“What does it mean to be a man or a woman?” In the current societal climate, this question is being asked with fervor like never before. Unfortunately, amidst the clamor, we often encounter an oversimplification of the concept, particularly within conservative Christian circles. Declarations like “boys grow up to be dads, and girls become moms,” though partially correct, are misleading and incomplete.
Many times, the definition of gender (the essence of men and women) in Christian evangelical literature is focused solely on biological sex (the physical differences) or gender roles (functional responsibilities). However, such an approach lacks depth and complexity, leaving us with a simplistic view. It confines the notion of being a woman to being biologically female or potentially being a wife, mother, and follower of male leadership. It is crucial to understand that biological sex and gender are not synonymous and that our genders extend beyond the physical or the roles we perform.
In God’s grand design for humanity, there’s a deep interconnection between the physical and non-physical aspects of us as embodied individuals. Our genders are not just skin-deep nor are they confined to our minds. We are gendered beings through and through.
We must recognize that being men and women is not synonymous with the roles men and women play. The innate nature of men and women cannot be merely defined by functions. The roles outlined in Scripture are descriptive, illustrative, limited, and temporary, ultimately pointing to Christ.
More often than not, the gender question is fundamentally asking “What does it mean to be human as a man or as a woman?” We must answer this by focusing on our inherent nature rather than our functions.
Scripture reveals that men and women share many aspects of our innate nature. These include our purpose, mandate, and virtues. God designed humanity in His image as male and female. Both share the purpose of glorifying God as His image-bearers and are given the same mandate to multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Moreover, all virtues, or qualities desired for a fruitful life commanded by God, are shared by men and women.
Despite these similarities, God’s design includes some clear distinctions between genders. These differences can be summarized as ‘type’ and ‘expression’. God created two types (male and female) of one kind (humanity). Though they share the same image and purpose, their expression of these shared properties can be distinctly different.
The expression of gender falls on a context-defined spectrum that varies across time and cultures. However, there are clear scriptural guidelines, the most significant being that one should not willfully disregard their gender in an attempt to be perceived as the other.
Explaining gender to our children should focus on living out the God-given purpose, mandate, and virtues as a man or a woman. We should highlight that God made two types of people: boys and girls. Both are equally special and important to God and to His plan. They share a lot of similarities but also have physical and non-physical differences.
We must teach our children that gender can’t be defined by what you do or what you like. For instance, if a girl enjoys sports more than talking to her friends, it doesn’t make her less of a girl. God cares that you accept how He made you, not that you act like all the other boys or girls around you.
In discussing gender with our children and peers, we need to focus on God’s divine blueprint, recognizing both the binary and the nuanced facets of living as men and women in God’s plan. After all, being a man or a woman is about so much more than anatomical differences and transient roles. It’s about understanding and embracing our place in God’s grand design.