tablets today are a virtual trove of pornographic material—from soft to hardcore pornography. Still images of naked men and women to videos of the actual sex act are only one or two clicks away from your child’s eyes. Even among the more “innocent” apps, one can stumble upon all kinds of filth, often because the programmers and engineers tasked with guarding these apps from pornographic infiltration cannot keep up with all the material with which they are barraged twenty-four hours a day.
I am not telling you whether or not your teenager should own a smart phone or whether your child should be allowed to play games on a tablet. Rather, my point is to arrest your attention with these horrifying realities so that you will not be lulled to sleep by the enemy through indifference or ignorance. If you are going to protect your family, you must be willing to actively engage this area of technology.
Protecting Your Family’s Sexual Purity
Men should also be active in protecting their family’s sexual purity. This kind of protection, however, is not merely for your daughters. It is for your sons as well as your wife. Starting with the one whom God calls you to wash with the water of His Word, you must protect your wife’s sexual purity by guarding her from unhelpful and unholy input. While your wife is responsible before the Lord to guard her own heart (Prov 4:29) and pursue holiness in obedience to Christ (Heb 12:14), you are responsible to help her in this area by not placing any stumbling blocks before her.
For example, you should exercise great caution with what movies or television shows you watch together. It is typically believed by most professing Christians that sexual images and scenes of sexual intimacy affect men more profoundly than women when it comes to their respective purity. While there is some truth to that claim, it is unwise and illegitimate to therefore conclude that such images do not affect women, or that it is acceptable before God for a wife to watch what, for moral reasons, her husband cannot. It is unhelpful to your wife’s pursuit of holiness to expose her to movies and television that promote sexual immorality, and as men we should be willing to forego a particular movie or program for the sake of maintaining a clean conscience.
Regarding our sons, we should be making an effort, at a very early age, to promote sexual holiness around our boys. A wholesome view of sexuality will first come from how we treat our wives. It is good and wise for husbands to regularly express appropriate affection toward their wives in front of their children. Hugs, brief kisses on the cheek and lips, hand-holding, and gentle caressing should be regular expressions of your love for your wife. Such expressions of love will serve to foster in your boys a healthy attitude toward sexuality and physical affection.
But in order for these displays of affection to be truly effective in your sons, they must be exclusive to your wife. In other words, our boys must see that we treat only their mother with that kind of affection. Flirtatious behavior and physically affectionate conduct toward other women—regardless of how you treat your wife—will only confuse your sons as to how they are to treat other women and think about marital intimacy.
Such commitment to your wife will also express itself in how you handle entertainment. Sure, you might keep your hands to yourself around other women, but your boys know what you are watching on T. V. or looking at on the Internet. It will be difficult to cultivate a healthy view of sexuality among your sons if you are indulging in unwholesome television or surveying the women’s magazines in the check-out line at the store.
Coupled with the dad’s attention to his personal holiness will be deliberate talks—when the child is of appropriate age—about the beauty, goodness, and sacredness of sexual intimacy in marriage. It might sound intimidating to talk to your sons about sex, but this is a fear you must overcome by God’s grace. If you do not, you will leave your son’s sexual education primarily to the television, movies, magazines, and his peers; a frightening prospect for any dad who cares about his call to protect his family’s sexual purity.
Concerning our daughters, we must be vigilant in protecting their purity as well. Practically, this means that dads should have a say in what their daughters wear and both encourage and require modesty in their girls as long as they are under his authority and care. Protecting our daughters’ sexual purity will also require that we show them much physical affection as they grow from little girls into young women. A girl whose dad regularly expresses wholesome physical affection to her will be far less likely to seek such affection from other men and will be helped in her own fight for purity.
Finally, it should go without saying that dads should take an active role in vetting any young man who desires to date their daughters. I know that Christian families have different opinions about this particular topic, but I believe it is unwise for junior high-age children to become involved in dating relationships. Granted, junior high is the time when boys and girls are experiencing sexual maturity and transitioning from boys and girls to young men and women, and are beginning—perhaps for the first time—to feel genuine attraction toward members of the opposite sex. But it is precisely for this reason that parents should restrict their children from dating and should be, rather, using such a time to teach their children about the physical and emotional upheaval they are currently experiencing and help them navigate these new and often powerful desires for the opposite sex.
In my judgment it is naïve in the extreme for parents to allow their pre-teen and early teenage children to wade through this tumultuous time of sexual puberty without the steady guidance of godly, older wisdom. When the appropriate time comes, however, fathers should be ready to stand between their daughter and any potential suitor in order to allow access only to young men who have demonstrated genuine Christian character. I am not suggesting that a sixteen or eighteen or twenty year old man must possess the qualifications of an elder (see 1 Tim 3:1-7). But he must be a Christian and someone who is characterized by a reasonable amount of self-control (Titus 2:6).
I also think dads should require a personal conversation with a potential boyfriend before the young man is allowed to date his daughter in order to determine whether this particular young man is worthy of his daughter. The dad should also have specific rules already in place before the first date ever takes place (curfew, what kind of activities are appropriate, with whom his daughter and this young man will spend time, etc.). These kinds of rules will loosen in restriction as daughters increase in age, move out of the house, and become independent from their parents. Nevertheless, a dad should always desire to be involved at a significant level with his daughter’s romantic life, offering guidance and protection, however that protection will take shape.
My goal in this section is not to provide an exhaustive treatise on how dads should fulfill their calling to protect their daughters. Rather, I simply want to highlight the importance of such a calling and encourage dads of young daughters to prepare well and men with older girls to take an active role in the lives of their daughters.
Protecting the Marriage Bed
For married men, the responsibility to guard the sexual relationship between his wife and himself is of utmost importance. Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is a precious gift, and God has given us this gift not only for our enjoyment, but in order to keep us from sexual temptation. Paul makes this very point in his first letter to the Corinthians.
But because of sexual of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourself to prayer, but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.1 Cor 7:2-5
In this passage, Paul argues that defense against sexual temptation is bolstered by first entering into marriage, and then by engaging in regular sexual intimacy within marriage. Both the husband and the wife are to view the pleasure and enjoyment of their spouse as paramount, as each person freely offers himself or herself to the other. This free giving of oneself is what Paul means when he says, “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Paul is not suggesting that a man or a woman can do whatever they want to their spouse’s body. Such a teaching would open the door for spousal abuse, and most often from the husband.
Rather, Paul is saying that each person should value the pleasure of their spouse in such a way that they give themselves to that enjoyment and therefore do not withhold sexual intimacy from their spouse. Paul makes his meaning clear when he adds, “Do not deprive one another.” The temptation for a married couple will be to withhold sexual intercourse out of bitterness or in order to manipulate the other person. Some couples may even begin to conclude that too much sexual intimacy is a sign of spiritual immaturity, and only an occasional indulgence is to be preferred as the more “holy” practice. Paul demolishes this kind of thinking, and he charges both the husband and the wife to pursue regularly the pleasure of the marriage bed.
But although marital intimacy is one of God’s greatest and most enjoyable gifts, there will be times within the marriage when a couple will be tempted to neglect this gift and fail to pursue it in the way it should be pursued. If you are a newly married couple, it might be difficult to imagine such a time in your marriage. Your passion for one another and the newness of your sexual union presently ensures your regularity in the marriage bed. And while the fire of sexual passion is essential and should be kindled regularly, there will be times that you are not as excited as you once were about engaging in sexual intercourse.
If one is primarily concerned about bringing delight to one’s spouse and not merely securing satisfaction for himself or herself, for example, then one will find that sexual intimacy, though immensely pleasurable, requires work. Schedules, tiredness, the difficulties of child-rearing and other factors of regular life can also hinder a couple from coming together on a regular basis. Paul recognizes the hazard of sexual temptation gaining a foothold within the neglect of sexual intimacy, so he instructs the Christian couple to pursue regular, consistent sexual intimacy.
Protection in this area, therefore—as in every other area we have discussed—will require the man to lead and take the initiative. What do I mean? Practically, the husband must pursue sexual intimacy with his wife and not leave it to her initiative or to his mere feelings. Surprisingly, there may be times when you simply do not feel like having sex with your wife. Yes, hard to believe for some younger couples, but true nonetheless. Lack of affection isn’t the issue, but work demands and disappointments, time-constraints, general weariness, and a hundred other factors will conspire to dampen your desire for marital intimacy and justify your resignation to passivity. It is at this point, however, that we must, by the power of the Holy Spirit, shun passivity and actively pursue our wives. As one author insightfully comments,
Sometimes sexual sloth comes from being busy with the wrong things. A guy who regularly works very long hours can actually be slothful if his choices about where to spend his time and energies leave not room for romancing his wife. How can hard work be sloth? Because a Christian husband is called to make sure he is regularly romancing his wife. If romance and intimacy are being pushed off the schedule too often, he needs to make what may be the more difficult decision: to set aside work and pursue his spouse.6
Laziness, therefore, is one of the chief enemies of sexual intimacy, and, by implication, a gateway for temptation to enter into the marriage. Shunning passivity at this point will also mean shunning passivity elsewhere in the marriage. A couple, for example, should never engage in sexual intimacy if they have unresolved conflict between each other. Sexual union during times of spiritual and relational disunity is a profound expression of hypocrisy, and will serve to undermine the relationship at a fundamental level. The husband, therefore, must take the initiative, as we saw in chapter two, to pursue reconciliation with his wife so that they might enter into physical intimacy with authenticity and a clean conscience. As in other areas, this call for men to take the initiative does not imply that the wife is unable to initiate sexual intimacy. She most certainly can, and she will bless her husband when she does. But something is amiss when the wife feels as though the burden is upon her to constantly initiate such times.7
Protecting Your Own Sexual Purity
Protecting the marriage bed also requires the husband to protect his own sexual purity. The author of Hebrews makes a connection between honoring sexual intimacy within marriage and avoiding fornication and adultery: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb 13:4). Single men, therefore, have the responsibility to protect their marriage bed by avoiding sexual intimacy—fornication—with women who are not their wives. This means that men in dating relationships are called by God to treat their girlfriends and fiancés as someone else’s wife until they make them their own wife. When a man fails to lead his girlfriend or fiancé into paths of sexual purity, he defiles the marriage bed and is in danger of God’s judgment.
The married man must protect the marriage bed, as we’ve seen, by regularly pursuing his wife. But he also protects the marriage bed by steadfastly avoiding adultery. We learn from Jesus, however, that resisting adultery is more than just yielding to physical intercourse with another woman. It begins with the eyes and the heart. And so serious is this call to keep one’s eyes and heart pure that Jesus threatens hell to those who carelessly indulge in lust.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.Matt 5:27-30
Jesus is not saying that a Christian who wrestles with lust will lose his salvation. Rather, He is saying that those who do not take lust seriously demonstrate that their faith is not saving faith, for saving faith wages eye-gouging, dismembering war on lust.8 A life characterized by unchecked lust is a life headed for eternal hell. Protecting the marriage bed, therefore, requires that we rigorously avoid the mental adultery of lust. This admonishment is for married and single men.
Hard- and soft-core pornography, and all lesser forms of visual sexual stimulation, therefore, must be avoided at all costs. Gazing upon the body of a woman who is not your wife, or watching the depiction of the sex act devastates a man’s heart and mind: sexual desire is perverted, healthy affections dampened, and masculine initiative curtailed. I believe one reason why male sexual-dysfunction drugs (e.g., Viagra) are so prevalent today is not because men lack the physical apparatus to engage in sexual intercourse, but because their minds have been ravaged by lust to the point where they require medical supplementation in order to become sexually aroused. Brothers, if we are constantly uninterested in sexual intimacy with our wives, this may well be a sign that we have not been careful to guard our eyes and hearts from mental adultery. Jesus said tear out an eye and cut off a hand in order to avoid lust.
That means do whatever it takes, even to the point where people will think you look strange, in order to avoid lust. You may not be able to watch certain movies or television programs. You may need to keep your head buried in the roster during the basketball game while the female dancers perform. You might need to get software for your computer and smartphone in order to protect yourself from illicit websites. You might need to get rid of the Internet altogether. Inconvenient? Perhaps. Potential fodder for ridicule from others? Maybe. But totally worth it in order to remain pure, go to heaven, and protect the marriage bed.
Single Men and the Call to Protect
Most of what I’ve said thus far applies most directly to husbands and dads. If you are a single man, several of these instructions are useful to help you prepare for marriage and fatherhood. But what about right now? And what if you are single for several years? Are you still called to protect others as a single man? The biblical answer is a resounding “Yes!” As we already noted, Jesus—a single man—serves as our example of how to protect others. He protected vulnerable women from the scorn and contempt of religious leaders (Luke 13:10-17). He protected His disciples from unlawful arrest and mistreatment (John 18:8). He protected children from unkind and unfair rejection (Luke 18:15-17). He protected people from the wiles of Satan and his demons (Luke 8:26-39). And He laid down His very life in order to protect us from the punishment that was due our sin (Rom 3:19-26; 6:23).
Single men, therefore, can have confidence in Christ that they can conduct a significant ministry of protection among their church and immediate family. For example, as I’ve already noted, men—married or not—should take an active interest in protecting the children at their church and in their families from sexual predators and those who intend them physical harm. Single men should see it as their calling to protect their sisters in Christ both physically and spiritually. Sons should be ready to protect their mothers. Brothers should be prepared to protect their sisters and younger siblings. Adult grandchildren should count it a privilege to look out for their grandparents. Just take a moment to look around you: God has entrusted you with many, many opportunities for ministry, whether you are married or not. And you will find much joy and fulfillment as a man if you actively pursue these opportunities.
You are also called to protect the marriage bed, even though you are not yet married. You guard the marriage bed by protecting your own sexual purity, and by guarding your girlfriend or fiancé’s sexual purity. Both of these duties require diligence, watchfulness, and courage. But the Spirit and the gifts are ours, and we are able, through Christ, to engage in the warfare of protection.9
If you are a man, then God has called and designed you to be a protector. If we neglect this calling, however, our masculinity will be compromised. We need courage, it’s true. But God has already given us courage (2 Tim 1:7) and will enable us, as we depend on Him and act in faith, to fulfill this important duty of protection.
1. John Piper, “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 43-44.
2. For help in this area, especially with regard to church settings, see Deepak Reju’s On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2014).
3. Steven J. Lawson, The Legacy: What Every Father Wants to Leave His Child (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 1998), 182.
4. See for example, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, “‘It’s Digital Heroin’: How Screens are Turning Kids into Psychotic Junkies,” NY Post, August 27, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016, http://nypost.com/2016/08/27/its-digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies.
5. See Tony Reinke, “Smart Phone Addiction and Our Spiritual ADD,” DesiringGod.org, April 18, 2015. Accessed December 30, 2015, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/smartphone-addiction-and-our-spiritual-add.
6. Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say ‘I Do’: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage (Wapwallopen, PA, 2007), 163.
7. For encouragement in this area of pursuing and romancing your wife, I recommend C. J. Mahaney’s little book, Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), and Stuart Scott’s chapter, “A Husband’s Responsibility – Physical Intimacy,” in his book, The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective, Revised Edition (Bemidji, MN: Focus, 2002), 143-155.
8. For more on how to understand this passage and how saving faith is lust-fighting faith, see John Piper, The Purifying Power of Living By Faith in Future Grace (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1995), 329-338.
9. The phrase “the Spirit and the gifts are yours” is taken from one of my favorite hymns, written by Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is our God” (1529).