Male and Female

The biggest bullies on social media are those who have defined for themselves what masculine and feminine traits are, and then ridicule, mock, and belittle anyone who doesn’t fit that definition. Their definitions usually come from their own opinions based on their observations in their circles. I would multiply examples, but a few moments in a “Reformed” social media group or a few moments on Twitter will give enough examples.

So many are quick to label someone effeminate, or “tom-boy”. Feminist, egalitarian, effeminate, sissy, are thrown around carelessly like arrows, and they are not directed towards sin. They are directed towards clothing, hair style, manners, personality traits, pitch of the voice, or even dialect.

I was recently reviled publicly for wearing a pink shirt, for example.

So now that I have a few minutes, I would like to share a few thoughts with everyone concerning the gospel and good works.

God made humans male and female. There are two sexes, and only two sexes. We do, however, live in a fallen world so there are at times confusions in the biology. These are the exceptions, rather than the rule.

Both male and female are human beings in God’s image. Neither is less or greater than the other. Neither has closer access to God than the other. The only access that anyone has to the Father is through Christ alone. And in Christ, there is no male or female. We must therefore be careful to avoid pride ( “I thank God I am not like the others”). We also must be wary of implying that there is another mediator between God and man, as “covenant headship” theologians often do. The man is not closer to God that the woman, nor is he a covenant mediator. Contrary to so many “sanctified testosterone” types, the male does not image God differently than the female does, as a simple reading of Genesis 1 and 2 clearly show.

Furthermore, God also gives gifts to human beings as he sees fit. There is a diversity of gifts, and diversity of personalities, a diversity of talents. There is nothing in Scripture that states or implies that God gives “masculine” gifts or “feminine” gifts.

We must be careful not to confuse gender observations with ethics. God gave Ten Commandments, and he added no more. Sin is widely spread and diverse, but it is defined, at bottom, as want of conformity to divine law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, and not in the opinions of men. Understanding this is the first step to liberty.

Over the centuries and through the cultures, you can observe certain characteristics in women and certain characteristics in men. These characteristics are seen everywhere. Some are cultural, some are inborn, some are gifts, some are learned. I admit it freely. The Bible acknowledges it. The rich diversity between the sexes is part of the beauty and wonder of creation.

Here is where the problem occurs – when you take the observable and general differences between men and women and make them ethical requirements in addition to the Ten Commandments.

For example, a boy likes the feel of fabrics and loves to experiment with colors and shapes and design. He has been drawn to dressing dolls stylishly since childhood. Are these masculine or feminine characteristics? Is there sin involved? And what is that sin?

Do you see what I am getting at? Instead of encouraging this young man to develop his gifts as a man in the kingdom of God, glorifying Him for all his gifts and benefits, our culture and even our church leaders have mocked him as being “effeminate”, told him he was gay, and tried to force him into more “manly” endeavors. The scripture tells us that it was the Holy Spirit that gifted Bezalel to work with fabrics and colors and jewelry and design and he built the tabernacle in the wilderness.

Are design, art, poetry, music, fabrics, textiles, colors feminine values? Should we be concerned if our children do not follow our cultural stereotypes? What sin is involved? Before you throw the word “effeminate” at me, that word (1 Cor. 6:9) refers to the act of homosexual sex, in violation of the seventh commandment. It does not refer to violations of some guy’s opinion as to what masculine and feminine traits are.

Here is another example. Suppose a woman is drawn to sports, hunting, wearing jeans. Or she is drawn towards the study of theology and wishes to pursue those studies.

Or she is drawn to medicine or law, and desires to pursue careers in those fields. What sin is she committing? Higher education, careers, advancement, sports, and  such things are not “masculine” characteristics. Are we taking a subculture of the fifties or the opinions of some guy and elevating them to the status of the canon of scripture?

The parable of the talents applies to both men and women equally. Why are women to be excluded from pursuing the gifts that God has given to them?

God made them male and female. By taking the woman from the side of the man, he made an equal – a “helper as face to face” (literal Hebrew in Genesis 2:18). This, by the way, was what “meet” meant in 1611 when the King James version was translated. Face to face. Not looked down on; not to look down on. But face to face.

And beyond that, in Christ both male and female are partakers of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12-14), and both are considered firstborn sons who inherit the earth. As children of God and members of Christ, we are partakers with him in all his treasures and gifts (Heidelberg Catechism 55, 1 Cor. 12:12-13). Who are we to determine that some of those gifts are masculine and some are feminine? Scripture certainly does not.

There are no male commandments and female commandments. There are only ten and they are addressed to everyone. And he added no more. There are no pink parts of the bible or blue parts of the bible. “Quit you like men” is addressed to both men and women.

As are these:

“Be strong and courageous.”

“Be gentle and kind.”

“Do all to the glory of God.”

“Love one another”

And this one:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1)

God despises the multiplying of commandments and will judge those who seek to hold his children in bondage to the opinions of men (Heidelberg Catechism 91, Deut. 12:32; Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:9)

Instead of talking about “masculine” and “feminine” roles, let us use the biblical words. Men and women are obedient or disobedient. Faithful, or unbelieving. In Christ, or cut off. Let’s stop with the rest of the nonsense. We as believers are to not be conformed to the world, which certainly includes following the political arguments thrown against women during the time of women’s suffrage. Those arguments were based upon Darwinism, not Christ.

Instead of wondering if you actions are masculine or feminine, just do all you do in faith, in liberty, and giving glory to the one who made you. Seek to put off the old man and put on the new, and stand fast in liberty.

Don’t let anyone tell you what color of shirt to wear, what hobbies to enjoy, what job you should have or where you should be. Love God, and do as you please.

Let the peace of God rule your hearts and minds.

11 Comments

Filed under Men and women

11 responses to “Male and Female

  1. janetlynnem

    I love this, Sam! I wish I’d known this when I was a “Patriarch’s Wife” many moons ago. I fell prey to the rules of men and my children (especially my daughters) suffered as a result of my trying to conform to the likes of Piper, McArthur, and myriads of homeschooling “leaders”. Ugh. So glad to be free.

  2. Heather

    Thank you for this. Spot on as usual and I love how I can depend on both godly wisdom and good sense from you. Honestly it’s such a relief.

    My son was always artistic. He grew up to be a pretty great photographer. In fact his work has been purchased by some pretty impressive clients. He also looks great in pink. When he was a teenager he bought himself a pink polo shirt and he loved that shirt. He also loved the reactions it provoked and wore it often because of that. He always loved fashion, and married a woman who does as well. Their family is always beautifully dressed. They look awesome.

    My daughter also loves fashion but she works as a high powered government employee. She thrives in that structured fast paced environment. It would destroy my son. But they are as close as siblings can be, despite their differences. They were each created for their own unique pathways and purposes and they’re glorifying God by living and working according to their giftings and I’m so proud of them. Frankly I hope to be like them when I grow up!

    Btw your pink shirt, like all your shirts, is fabulous.

  3. “Here is where the problem occurs – when you take the observable and general differences between men and women and make them ethical requirements in addition…”

    I’m not picking on you, Sam. I think you’re awesome. I also don’t really have a huge investment in this issue, it is just that is exactly what the church has done by pushing women aside, banning them as pastors, and other assorted things. We have taken the general differences between men and women and made them ethical requirements. We think elders must be men, we think pastors must be men, heck many even think women shouldn’t share the gospel because that should only be done by men. I finally had to let go of many of my own convictions when I realized we really do make being a male an ethical requirement.

    • I understand where you are coming from. I think our disagreement has to do with the nature of church office, but that is another topic for another day. Thanks for your comment, and I think you are awesome too!

  4. Charles

    As regards “effeminacy” as a sinful characteristic:

    After much research and contemplation I’ve come to believe that the old KJV translation of “effeminate” in 1 Cor 6:9 is completely off track, and modern translations struggle with alternatives; and agree that it refers to homosexual sex, but in a particular way.

    The first 5 people-types of those described as not inheriting the kingdom are sexual. In the KJV it reads “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…” The ESV eliminates one and it’s “sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…”

    Looking at the greek we find it’s the pornoi (lit. male prostitutes), the eidololatrai (those who worship false Gods, which usually included sexual aberrations), the moichoi (adulterers), the malakoi (“effeminate?”), and the arsenokoitai (men who have sex with men). That word malakoi is literally “soft” but I have my doubts that it’s about an individual personality trait of effeminism, because in modern Greek a malaka is “one who masturbates.” In addition, NONE of the other people-types mentioned in 1 Cor 6:9-10 are character traits, they’re labels of people’s actions!

    Greco-Roman culture was highly homosexual, but homosexuality is explicitly mentioned as the next people-type after malakoi. What actually came before full-blown homosexuality in these cultures? The making of young homosexuals, boys in particular. So I have my suspicions that while Paul’s use of malakoi might be better translated as “homosexual call-boy”, he may not be describing the young homosexual (or “effeminate” male) but rather the *maker* of the young homosexual: the homosexual child abuser who makes a boy “soft” and turns him into a toy for his pleasure.

    Just my two cents.

  5. Thank you for reminding me why I come here for sanity and Christ-centered thinking!!

    Pastor Powell, it’s reading your blog that woke me up to a “new” theological term – “binary nomism”. I don’t mean binary in strictly gender definition terms (and neither am I using the term to say that there is no difference between right and wrong) but it’s this idea that we aren’t “safe” theologically until we’ve created utterly airtight spaces around things like men and women’s roles, the right way to educate children, Biblical versus secular counselling – and on, and on. We see people who don’t agree with us as being ‘evil’ instead of extending grace in areas where it’s totally O.K. to agree to disagree. We’ve reduced people down to labels instead of seeing the image of God in them. And at the end of the day we are saved by works because as you say “I thank God that I am not like the others” – look how well I practice my faith! Of course all the nomists out there at this point would be screaming that I’m preaching antinomianism – but the door that you keep knocking on so loudly and clearly on your blog is “not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3v6b) Not antinomianism, but the wisdom of Christ!

    Chuck DeGroat touched oh so briefly on this binary – (everything in the Christian life has to be divided into wrong and right so I can be safe, not have to learn discernment, not offend all the ‘right’ people and can safely wear my mask in church, because I espouse all the RIGHT opinions) in his new book – “When Narcissism Comes to Church” but I so wish someone with some theological acumen would take it on in more depth because I truly believe it’s our mass desire to adopt and borrow from the convictions of others (who we see as spiritual giants), rather than learning Spiritual maturity and growing in conviction and discernment for ourselves, that has been part of the explosion of ill-health in the “Christian West”. And really, when you come down to how it’s practiced, there is more paganism in this approach than Christ.

    At the end of the day, no matter how hard I try to get it right, Jesus is the reason I am enough. Only Jesus. The drum beat of your blog.

    Thank you for pointing us back to that over and over again. (And if you’re pointing it out in a pink shirt, that changes nothing. Thank you again!)

    P.S. If you think maybe I was hinting at what I wish you would write that book about (the one you’re thinking that you won’t write after all, in your last blog post) you would be right. 🙂

  6. Anu Riley

    Thank you so much for your writings, Pastor. I notice how your blogs tend to aim to encourage us to: “Let the peace of God rule your hearts and minds.”

    Every issue you write about seems to have this endgame in mind, and why not? A lack of His peace indicates unresolved conflict within, a sense of chaos and confusion, the existence of fear and a lack of calm and contentment. In other words, our souls feel sickened. We need His healing.

    When I was in college we used to joke that we wanted to find a man like David, who seemed so “in touch” with his feminine side which meant he was not afraid to show strong emotion. Now I don’t find that funny at all :-).

    I also noticed that women seemed to “belong” in the kitchen. But the majority of trained, professional chefs seemed to be men (at that time). That implied that women should cook and never get paid for it—-this is how you provide for the family. Men are allowed to sacrifice the time, money and grueling schedules in order to be cook AND be paid for it, to provide for the family.

    I noticed nurses and waitresses and childcare workers—anything to do with hospitality and being on your feet a lot—tended to lean towards women.

    Lower paying jobs but with very high expectations attached—can you imagine trusting your food, your health, your loved ones to unsavory characters? These women served with their hands and heart, but were not compensated nearly enough.

    Being servant-minded was NOT restricted to women, it was the WAYS you served that seemed inclusive or exclusive. It’s only if and when one tried to step out of the box, that you even saw those lines drawn. Because no one likely knew they even existed, until they were challenged.

    And the peace of God ruling your heart and mind becomes challenged. Now what? All you want to do is wash feet in the capacity He is calling you to—how is that a masculine or feminine thing? That should be what gives us the peace we are desperate for. Thank you for encouraging us!

  7. AMEN! Thank you for boldly declaring the truth.

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