What is man? (Part 3: Our Gender)
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8:3-4).
What is it about humanity that makes us the object of God’s special attention? So far we’ve seen that God created man for his glory and in his image. These two realities should be the starting point of all our thinking about what it means to be human. But the creation story doesn’t end there...
According to Genesis 1:27, God not only made man in his image, but he also made us “male and female”. The two sexes were a part of God’s design, not the product of culture. God wanted humanity to be comprised of two complementary but different sexes. This has a number of implications.
First, God made us male and female so that we can have harmonious interpersonal relationships. When Adam first met his wife Eve, God instructed him that they will form a unique and exclusive bond, becoming one in marriage (Gen. 2:24). This is the most intimate relationship we can have. It reflects the unity of the Trinity and becomes the basic building block for human society. Marriage is not cultural – it is creational. There are occasions when people do not marry (Jesus and the apostle Paul were not married), but God’s norm for humanity is unity in marriage.
Second, it means that men and women have equal worth, personhood and importance. God’s image is not something that was bestowed exclusively or especially on men. 1 Peter 3:7 instructs men to show honour to their wives, because they are fellow heirs of the grace of life. In 1 Cor. 11:11-12 Paul makes it clear that men and women need one another. Gal. 3:28 states emphatically: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Exalting one sex over the other would be a betrayal of God’s design.
Third, God has a unique role for each of the sexes. According to 1 Cor. 11:3 the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is head of every man. Paul later explains that, when God made Adam first (Gen. 2:7), it was indicative of his leadership role. Eve was made as a helper for Adam (Gen. 2:18). This does not indicate levels of importance, but it does indicate different roles. Men are called to provide, protect and lead. Women are called to help, nurture and support. This is not a cultural norm, but a biblical one.
Why are these things important? Society has abandoned God’s original design. We find men oppressing and abusing women, women vilifying men and young people abandoning marriage. Some are even abandoning their born sex, claiming that they can define who or what they want to be. The tragic result? Divorce, depression, confusion and in some cases even suicide. Happiness is not found in abandoning God’s plan, but in embracing it.
Because of Christ,