There’s much talk these days about the need for a more positive masculinity. Many yearn to see the day when violence, bullying, and sexism aren’t treated by anyone as a normal or natural part of manhood. Ted Bunch, activist, educator, and co-founder of the organization “A Call to Men” is making efforts to nourish a “healthy, respectful manhood.” In a PBS interview he said, “We are going to lift [manhood] up.… this is not an indictment on manhood. It’s actually an invitation to men.”
I’ve been grateful for a more inspired, spiritual sense of the Bible’s message that I have found to be a source of guidance for uplifting anything, including the nature of masculinity and femininity. This understanding of the Bible is brought to light in a book that always helps to illuminate the deeper, spiritual meaning of its precious content for me – “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy.
This book points to the nature of God as divine Spirit and all men and women as truly God’s purely spiritual creation. The spiritual sense of the Scriptures it provides has shown me clearly and simply how a unity of qualities we think of as masculine and feminine makes up the nature of God.
For instance, a poignant verse in Psalm 91 speaks of the all-embracing gentleness and solid strength of God, divine Love. It says, “Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers, will protect you under His great wings,” as The Voice renders it. Fortifying this image, it continues, “His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you” (verse 4). In a similar fashion, “Science and Health” says: “Tenderness accompanies all the might imparted by Spirit” (p. 514).
The Bible has also taught me that the masculine and feminine qualities of God are expressed in each individual man and woman, as we are actually made by God, in Spirit’s image and likeness. Divine Spirit is the source of each of us, and understanding this naturally lifts up our concept of manhood to a spiritual basis that also lifts up womanhood, and vice versa.
One Bible story in the Old Testament is particularly helpful as an example of how any character trait that doesn’t come from God – including destructive behavior, aggression – falls away in the light of recognizing the spirituality that constitutes our real being.
In the account, Abigail, a woman of “good understanding,” is the wife of a wealthy man, Nabal, described as “churlish” or mean-spirited. Even though David (who would later become king of Israel) had shown kindness to his shepherds, Nabal decides to refuse David’s request for food, for himself and his men. David is affronted by this, and swears he will kill every man in Nabal’s household.
While he is on his way with sword in hand, Abigail, having been told of David’s intentions, fearlessly seeks him out with humility and meekness. Instead of reacting to the violent intent that seems to be consuming David, she appears to speak to his higher nature of mercifulness and pure love of good. She reminds him that evil hasn’t been found in him all his life.
David’s heart is touched, and he blesses her for stopping him from angry retaliation (see I Samuel 25:1–35). It’s clear that the pure Christliness and spirituality Abigail expressed had a profound effect, bringing out the same qualities in David.
A statement in Science and Health deepens this beautiful story for me: “The masculine mind reaches a higher tone through certain elements of the feminine, while the feminine mind gains courage and strength through masculine qualities” (p. 57). All of these qualities are embraced in the Christ, the full expression of God’s nature that Jesus embodied to the utmost and through which he healed and uplifted the lives of both men and women.
While there might not be someone as faithful and earnest as Abigail at hand to awaken everyone struggling with some willful or evil thoughts, the Christ is speaking to everyone, and we can know it is always at hand to break through the darkness of material beliefs with spiritual understanding. The action of Christ restores our spiritual sense and inspires within us more love and humility. False character traits can be disposed of as we see ourselves as God’s child, because in reality they are without divine power or permission to parade themselves as the nature of anyone.
As the dearly loved children of Spirit, we are each capable of grasping what’s inherent in every man and woman. Understanding the spiritual basis of true manhood and womanhood, both including the full spectrum of feminine and masculine qualities, helps bring more of these qualities to light in practice, too.