The importance of going back to the beginning.
Suppose some people are having a disagreement. Something isn’t right and they are having trouble working it out. They come to you for some help. What are you going to do (after you say a quick prayer)? You’re going to find out how and when their difficulties started. In other words, you’re going to go back to the beginning. By doing so you will be able to fully understand what is going on.
If you don’t do this, you’ll have only partial knowledge of what’s going on and partial knowledge will give you partial understanding. That’s exactly the situation affecting so many people today in understanding sexuality—they only want to pay attention to what some peer, celebrity, or activist is telling them. As a result, they have only partial knowledge. If you want to completely understand sexuality, you need to go back to the beginning. Going back to the beginning means going back to creation where everything started. This is exactly what Jesus did in Mark 10:5ff when He addressed an issue about marriage that had been brought to Him.
1. Humanity is created in the image of God.
Man is not accidental or incidental—he was created by God! More to the point, man and woman were created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 says:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
You’ll find the same truth in 5:1-2 and other places in the biblical witness.
Rather than taking this to mean what man is made of, I understand it as what man is made for. We were made to image God. The text isn’t pointing us to a portion of man made in God’s image (like our intellect, or creativity, our ability to love, or whatever aspect of humans you might choose)—it deals with the entirety of lives reflecting God.
2. Humanity is created as male and female.
Humanity exists as male and female. This reflects God’s creative design. Sex and gender (I’m using the terms synonymously) are binary* and biologically (not psychologically) determined. Sex and gender are immutable. A man or woman can have surgery to alter their genitalia and take drugs, but they are still chromosomally and genetically what they were before their surgery and hormone treatment.
Overlooked in all this because of our current preoccupation with gender fluidity and other issues is the important truth that it takes both the male and the female to image God. Neither one can image Him completely by themselves. The man can image God, as can the woman—but neither can do it completely. Why is this?
It has to do with the fact that God exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. He is a plural unity, a community being. This plurality and community cannot be fully reflected by a single gender. This is one of the reasons God created man as male and female.
3. The creation of man and woman is an explanation point, not a question mark.
Verse 31 says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” Six times we have been told that what God created or made was “good” (v. 4,10,12,18,21,25). Now we are told it was “very good.” This is no accident. Man, as male and female, represents the pinnacle of God’s creation because they are created to bear His image to the world and universe. In His creation of man, God did exactly what He had purposed to do, and it was very good!
4. Man and woman are complementary, not competitive.
In marriage, Adam and Eve came together as one (2:24). This reflects not only God’s nature (plural unity), but also shows that men and women are complementary beings—they are made to augment one another. God’s creation of Eve is another evidence of this. He took Adam and from the one human, He made two. Why did He do this? So that He might bring the two back together as one in marriage. In this, we see once again the depth and design of God’s creation. We should hold these truths in awe, reverence, and wonder.
5. Man and woman are mutually dependent.
Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 11 that man did not come from woman, but woman came from man (v. 8). He then adds in v. 12 that man is born of woman. His conclusion is, “Woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman’ (v. 11).
6. They are equal, but not identical.
The truth we began with—both man and woman are made in the mage of God, shows their equality. But things can be equal without being identical. H2O exists in different forms (gas, liquid, or solid)—but it’s still H2O—different but equal.
7. They have different roles.
Unfortunately, the idea that you can be equal without being identical seems to be a truth that is lost on many people today. They are convinced the mere suggestion of such a thing is sexist because the moment you agree men and women are different, you have opened the door to the corollary—they have different roles. And that is absolutely anathema. Therefore, men and women must be functionally identical—no matter what the evidence says.
It’s difficult to understand how this is thought of as a progressive viewpoint because instead of glorying in the uniqueness of their femininity, it requires women attempt to take on masculine roles that end up placing unrealistic and unfair expectations on themselves and others. The US Army has modified its ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test) three times because women were failing it at a much higher rate than men (44% to 7%). Whatever else this might mean, it shows women and men are not functionally identical. These results shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone–the Olympic Games have been operating off such a model for over two thousand years by virtue of their separate events for men and women.
Of course, different roles doesn’t mean there isn’t a considerable amount of overlap (think of the overlap between mothers and fathers as an example). Rigidly stereotyping masculine and feminine behaviors so that the two never meet is as big of a mistake as failing to recognize different roles. Look at Jacob and Esau. Esau was a rugged, hairy, hunter and outdoorsman while Jacob was more of an indoors person who liked to cook and wasn’t hairy. Neither was more of a man that the other.
Femininity and masculinity can and do overlap at many points without changing the fundamental truth that the sexes have different roles. Women were made by God to be women, wives, and mothers. Men were made to be men, husbands, and fathers. Those are not the same thing.
*The only exception to this would be those who are born intersex—a rare condition where someone’s sexual anatomy is ambiguous. It might be a contrast between internal organs and external anatomy or between external genitalia. (Man’s sin ushered in a redemptive curse from God – Genesis 3:14ff, Romans 8:19ff, and death, disease, and in rare cases, anatomical sexual abnormality, entered the world).