When I was engaged, I hunted for all the advice I could get about being a good husband. Most of those conversations focused on leading family devotions, getting a good job so I can provide financially, and taking care of issues around the house – even though my skill is making holes, not fixing them. By that standard, I don’t measure up. My wife earns more than me, and I call a professional if a problem demands more than putty and paint to fix it. Conversations about men sadly seem “focused almost exclusively on the external behavior of men, defining masculinity by what men should and shouldn’t do” (23).

Why are we drawn to these defining traits? Maybe we believe they offer simple and tangible answers. Stop looking at porn feels more doable than purifying your heart. Cleaning the car, painting the house, and scrubbing the dishes bring loving your family down to measurable goals. “It’s not that those expectations are wrong, but expectations themselves don’t make men better. Marriage is no cure for a lustful heart, and having a child doesn’t guarantee your maturity. You can’t confer character by a title or job description. And simply giving men more responsibility doesn’t guarantee they’ll suddenly form the virtues necessary to bear it” (23). No matter how much we look at the part and memorize the lines, the work of becoming better men is not external. The way forward isn’t hanging on a rack in the wardrobe department. Becoming men who are becoming like Christ is the work of cultivating character – the long, often unseen, heart work of learning to apply the gospel to ourselves.

A Guide for the Work Ahead

The 5 Masculine Instincts guides men in this internal work by looking under the surface into the instincts that drive men. Our instincts are “a way of perceiving who you are, the world you are in, and how you should act in the midst of it” (26). Using the five middle stages from Shakespeare’s seven stages of a man and the stories of five biblical men, Chase helps men identify their instincts and apply the appropriate gospel check.

  • Cain reveals the instinct of sarcasm and our need for humility and meekness.
  • Samson reveals the instinct of adventure and our need for discernment and commitment.
  • Moses reveals the instinct of ambition and our need for rest.
  • David reveals the instinct of reputation and our need for honesty and integrity.
  • Abraham reveals the instinct of apathy and our need for sacrifice.

These five men serve as real human guides. Chase reminds readers, “The Bible is full of men just like you, confused and struggling to figure out their own instincts” (33). These are men like us, whose lives are messy and complicated. Their stories are of men who got sand under their toenails from a real walk with God. The dirty-ness of their humanity makes them helpful companions to show us the way forward.

A Gospel Focus

In the Divine Comedy, Virgil guides Dante through Hell and Purgatory but steps aside before Paradise. Virgil can only take him this far. To finish his journey, Dante needed another companion. Likewise, men need more than the stories of Cain or Samson. These men guide us to Jesus. He is the companion we need—the one who can take us all the way to knowing God and knowing ourselves. Chase writes, “Our aim is not to be like Moses or to become more like David. They are not the end at which we aim our lives. They point us to something better. They point us to Christ. Our goal is not just to be men, but to be men becoming more like Christ. He is our aim” (35-36). Cain, Samson, Moses, David, and Abraham guide us to Jesus. Their stories help us recognize our instincts, but that is only half the work. Recognizing our instincts is not enough. Our instincts need to be ruled by the gospel. Chase explains:

“It is the gospel that gives you the security to embrace a self-suspicion necessary to overcome your immaturity and sarcasm. It is the gospel that offers you a better adventure through deeper commitments and discernment. It’s the gospel that checks your ambition and teaches you to receive what you can’t achieve by setting down your expectations and learning to rest. It’s the gospel that exposes your pretending and teaches you the value of integrity over defending your reputation. And it is the gospel that keeps you engaged with this story of sacrifice and grace, rescuing you from your own apathy and pulling back into a life of faith” (181).

Without the gospel, instincts rule us. By walking with Jesus, we have something better. We become better men as he teaches us to know ourselves and to know his gospel deeper.

Since its release in March, I have recommended The 5 Masculine Instincts more than any other book because of its usefulness across generations. Chase writes about masculinity in a way that dads and their sons can read together. There is not a man in my church – teenager, young dad, middle-aged or senior- who I would hesitate to recommend reading The 5 Masculine Instincts. This book is a joy to read on your sofa and a gift to feast on around a table with other men.

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