Men and women. Sex and gender. Something that has been straightforward for years is all of a sudden being turned on its head. It’s important for Christians to remember that our identity is in Christ, and not the culture. We need to study and understand what we believe, and when the culture comes into conflict with our beliefs, we can stand firm in our faith.
I’m not sure why I put men in the title of the site. I’ve actually struggled with writing about men. What does it mean to be a man? Is there enough difference between us to routinely write about what is uniquely “male”? In a world that increasingly says men and women are the same, do we really need a site for men? Over the last couple months I’ve realized that I can’t write specifically about men without first considering biblical teachings on gender.
Where Are We Now?
Biological sex is becoming irrelevant and separated from gender. People are putting their nine year olds on puberty blockers. If you suggest that men and women are different, and try to discuss it rationally, that can get you fired. In recent years, as some feel that women have successfully moved towards being more like men, it’s now time for men to be more like women.
Christians need to have a biblical and God-centered understanding of gender. First, as the culture moves in directions that seem at odds with God’s design, we need a firm foundation for what we believe. Not so we can yell at the culture and tell them what they’re doing wrong, but so that when our beliefs are challenged, we have strong biblical truths to lean on. Otherwise we run the risk of letting the culture influence us instead of the perfect influencer, God.
Secondly, if we’re trying to live God-centered lives that look like Jesus, we need to understand why he created men and women. Knowing how we’re the same can unite us. Appreciating how we are different can help us communicate, work together, and see God’s beauty. What does the bible say about men and women, and what is it silent about? I’m very much a work in progress, but here’s where I’m at right now.
What Is a Christian View of Gender?
The big jumping off point for me was a podcast by Mike Erre that we talked about at a guys group. The podcast focused on Ephesians 5, and the “infamous” verses on submission. Look for a future post about that word submission, and how I think it actually points to mutual sacrifice that makes marriage look like a beautiful dance. While these verses focus on the marriage relationship, there were certain elements speaking to me about the genders that stood out to me.
The first is that Paul gives specific instructions to both husbands and wives. If there was to be no difference between husbands and wives, it wouldn’t be necessary to address them separately (see also 1 Peter 3, Titus 2, Colossians 3). There’s also specific instruction for men and women within the church in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. And of course there is Genesis 2, where there is no suitable helper for the man, so woman is created. The woman solves the problem of the man being alone. They become one flesh. Both genders are significant. Regardless of what you think of the instructions Paul gives, there is a fair amount of ink spent addressing men and women, and addressing them distinctly as separate genders, but equally made in God’s image. Why all this talk of gender if it doesn’t matter?
The second thing that spoke to me is Paul’s instruction to men and women can’t easily be dismissed as “cultural.” In Ephesians 5, there are two aspects that make it difficult to dismiss everything Paul says as cultural. The first is in Ephesians 5:23. Paul compares the relationship between Christ and the church with the relationship between husbands and wives. Christ as the head of the church is not a temporary status, but eternal, which suggests these distinct instructions for men and women are eternal instructions. Christ has always been the head of his church, just as husbands have always been the head of their wife. I’m not sure it even matters what your interpretation of the man being the head of the wife is, and whether or not it denotes some sort of leadership. The husband is the head of the wife, and not the other way around. There is distinct order given between the genders. That means we can’t simply rearrange gender to mean whatever we want, and we can’t dismiss Ephesians as being irrelevant today.
Then there is Ephesians 5:31, which is a reference to Genesis 2:24. Paul goes all the way back to the first marriage, to the first union between men and women, to describe the relationship between Christ and his church. This is before the Fall in Genesis 3 when sin enters the world and mars our relationship. Paul is referencing the way things should be. The church is part of Christ’s body, just as husbands and wives become one flesh. This parallel is eternal, and that makes dismissal of these verses for cultural reasons difficult.
How Does this Play Out?
I’m still trying to wrap my head around how this plays out in our daily lives. What I do know is that men and women were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Adam being alone wasn’t good, so God gave him a helper (Genesis 2:18), and that helper was a woman. Men and women were purposefully made by God and to reflect God. Gender is not an accident, a result of the Fall, or something that Christians can dismiss as “out of date.” Ignoring gender obscures our view of God. Downplaying gender makes it easier to conform to the culture, but we miss out on understanding God and our relationships in the way that we were meant to.
What I’ve learned so far is that while gender is important, I think it’s mostly up to us how that plays out in our daily lives. We can accept the beauty of gender, that God created us in his image, and that the marriage relationship is is beautiful like Christ’s love for his church. In light of Ephesians 5:1-2, embracing gender should bring men and women together as we appreciate the amazing relationships it makes possible, and that we reflect the amazing God that created us.