A higher sense of manhood
There is much discussion on what constitutes true manhood. Beyond what we may view as traditional and nontraditional roles is a higher understanding, which includes all men, women, and children – an understanding that reveals everyone’s selfhood as an expression of God, good.
A woman was accused of adultery – caught “in the very act,” it was alleged (see John 8:1-11). A restless crowd of men surrounding the accused was primed to stone her – that was the accepted norm, they said, the religious law even. But then they paused to test the man who was believed to be the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. What happened next is a model of thought and action for humanity today.
Jesus did not take the bait. He did not get excited or dramatic. He did not try to deter or stop the men. He simply stooped down and wrote in the dirt, as though he didn’t hear them. When the accusers continued to badger him, Jesus responded, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and ceased to acknowledge or interact with them further.
Silently each of the men slipped away. Jesus then turned to the woman and tenderly assured her that he did not condemn her either; he said she was to go on her way and cease from any further immoral behavior. Here was peace and redemption for all.
What had started as a potentially violent incident with a group of men about to commit a barbaric act, melted into a viable off-ramp. There was neither audible shame nor gloating for the men or the woman – just silent justice, mercy, and wisdom.
What happened here? Christ Jesus understood that the true idea of man and manhood is not defined by brute force, traditional norms, or societal status. This encounter demonstrates that Jesus understood man to be the spiritual idea of God, divine Love. Spiritual man, which includes women and true womanhood, is the offspring of God, Spirit, and therefore reflects God’s nature of purity, peace, forgiveness, strength, and love.
Nothing, not tradition, past experiences, or indoctrination, can corrupt man’s innate nature of godliness. Man’s true identity is safe in God, untouched by mental forces that might swirl around and threaten to suck him down into patterns of violence or revenge. This truth had saved both the accused woman and the improperly motivated men.
Mary Baker Eddy defines God in the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” as divine Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, and Love. She explains that these terms are “intended to express the nature, essence, and wholeness of Deity.” She further expands on the essence of God by explaining: “The attributes of God are justice, mercy, wisdom, goodness, and so on” (p. 465).
These qualities, inherent in all of us, are the same virtues that were ultimately expressed by the men the Gospel of John describes as about to commit a heinous act. Because Jesus was aware of the true nature of man, of a higher sense and standard of manhood than the accepted fare, he was able to prevent the atrocity. Most likely, the experience had a lasting impact on those who were spared from committing a mob-inflicted murder.
We can bring lessons from this biblical account forward today by acknowledging that since God is everywhere, God’s nature and attributes are everywhere, too. There is no time or place where God and God’s essence and nature are not present and expressed. Thanks to his divine heritage as the child of God, man is not trapped in a brute sense of manhood, but is defined and protected by a higher sense of existence in Soul, a pure sense of identity that can be known and practiced by all.
A friend of mine witnessed this higher understanding when he was involved in a series of negotiations with a group that had a violent past and reputation. My friend said he had to constantly affirm in prayer that man, including those he was working with, is the offspring of God, divine Mind, and thus subject only to divine Mind’s character and temperament.
My friend strove to see those around him as Christ Jesus must have seen those around him. “Christ Jesus reckoned man in Science, having the kingdom of heaven within him. He spake of man not as the offspring of Adam, a departure from God, or His lost likeness, but as God’s child” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Message to The Mother Church for 1902,” p. 8).
My friend said that as he continued to affirm in thought the divine status and standard of true manhood, he began to see qualities such as honesty, steadfastness, and forthrightness in those he interacted with. One man in particular, who had been involved in past violence, was kind and helpful on several occasions. The negotiations proceeded with integrity, and eventually resolution acceptable to all parties was found.
We can each cherish a divine sense of manhood and strive to see it expressed by those we encounter. We can also know that no matter what our own past might have been, we, too, are forgiven, redeemed, and free to go on our way loved by God. This mental effort to hold the true spiritual nature of man in thought is a prayer that benefits ourselves, those around us, and those around the world.