Our culture wants men to be featherweights when it comes to conviction, seriousness, responsibility, discipline, courage, and truth. The Creator of these men does not. He wants gravitas.

Diego Velasquez depiction of the Apostle Paul, a man with some serious gravitas

The Apostle Paul, a man with some serious gravitas

Gravitas comes from the Latin gravis, which means “dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner.” In line with the expectation upon men seen in the entire breadth of Scripture, it is my argument that every Christian man should aim, by God’s grace and for his glory, to be characterized by this trait, with the effect that people can look at him and say, “That is a man of gravitas. There is a solemn weight to the way he carries himself. He believes in truth. He walks in love, joy, passion, and conviction. There’s an undeniable winsome seriousness evident in his character, his words, his thoughts, and his motivations.”

Don’t Be A Man of Vapor

Vapor. What’s it like? It’s a light thing. In the gas phase, it’s not weighty. It does not hold itself to the ground, but diffuses into the air. It is unsubstantial and fleeting.
C_Bloomington_Vapor_Lounge

In like manner, a man of vapor lacks sober-minded heaviness to his demeanor or respectable weightiness to his persona. The substance of his personhood is as unsubstantial as vaporous gas. If you would set the smallest ember of God’s truth next to him, and call him to define it, reflect on it, defend it, or be challenged by it, he would melt into a puddle of spineless indecision and passivity. An unbelieving man of vapor is a reflection of his father Adam, who rejected righteousness, conviction, truth, action, courage, and God-honoring gravitas for the vaporous pleasures of sin and folly.

But the man of vapor has become the cultural icon. Pick any popular sitcom or comedy. It’s a near guarantee that at least one of its male characters is perpetually goofy, passively conviction-less, pathetically self-pleasing, or just a plain ‘ole imbecile. From Bad Grandpa, Hall Pass, Friends with Benefits, Jack*ss, and The Hangover (now forthcoming with its third installment), and even back to American Pie, Superbad, and Old School, we are constantly bombarded with these boy-man comedies. The plot of these movies, almost without fail, goes something like this: immature college boys or too-old-to-act-like-that middle-aged dudes engage in reckless/fratty/sexual/drunken/irresponsible exploits in a humorous celebration of carefree boy-man living.

What is the reason for this? This fallen world likes a man of vapor because he upholds the status quo and dislikes a man of gravitas because he threatens to ruin the party. He must be silenced, marginalized, mocked, or relegated to irrelevancy. So the system schemes to have you laugh rather than learn. It crafts entertaining mechanisms to see you keel over in laughter at fallen maleness, in all its ridiculousness, long enough for you to forget that the weight of truth-incarnating manhood is so much better than its boyish counterpart.

American culture expects men to be goofy, irresponsible, foolish, self-gratifying, spineless, and stupid. Society, along with mens’ sin, seduces them to reject the serious gravitas of biblical manhood and embrace the vaporous lightness of cultural maleness. The result is that young men are entrenched in a cultural atmosphere that’s so very carefree, undemanding, and always unserious. So gravitas is grouchiness. Seriousness is Puritanical. Responsibility is a dirty word. Conviction is a dinosaur. Slaphappy amusement is an obsession. Self-gratification is an axiom. Vaporous manhood is a god.

We’ve inherited this fallenness from our father Adam. But through Christ, who succeeds in all areas Adam failed, there is a better way.

Be A Man of Gravitas

In contrast to a man of vapor, this man is weighty, filled with the gravitas of the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:11). This is through Jesus Christ alone. This gravitas comes to bear upon fallen masculinity when the Spirit of God invades a man of vapor, grants him new life and a new heart, and commissions him to live no longer for himself and for his fleeting personal gratification, but for the eternal cause of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:15).

But even redeemed brothers can struggle to cultivate a counter-cultural disposition of righteous gravitas, because we’re not yet made perfect. So the Bible constantly exhorts us. We need to be reminded by God’s Word and God’s people. What, then, are some marks of this man of gravitas that we should aim to cultivate?

He is convictional. A man of gravitas stewards truth in confident humility, his heart set ablaze with the fire of biblical conviction. He believes in the exclusivity of Christ, the sovereignty of God,  the eternality of hell, the filthiness of self-righteousness, the demands of Christian holiness, the necessity of spiritual disciplines, and the urgency of the present. He is not necessarily seminary or Bible-college trained; he can just be a man of the Word with theological and moral backbone. He is not carried away as vapor with every novel idea, but holds with vehemence to the old paths. His words carry weight because his heart cherishes truth.

He is intentional. A man of gravitas engages others. He winsomely pursues people with good, heart-searching questions. He asks for prayer and seeks to pray for others. He confronts sin and confesses sin. He initiates meaningful conversation. He is deliberate to create then enact strategies that would best leverage his time, his talents, and his resources for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.

He is serious. A man of gravitas is not a grouch or a killjoy, but there are realities that call him to be deadly serious about a great many things. He knows that we fight against spiritual forces of darkness, so he acquires a sober-minded war-like mentality.  He reminds the brothers that there is a battle raging, so armor must be put on, serious soldiers must be trained and deployed, and bloodthirsty dragons must be slain. There is a healthy spiritual intensity present in him that looks more like John the Baptist and Jesus and less like Ron Burgundy.

He is broken. He has been confronted with the horrors of his sin and bound up with the healing of the gospel. Yet he limps like Jacob, as a jar of clay, a product of divine grace, through whom God’s strength is displayed in his weakness. He has a gospel brokenness that can’t help but overflow in genuine love, sacrifice, compassion, mercy, grace, sensitivity, kindness, tenderness, and gentleness. These grace-given attributes establish him as a man of gravitas. Men who have been used of God have been broken men, and he leverages this brokenness for the glory of God and the joy of others.

He is bold. A man of gravitas fears God more than he fears man. So he is free to declare, “Thus says the Lord,” in direct opposition to the popular opinion of the unbelieving masses. His grounded confidence in God—in God’s word, God’s protection, and God’s promises—informs a courageous demeanor in the midst of a fallen world.

Conclusion

This is not a demand to achieve the type of manhood unattainable in this present life. We will always have to say, prior to glorification, “I am not yet made perfect.” But we should aim for this as men of God. I am speaking to myself as much as I am to readers. My family, my friends, and my God know how much I fail in these areas.

Also, this is not saying there is no room for humor and lightheartedness as we enjoy God’s good gifts. Go ahead. Enjoy humor. Belly laugh. Be awkward and silly and ridiculous in appropriate, memory-making ways. Dance. Be entertained and be entertaining. Frolic in fields (okay, maybe not…but I will). But don’t be defined by these things. Always cultivate the gospel-centered gravitas of a biblical man of God. Fight with all you have not to be characterized by the pervasive cultural influences that beckon you to slump into the fallenness of vaporous manhood.

Above all, focus on Jesus, the epitome of a man of God-glorifying gravitas, knowing that you have no good and do no good apart from him.

Copyright © 2013 Van Michael Komatsu. All Rights Reserved.

Posted by vankomatsu

Hawaii born and raised. Kentucky residing. Recent Southern Seminary grad. I write about the gospel, singleness, dating & marriage, ministry, biblical manhood & womanhood, and various cultural issues from a Christian perspective.

10 Comments

  1. Very well stated – this is a message our culture desperately needs to hear.

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  2. […] Read, Dude, Where’s Your Gravitas? | vankomatsu.wordpress.com. 26 DEC 0 Share […]

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  3. Love this article! I will be praying these things for my husband and sons. You are a good writer/thinker. Keep it up! Your blog has less quantity but more quality than a lot of other blogs. (I found your blog thru Challies.com, which linked to CBMW, which linked to here.)

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    1. Actually, I’ll be praying all those things for myself also 🙂

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      1. Thank you, Lynn! I’m so glad it was encouraging and I hope those things will be cultivated in your entire family–in husband and sons and mother! Grace and peace.

  4. […] BIO:  Van Michael Komatsu is a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter @vankomatsu. He blogs at Vankomatsu.wordpress.com. This article was originally posted here. […]

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  5. Could you maybe do a future post to explain why your writing seems so focused on your own gender and masculinity in general? I don’t really understand why you took such a good concept (the development of gravitas as an element of spiritual maturity) and changed it from an idea of discipleship for all Christians into a message for only half of the Church.

    Surely you don’t actually think that only *some* Christians should be serious or intentional about their relationships and convictions? Only the Christian men? That Christian women should avoid those virtues? That doesn’t make any sense. Particularly, it doesn’t make since you support this idea of “manhood” based on texts of the New Testament addressed to all believers.

    Your comment indicates that you think gravitas is good for everyone… why then write an article that only tells half the story? Why encourage half of your audience and discourage the other half?

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  6. operaprincess808 January 28, 2014 at 4:18 am

    Nice blog! Role clarification seems to continually be diminished, especially with the feminist movement taking over this generation. Being broken and convicted are not traits most would consider to be the most masculine. With that said, I think this ties into your genesis 1:28 discussion.

    Would you agree that a man of gravitas is also man that has learned to be subdued? His emotions, passions, desires, and other struggles have come under control, and man who is aware and wise in his behavior has emerged. Is it not the responsibility of men to teach men how to subdue their flesh or bring it under control?

    Reply

    1. Thanks, sis! Yes, I would agree that would be a mark of a man of gravitas, and also for a woman (of course, many of these marks would also apply to women in various ways). I think the subduing you’re speaking of comes under the biblical category of self-control, as a fruit of the Spirit (Cf. Gal. 5). Good observation and feedback. “A man without self-control is a like a city broken into and left without walls.” Prov. 25:28

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