What does it mean to be masculine and what does it mean to be feminine? How do we guide our sons and daughters in this important area? In a previous post, I touched on some important basic truths:
- God created us as male or female.
- We image God through our masculinity and femininity.
With these things in mind, let’s dig into some meaningful specifics.
1. We should think of our gender as part of our calling.
God created each person uniquely (Psalm 139:13ff). There is nothing about us that is accidental or incidental and that certainly includes our gender. We embrace this as part of our calling. That means that males glorify God by being masculine and women glorify Him by being feminine.
Men welcome their roles as men and should they choose to get married and have children, as husbands and fathers. Women rejoice in being women and should they choose, in being wives and mothers.
We do our children a favor in not only teaching them to celebrate their masculinity or femininity, but in also helping them to understand that life will be challenging at times regardless of their gender. We do them no favors if we allow them to believe that life is problem free.
2. Men present themselves as men and women present themselves as women.
Deuteronomy 22:5 says:
A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.
Notice what the text says and doesn’t say. Rather than giving us a list of what men and women can or can’t wear, it gives us a principle—neither gender is to dress like the other. It’s not forbidding Scottish men from wearing kilts or women from wearing pants—the prohibition is about not dressing in a cross-gender manner. What constitutes masculine and feminine dress changes over time and varies from culture to culture. What we’re being told here is that our gender is to be expressed in a culturally appropriate manner.
3. We help boys prepare to be men, husbands, and fathers. How do we do this? We teach them to pursue and develop their masculinity by growing into leaders—that’s God’s desire for them at home and in the church (Ephesians 5:23ff; 1 Timothy 2:8ff). As leaders, they need to be providers (Adam working the garden), protectors (think of how Boaz protected Ruth and Naomi), and strong (1 Kings 2:2-3; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 1 John 2:14b). Their leadership is always to be expressed in the servanthood manner that Jesus embodied. Paul applies this model to husbands in Ephesians 5:25ff.
While women aren’t to lead in the home or church as men do, they can certainly develop many of these qualities. However, they will develop and express them in a feminine rather than masculine manner. For example, a young lady might be strong—but it’s a different kind of strength than what a young man possesses. His strength is particularly suited for his role as a man while hers is suited to her role as a woman. Think of how different positions in the workplace or on a sports team require different kinds of strength.
4. We help girls prepare to be women, wives, and mothers. In the same way, we help them to pursue and develop their femininity through becoming supportive. This involves being nurturing (Genesis 3:20), relational (think of woman’s relational origin in coming from another), and beautiful (1 Peter 3:3-4). Again, while beauty is an exclusively feminine characteristic, men certainly can be nurturing and relational in their capacity as men. (For those interested, D’Ann Davis has an excellent, more comprehensive discussion of biblical femininity here).
5. We embrace our different roles by understanding their complementary nature. Men and women, though both made in the image of God and equal, are called to different roles—just as God and Jesus are equal but have different roles. When these roles are confused, ignored, or diminished, the result is disorder and chaos. Life is no longer what God planned for it to be. When these roles are honored, harmony is the result.