There is this common misconception that to be a real man is to be a loner. A loner desires to be solely self-sufficient, believes he needs no one, and considers any dependence upon another as a sign of weakness. Unfortunately what is perceived as a manly trait is in fact unscriptural as it is unmanly. In reality a man who sees himself as a loner misunderstands the function of the church by selfishly looking to his own interests while focusing solely on building his own kingdom. He does not seek out accountability because he thinks he is strong enough to face the enemy alone and sees service to God as an endeavor meant just for him. But as the saying goes, “no man is an island”. A man by himself cannot be the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). For males to become men, a man must live in a community of brothers who will challenge, equip, and encourage him to be the man God has called him to be.
One of the most vivid illustrations of the necessity for men to live in such a community is found in Psalm 133. The first two verses read,
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!”
David claims that when men experience brothers dwelling in unity, it is something good and pleasant. This is coming from one of the greatest warriors of the ancient world who fought and killed the giant, Goliath. His masculinity is not wrapped up in the ability to live life on his own. On the contrary, David sees living in community with his brothers as essential to a life serving God.
David then says when brothers dwell in unity it is like “oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron.” This is an odd illustration for our modern context. We don’t often see precious oil flowing down heads and beards. But we don’t want to miss the significance of the oil used in this passage. In ancient times oil was used as a cleansing agent to refresh guests almost like a perfume. However, there is something deeper happening here. It is important to note that this is not just any beard, but the beard of Aaron, (whom I would wager had a massive beard). When we look at Exodus 29, we see that oil was poured on Aaron and his sons, the designated priesthood of Israel, to consecrate (make them holy) and prepare them to minister to the Lord in the temple.
The point of this comparison is this: as oil was used to consecrate and prepare the priests to minister to God in the temple, so does a unified brotherhood consecrate and prepare a man to minister to God. What might this look like for men today? Here are a couple of practical applications of this principle:
1) A community of brothers provides accountability so that the man of God may be holy and pure, serving God unhindered.
There is nothing that will hinder a servant of God more than the entanglement of his own sin. If a man desires to serve God, rest assured that Satan and his forces will be against him and tempt him to fall. A man left to himself is not only vulnerable to the attack of enemy but also to his own flesh. Men need to dwell in unity in order to protect each other from temptations and sins. A loner who thinks he is above temptation is the most vulnerable of men. Hear the words of the wise Solomon: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
2) A community of brothers provides the opportunity for iron-sharpening-iron so that the man of God may be better equipped, serving God more effectively.
Proverbs 27:17 states, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” To better serve God a man must surround himself with brothers with the same focus and mission. Running with those faster than you will make you run faster and harder. To be a better minister of the Gospel it is wise to surround yourself with more mature and experienced ministers of the Gospel. There is a temptation to surround yourself with only those who are “weaker” than you in order to puff you up. It is good to have three types of people you run with: Paul (one who disciples you); Timothy (one whom you disciple); Barnabas (one with whom you encourage and are encouraged). Put people around you who will challenge you to fight harder for the Kingdom.
3) A community of brothers strengthens the Church by unifying together for the Gospel.
The Church is most effective for the Kingdom when it is unified. Unity is one of the major themes of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, because they had become divided over trivial issues. He writes, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) Men must lead the Church in being united over the Gospel. Being of the same mind will strengthen the Church to carry out the mission of God.
4) A community of brothers is a beautiful witness of the Gospel to the world.
Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). When men lay down their life for one another, it paints a beautiful portrait of the Gospel to the world. The most powerful witness is when a man’s actions correspond to his deeds. If men are to proclaim the love of Christ then by the power of God it must be practiced in community. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone. A man serves God well because he dwells with his brothers in unity. When this happens it is good and pleasant…kind of like oil that flows down the head and that full beard of Aaron.