The Lost Art of Male and Female
When we flatten distinctions between men and women we strike at the heart of the created order. Unable to rip the stars from the sky, cover the land with sea, or snuff out the sun and moon, Satan asks, “Male and female? Did God really say?”
What is our response to the blatant (and subtle) attempts to diminish the beauty of male and female? How are we to regain ground lost in an overwhelmingly egalitarian society? Certainly, “we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). And so, many of the best minds have fought valiantly.
But we all have work we can do. In addition to formal apologetics, an aesthetic apologetic is to be found in every home that fears the Lord; the happy living out of our creeds. In other words, we give the Bible and we live the beauty. Many rebel against the hypothetical worst-case scenarios of God’s design for male and female because they have not seen many scenarios to begin with. Both judgment and reform begin in the household of God.
We can all fight the androgyny and its downstream sexual confusion of our day by living out the beauty of manhood and womanhood as God designed them. Here are four invitations open to us all.
1. Dance Like Everyone’s Watching
“Closing the door to perversion begins at home, not merely by what we keep out, but what we cultivate within.”
Our godliness expresses itself through male and female. Ours is not a generic Christlikeness, a sexless Christian virtue that pays no attention to sexual distinctions. Christlikeness properly shines within the dance of “he made them male and female.”
Women walking in the radiance of Christlikeness will become more feminine, not less. Men walking in the strength of Christlikeness will become more masculine, not less. While each gazes unblushingly at the Savior, each will become not more generically moral but more authentically male and female, more authentically themselves.
The Old and New Testaments often speak general exhortations to all Christians alike, but Scripture also gives specific calls to men, women, children, rulers, singles, husbands, wives, and widows. Within marriage, specifically, we dance the dance of leadership and sacrifice, submission and trust, love and respect, praying that its enemies would be won by its beauty, and the world subdued by what it represents: Christ and his church.
2. Savor the Blessing of Children
Children are not just a blessing in Scripture — like God blessing us with a new possession or profession. They are central to humanity’s mission to extend God’s fame throughout his world. God places the man and woman in the garden to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion (Genesis 1:28). This adds the begetting of spiritual children in the new covenant, but does not dismiss the original call to multiply in creation.
How many of us join the psalmist in singing?
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3–5)
One of the most basic and worthwhile pursuits in this life is raising children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 6:4). The time and demands of child-rearing are not a detour from our real life and purpose. A godly heritage is an enduring legacy. Jesus welcomed the children to come to him (Matthew 19:14). So should we.
When the celebration of children dies, the serpent’s whisper is better heard. When children become a forgotten end (or even inconvenience), sex more readily becomes about us and our desires. We can correct some of our society’s sexual insanity by championing children, especially in a world where some doctors profit on disposing of them.
3. Recover a Lost School Lesson
It is not enough to have children and live out our callings as male and female before them. We also teach them how to honor God as male and female.
Many school systems educate boys and girls exactly the same way, to exactly the same ends. Growing up in public school, I am hard-pressed to think of one occurrence of anything but a unisex curriculum.
Consider how much teaching of younger women relates to the opposite sex in Titus 2:3–5:
Older women . . . are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
“Before the beginning of time, God decided to place the marriage analogy at the heart of history.”
Older women are to teach what is good, and much of what is good for women here is also unique to women, including loving their husbands and children, submitting to their husbands, and prioritizing the home, all that God’s word might not be reviled.
The home and family is the domain where feminine virtue blossoms and shines. From age to age, the duty of the older to the younger remains: encourage purity within her calling as a daughter of God, and train her how to live as a godly wife and mother. In other words, godly women are to teach younger women to be a woman of God, and not a generic child of God.
4. Reject the Battle of the Sexes
God designed male and female to complement each other, not compete with one another. When God made Eve from Adam’s own flesh, he formed her as “a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18), not a rival pitted against him. They were to take dominion together, not war against one another.
As a culture, we are often taught to be suspicious of differences. Today, distinction is interpreted as hierarchy. Fairness comes to mean sameness and any deviation from that as an ideal necessitates inequality. But G.K. Chesterton gives a needed word for us today in his short poem entitled, “Comparisons”:
If I set the sun beside the moon,
And if I set the land beside the sea,
And if I set the flower beside the fruit,
And if I set the town beside the country,
And if I set the man beside the woman,
I suppose some fool would talk
About one being better.
Son Without a Bride
The reason male and female matters is because our triune God, from his free pleasure alone, decided that it was not good for the Son to be without a Bride.
That first wedding, and every real wedding since, has been the dress rehearsal for the marriage supper of the Lamb at the end of time — between one man and one church. History has been a drum roll for the day of this announcement: “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9), when the Bride and Spirit call to the Bridegroom, “Come” (Revelation 22:17).
Between the laughs that brought forth creation at the beginning of time, God made us male and female. Even before the beginning of time, he decided to place the marriage analogy at the heart of history. Distinctions between male and female draw straight and sacred lines to Christ and his church, a beauty we will dance and defend until that last and greatest wedding.