We are living in a gender war zone.
Never has our society been more confused about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Some believe the difference is strictly anatomical. Some assert gender is nothing more than a matter of personal preference. Still others take issue with the idea that there are only two gender possibilities. I recently read the following from a CNN news article:
“In a move the Australian government hopes will help remove discrimination against inter-sex or transgender people, the country’s passports will now offer three options: male, female and indeterminate…’ This initiative is in line with the Australian Government’s commitment to remove discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or sex and gender identity,’ according to the Australian Passport Office…Those who do not identify themselves as male or female will no longer be required to check off the “M” or “F” box under gender, but instead will have the option of checking “X,” according to the new passport rules.”
Believe it or not, the Bible actually has a lot to say about gender. After all, gender is God’s idea, not ours. It’s not the product of a random collision of molecules. It’s the deliberate design of an intelligent God. That’s the point of Gen. 1:26-27.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
God Created Us
The Bible tells us that we are not alone in this world. There is more to reality than what we see with our physical eyes. There is a person in the universe named God, and when God speaks, things happen. Light appears. Land forms. Fish fill the sea. Birds soar in the sky. All that we touch, taste and see exists because God created it.
But notice that before creating man we’re told that God did something he didn’t do before creating anything else. He deliberated. He talked. “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.” Then he acted as a part of His community. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all working together to fashion the most supremely glorious creature of them all: mankind.
Did God need to stop and discuss our creation? Or course not. He’s God. He has perfect wisdom. So why does the Bible go out of its way to make clear that all three persons of the Trinity were deliberately and thoughtfully involved in creating man? Because God wants us to know from the first chapter of the Bible that there is nothing haphazard or accidental about the way we’re made.
Everything about who you are is intentional. God has displayed his image in even the smallest part of the smallest cell in your entire body. You are breathtakingly glorious because the God whose image you bear is breathtakingly glorious. And guess what? That includes your gender. When God created man, he created them “male and female”.
Equal and Different
Men and women possess incredible dignity because both are created in God’s image. But God didn’t create us to display his image identically. Both genders are equal in value and both genders bear God’s image. Yet we are different in function; men and women bear God’s image in distinctly masculine and distinctly feminine ways.
Why would God do that? What not just make one kind of person? Because God is a Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—all equal in value, but different in function. For example, only God the Son (Jesus) died on the cross in submission to the authority of God the Father. That doesn’t mean Jesus is any less God than the Father. He simply has a different function within the Trinity.
We shouldn’t be surprised that when God created man in his own image, he didn’t make just one kind of person. He made two kinds. Each gender reflects something unique about the glory of God—equal in value, but different in function. Which means being male or female isn’t about embracing cultural stereotypes or honoring social traditions. It’s about reflecting the image of God as a man, or reflecting the image of God as a woman.
Let’s Get Practical
Gender is God’s idea, not ours. So how do we put this truth into practice?
First, some of us need to be humbled. Maybe you need to acknowledge that instead of asking God to reveal to you what it means to be a man or woman, you’ve tried to define it for yourself.
Second, some of us need to be encouraged. Maybe you’re struggling with the way God made you, including your gender. Take heart in knowing that your Heavenly Father makes no mistakes. You are fearfully and wonderfully made! He will help you learn to bear his image as a man or as a woman. Focus more on what God tells you in his Word about masculinity and femininity than on how the people around you are expressing it. Whether you think their example is good or bad, the One who created you really does know best.
Third, some of us need to be challenged. If you haven’t spent much time thinking or caring about what the Bible has to say about your own gender role, then that’s a problem. Displaying God’s glory uniquely, through your gender, will not happen by accident. It will happen as you focus on what God tells us in his Word about who we are. Our understanding of masculinity and femininity must be built on Scripture, not dictated by culture.
Next week, Part 2 of this series will explore what the Bible says about being a man. Then Part 3 will examine what the Bible says about being a woman. For now, it’s enough to recognize that gender is God’s idea, not ours. Trust him to sort out the cultural confusion. He’s not afraid of the gender war. We shouldn’t be either.