Gender is a big and complex topic. It is easy to get lost in the different questions about measuring maleness and femaleness, evaluating gayness and monogendered relationships, identifying femininity and masculinity, treating gender dysphoria and traipsing through transgenderism. Let me try to make it simple for us by stating the seven main principles that I see the Bible teaching us about gender. There is a lot that goes into these summarizing tenets but just stating them makes a difficult topic easy to understand.
These Christian tenets really are quite simple. But taken together their wisdom is profound and their implications far-reaching. They are also powerfully practical. I contend that if you use these as a roadmap, you won’t go far off from God’s view on things. And you will be able to address your gender concerns and prosper in your relationships.
I will include some primary Bible texts for each if you’d like to think about them some more. The Scripture verses are by no means exhaustive references to the principles, but reading each principle and then meditating on the Scriptures given can give insight into this wondrous gift called gender.
The basis of all relationships is what goes on in God. From all eternity, God has been in perfect, intimate relationship within Themself. That is why God didn’t really need to create us for company. The Persons of the Trinity had it really good long before God made us.
- Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:13–14; 1Corinthians 2:10-11
2. Gender is a Gift of the Image of the Triune God.
Gender is not an arbitrary happenstance of our humanity, but a deliberate act of creation. God made us gendered to reflect His internal community of love. He generously made us as analogies to share that of which gender is the image. God had made sexual dimorphism in the plants and animals. This gift went beyond that to a polarity of soul. We cannot understand ourselves, the world, or God without understanding our genders.
- Genesis 1:26–27; 1Corinthians 11:11–12
- Men and Women are Equal in being Image-Bearers of God.
Men and women equally show God’s image, just as Persons of the Trinity are the same in substance, equal in power and glory. Neither is greater or less than the other. God sees the genders as equal so they must be equally honored. Their voices and experiences are equally important.
- Philippians 2:5-6; Genesis 5:1–2; Exodus 20:12; 1Corinthians 11:11-12
4. Gender Matters in Relationship.
The Persons of God are solely distinguished by Their relations of origin. Likewise, the Bible only speaks of gender in terms of relationship. Grasping this helps us to reject stereotypes and culture-born traditions in understanding manhood and womanliness. The purpose of the gift is to shatter our independence and foster our interdependence. The closer the relationship, the more gender comes into play, in family, church and, of course, marriage.
- Mark 10:6–8, joining Genesis 1:27 and 2:24; 1Timothy 2:8-12
- God Made the Genders with Asymmetry to Love Each Other Differently.
Men and women are equal but made with different souls, and different callings on those souls, resulting in different ways to love each other with different bodies. This is because the Divine Persons are not confounded. In his letters, the Apostle Paul reads the gender-creation account of Genesis to describe three asymmetries. The asymmetries and equality tell us deep truths about God and about ourselves. They guide our close relationships and enlighten our worship.
- Genesis 2 (noting three distinctions of Origin, Order, and Intent); 1Corinthians 11:3-5, 7-10; 1Timothy 2:12-13; Ephesians 5:22–27
6. Our Bodies Openly Express the Gender of Our Hidden Souls.
We are not able to say what a feminine soul or masculine spirit looks like, but our bodies make the invisible visible. They are not containers or prisons. God gives each of us a body to express our gendered souls, directing us to the callings we have in relationship.
So our bodies are not inconsequential or interchangeable, but integral to our identity. Our identities are fully realized in our embodied relationships.
- Genesis 2:25; James 2:26; 1Peter 3:3-5
7. God Gave us Gender to Foster Intimacy and Fruitfulness in our Relationships.
The goal of God’s gift is first emotional intimacy, to bring us into something of the deep joy of knowing and being known that God has experienced from all eternity. That is the beginning goal of gender, but not the end, for God’s love does not just focus inward. The further result of the gift is fruitfulness, whether it is bearing children in marriage or giving birth to a new work of God in the world. Gender turns the love of your specific relationship outward.
Eventually, this gift will help us share in God’s communion and be caught up into the very love of God Themself.
- Song of Solomon 2:2-3, 2:9 & 14; Ephesians 5:28-29; Malachi 2:14-15; Romans 12:4-6; 1Corinthians 12:4-7 with 14:26
There is only one appropriate response to our Creator’s profound gift of gender. And that is to celebrate it. Is it not a wondrous thing that God has done?
Your expression of the personal, intimate relationship within the Trinity is beautiful. The truth that God wants to share that experience with us now, and even more completely in the future, is both alluring and comforting. But the truth that we are made for such deep knowing and being known underscores how truly painful it can be when this gift is neglected or abused. In our frailty we can hurt and be so hurt when we don’t do this well. I am thankful for your persistence in understanding and communicating these truths.
Thanks, Linda. Yes, we can shed many a tear as we watch the gift being abused or rejected, especially in our day. But Christ is in the business of restoration. From the cheeks of those who follow Him, He will, with certainty, wipe every tear (Revelation 21:4).