In His Image Part 1: A Gospel-Defined Vision of Manhood and Womanhood
May 3, 2012 5 Comments
This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. It is the first of a two-message series about a Gospel-defined view of gender and relationships. To read part 2, click here.
The way that we interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ is a testimony to a life transformed by the gospel. The distinctions in our relationships flow from a desire to serve the needs of others and encourage them as they become more like Jesus. As God’s image-bearers , men and women have been created with unique roles that reflect the relationship between Jesus and his bride, the Church. The way we think about manhood and womanhood, singleness, dating, and marriage are rooted in true understanding of the very nature of God.
In His Image: a Gospel-Defined Vision of Manhood and Womanhood
Read Ephesians 5:15-33
A common misconception in this passage in Ephesians is that because of the roles described here that men and women aren’t equal and that women are inferior to men. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Genesis clearly tells us that men and women were both created in the image of the Triune God (Gen. 1:27). In Galations 3:7-29, Paul teaches that Jesus doesn’t save people based on their race, social status, or gender; everyone is equal in that they can become members of Christ’s body, the Church, and heirs to his promises through faith in Jesus. (See also 1 Peter 3:7)
God created the two sexes to be interdependent-not dependent, codependent, or independent. This is the case in marriage, and is also the case in the general way the sexes interact with one another. Scripture actually cautions us against adopting an independent attitude: “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman and all things come from God.” (1 Cor. 11:11-12)
God did not create male and female to operate independently. In this game called life, we’re players on the same team. We’re heirs together of the grace of life found in Jesus Christ. We are working together to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
God’s truth concerning manhood and womanhood is beautiful. Most of us are so sinful that we don’t model it well. Sin took God’s roles for selfless men and submissive women and produced dominating men and devious women. This is not the meaning of male and female in God’s image. It is the ugliness of sin.
Now how does this ugliness point to Christianity? It points to Christianity because it begs for the healing that Christianity brings to the relationship between men and women. If God created us in His image as male and female, that implies equality of personhood, equality of dignity, mutual respect, harmony, complementarity, a unified destiny. Sin blinds us to this reality, so we need Christ to forgive us and renew us and send us back again and again into this truth. He is faithful.
So, we’ve seen that God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood. God has also created men and women different and complimentary in function, with male headship in the home and believing community, that is the church, as part of his created design.
Biblical manhood is more complex than cultural stereotypes. Men in culture are displayed as lazy, immature, passive, and abusive. However, God has created men to be selfless leaders in the home and in the church. This responsibility doesn’t give men special privilege or the right to abuse power. Instead, true headship is other-directed and selfless, just as Christ was.
Two perversions of manhood exist, both of which are rooted in selfishness. Passivity is a selfishness that results in a removal of responsibility. It is the notion that you can remain immature forever and not have to work, take responsibility for your actions, or sacrifice of yourself for others. The other perversion is hypermasculinity. This is a selfishness that results in the abuse of power. The hypermasculine man leads, but does so without any thought for others and exerts his will over all others.
Jesus shows, leads, and teaches us about true manhood. He washes the feet of his disciples (representing the Church)and decisively prepared himself for the ultimate display of selflessness: dying on the cross for his Bride. He also models the way in which men must submit to God the Father (Luke 22:42; 1 Cor 11:3).
As men, we should ask ourselves daily “How can I pour myself out for my wife/church/community?” There’s nothing heroic about a man’s call to servant leadership; it’s what is expected of us as followers of Christ, just like bathing and eating are expected of us.
When Paul talks about the idea of submission as it relates, he is not talking about a passive obedience. Women also don’t have to submit to all men, just their husbands (of course they are called to obey their parents and church leaders too, but so are men). When a woman submits to her husband, she is in turn refusing to submit to any other man. If a man is fulfilling his role as a servant-leader in the house, then submission is easy.
Many women submit themselves to what they think that men and culture expect them to act and look like. This ultimately leads to disappointment, hurt, and pain. Instead, focus on what God expects of the Christian woman. Let your femininity flavor all of your interactions within the body of Christ.
Though the call to being an elder or pastor (1 Tim 3:1-7) within the church has been reserved for men, this doesn’t mean women can’t contribute to the local church. In addition to serving in various ministry capacities available to men and women, women are uniquely able to minister to each other and encourage the men around them so that “the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-4).
A cross-centered life results in a deeper level of intimacy with God and a new basis for all other relationships. As God’s image-bearers, men and women have been created with unique roles that reflect the relationship between Jesus and his bride, the Church. God created you; He created you in His image; and He created you male or female that you might be utterly and radically and uniquely devoted to the Lord.
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
For more on biblical manhood and womanhood, check out these resources:
John Piper sermon: “Male and Female He Created Them in the Image of God”
John Piper article: “Pursue Mature Manhood and Womanhood”
Russell Moore sermon in Together for the Gospel 2012 breakout session: “Mars and Venus at the Cross: Toward a Crucified Vision of Manhood and Womanhood”
[image credit: Keoni Cabral on Flickr]