Jesus and Gender
In Genesis 1, God creates us in his image as male and female. According to the Bible, our gender is an irreducible part of who we are and essential to our calling as image bearers. In other words, God created us as sexual beings (male and female) to reflect God’s glory and represent God on earth.
The theologian Emil Brunner puts it this way: “Our sexuality penetrates to the deepest metaphysical ground of our personality. As a result the physical differences between the man and the woman are a parable of psychical and spiritual differences of a more ultimate nature.”
Many Christian preachers, theologians and writers have sought to create a summary definition and distinctives of masculinity and femininity. Here are some of those:
“At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.” (John Piper)
“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” (John Piper)
“The true masculine involves the power to prevail in the face of adversity – to stand strong and not compromise oneself or the truth. Radical obedience involves the true masculine.” (Andy Comiskey, Living Waters)
“The man operating in the true masculine is able to take his authority and enter the chaos of the world and create something but does so with tenderness.” (Janelle Hallman, Larry Crabb)
“The true feminine is described by Peter as a quality of the ‘inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit’ (I Peter 3:4). The woman operating in the true feminine is able to bring forth life and invite relationship with strength.” (Janelle Hallmen)
While at times helpful and move us in the right direction, I have not found these definitions ultimately satisfying or compelling. A seminary course taught by J.I. Packer, however, has greatly helped me. Packer pointed my attention to how Jesus Christ was the paradigm of humanness, and how in Christ’s humanness we had a new perspective on masculinity and femininity.
Packer taught that:
“Christ at the paradigm of humanness. Jesus Christ, who as God is his Father’s image to perfection and who as incarnate is both God for man and man for God, is also man for man, his humanness being the model and archetype in terms of which alone do we learn to understand and manage our own humanness. In him we see lived out the incredible-sounding, unreal seeming paradoxes that embody the truest wisdom about life, e.g. that bondservice to God and others is freedom, in-service pain brings in-service joy, self-denial is self-fulfillment, humility is greatness, giving is gaining, unselfconsciousness is total awareness, etc.”
Packer also taught that:
“Jesus’ humanness is itself archetypal and embraces in itself all the humanness which engenders both male and female. Sanctification makes womanly qualities within the masculine frame; and masculine qualities within the womanly frame.”
In my sermon on Sunday, I shared an illustration that has helped me think about gender. I shared how I had grown up taking the bus from my home onCamano Island,WA, to school on the mainland in a small town named Stanwood. The drive would take us along the cliffs and banks ofCamanoIslandlooking down unto the beaches and across the Puget Sound to the mainland and to theCascade Mountainsin the distance. And since the bus rise was quite early in the morning, I saw thousands and thousands of sunrises. Each one unique; each one different. Some were brilliant in color; others muted. Some foggy. Some dark and broody, others with glints from the sun breaking through. Some were unspeakably clear and crisp. Each one had its own beauty and glory.
Perhaps it is helpful to think of gender in that way. There is an irreducible essence to being a woman or a man. Think of women as sunrises and men as sunsets. Now, just each sunrise is unique and beautiful and has its own glory as it, in its own way, reflects, hides, shade the rising sun and yet it remains a sunrise, so within being a woman, a female, there are all manners and shades and colors in which God’s glory and beauty (like the sun) are manifested and revealed; and yet remaining all the time a woman.
This has helped me. Perhaps it will help you. Perhaps not.