If you could take one of those little cutout paper figures and decorate him to look like a “real man,” what would he look like? Would you dress him in camouflage and combat boots with a machine gun over his shoulder? Would you give him a muscular physique and a dark tan? Maybe you would like to see him in a nice suit carrying a briefcase on his way to some high-profile meeting. Maybe you would dress him to look like a coach that inspired you or a teacher that enlightened you. Would you decorate him to look like your husband, your father, your son? If you could, just how would you define a “real man” on a blank canvas? Does being a Christian change the way you might consider such a question?
In 1 Corinthians 16, we can catch a glimpse of a real man in action. His name is Stephanas. We do not know too much about him. His name only appears in two places—the beginning and the end of 1 Corinthians. From the brief details that appear, we can tell that Paul thought very highly of him, and might even describe him to be a “real man.” What can we discern about Stephanas that would make him a worthy candidate of being a real man?
We know that Stephanas made it a point to serve the church. We are told in these verses that upon their conversion, Stephanas and his household committed themselves to serving the saints. From this, it is easy to understand that men should not be above serving. Jesus said in Mark 10:45 that even the Son of Man was not too good to serve. I truly believe that real men serve their God by serving their families and their churches. Men who are not servants come up far short of the biblical standard of masculinity.
The ugly truth is that we live in a time when many men do not serve well. There are men in churches all across our nation on any given Sunday morning who would rather be anywhere but church. They are present out of guilt or because their wives made them come. Men who do not want to be at church definitely do not serve well in those churches. In our own church, we’ve seen this manifest in the recent ministry participation surveys. There were 50% more women to respond than men! What does that tell us?
Stephanas served well—even going out of his way to do so. Paul was in Ephesus during the time of writing this letter. At some point, Stephanas, along with Fortunatas and Achaicus, traveled to see Paul and minister to some of his needs. This was a trip across the Aegean Sea—more than 200 miles! Needless to say that by first century standards, it was a significant journey. When is the last time you went out of your way to minister to the needs of someone else? No one ever said that being a servant was an easy job.
There is a reason that Paul asked the Corinthian church to submit to Stephanas and those like him. Real men who lead by serving selflessly and sacrificially are worth submitting to. Most of the time, when you see a husband who serves his wife and his family well, you will see a wife who delights in submitting to his Christ-like example and children who know that they are loved and cared for. We will always do well if we select genuine servants to lead as deacons (or any other position for that matter). And all Christian men should strive to serve just like Stephanas and the dozens of other “real men” that are highlighted throughout the pages of the Bible.