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Jesus & gender (3)

In the previous post, we’ve seen that gender is rooted in the creative purposes of God as one of the ways men and women bear witness to Him. The Godhead's inner fellowship (singular plurality), as well as the relationship between Christ and the church are all modeled through masculinity and femininity. These truths are the starting point for understanding gender.  Everything else flows from this fountain. If we start with who does what, we're building without a foundation.

For example, creation tells us that men and women are equal because they are both made to image God. Neither is independent of the other as woman came from man and man owes his continued existence to woman (1 Corinthians 11:11-12).  It’s also clear that though they are equal, they are not identical. Since God didn’t create them to be identical, we shouldn’t be surprised that He doesn’t treat them identically. (Seriously, what parent treats their children identically?).

Though He could have created them both at the same time, He didn’t. The man was created first.  Furthermore, the man was created from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), while the woman came from the man (2:21-22). While there was mutuality in their companionship, it is nonetheless true that the woman was created for the man (1 Corinthians 11:9). And it is obvious to anyone with eyes that God made man and woman physically quite different from each other (right down to the cellular level). Men and women are equal, but they’re not identical so they’re not treated as if they are. 

In creating man first and then creating the woman from man and for man, God gave headship to him. Headship should be understood as having ultimate responsibility, accountability, and oversight. If the Genesis account doesn’t convince you of this then just read what Paul has to say in 1 Timothy 2:8ff and 1 Corinthians 11:2ff. In these texts, Paul uses creation to make this very point.  Man’s headship is not the result of culture, but the creation purposes of God. Once again, this has nothing to do with superiority or inferiorityit is simply a difference. Equality is a non-issue. The military has different ranks, the workplace has employees with different levels of authority, any organization (like Congress) does as well, and yet people recognize that functional role distinctions have nothing to do with personal superiority or inferiority. In the same way, Adam’s headship was his God designed role and did nothing to breach the equality men and women were created with. 

It is also important to keep in mind that while we can point to other areas of life that illustrate equality despite functional role distinctions, none of them have the inherent glory attached to it of being witness bearing that gender does. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul makes the point that women's submission to man's headship mirrors Christ's submission to God. Marriage represents the pinnacle of this witness bearing. Paul’s point in Ephesians 5:21-33 is as much about marriage reflecting the relationship between Christ and the church as it about the man’s headship and the woman’s submission. 

Deep and profound spiritual truths are embedded in our gender roles. Once you realize this, you can begin to see and think of gender and marriage in a whole new light. We desperately need to not be pushed through the world’s mold in this area (Romans 12:2), but allow our lives to shaped by the biblical witness.
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