Yesterday, the South Bend Biblical Living Examiner published an article about Target’s decision to make parts of their stores gender neutral. The piece mentioned a Facebook post by evangelist Franklin Graham which quoted the words of Jesus to support his assertion Target’s choice fails to appreciate “the genders God created.”
What does the Bible have to say about gender? While far from an exhaustive treatise on the subject, today’s post examines scriptures which touch on the subject. Let’s start with the particular verse Graham quotes in his post about Target:
Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?
The quote is Matthew 19:4 from the New King James version of the Bible. Jesus is beginning to answer the question of whether a man can divorce his wife for “just any reason.” [verse 3] He begins by quoting the first chapter of Genesis. In verse five he will quote from chapter two of Genesis. This is significant. While some view Genesis 1 and 2 as giving two disparate accounts of the creation of humanity, many conservative scholars believe the writer is using a literary device, providing a general statement followed by a more detailed account. (See, for example, Why are there two different Creation accounts in Genesis chapters 1-2?)
To understand the significance of God creating “male and female,” we need to look at the account in chapter one of Genesis.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26-27 NKJV
The word “man” is the Hebrew word translated elsewhere as “Adam,” which can also refer to humankind in general. In fact, in Genesis 5:1, the word is translated “Mankind” in the New King James version. The emphasis here is not on the separateness of the two sexes, but the fact that all humans—male and female—as a (for lack of a better word) species are created in God’s image. The emphasis is not, as Graham tries to use the verse, on the distinction between the sexes, but the unity of humankind in general as created the image of God.
It is not until chapter three that this unity begins to break down as sin becomes a factor. Not only is there a rift between the Man and the Woman, but in chapter four there is also a division between Man and Man as jealousy and envy rear their ugly heads. Note the similarity between the passages describing the “curse of the woman” and God’s instruction of Cain.
“Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16 NKJV
“So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’” Genesis 4:6-7 NKJV
The desire of sin and the desire of the Woman are parallel. It is not a sexual desire, but a desire for domination. The Woman wants to control the Man the way sin wants to control Cain. But God wants Cain to turn this on its head and for him to master his sin. However, the parallel in the chapter three account is not the advice or command of God, but a prophesy of the results of disobeying God. He is telling Eve the consequence of sin will include a struggle for dominance between the sexes. He is not commanding the Man to domineer his wife, but telling them what would happen.
God’s desire for the sexes was not for people to live in selfishness, trying to “one up” each other. Could it be that over-emphasizing the stereotypical differences in gender is not what God’s desire was for Humankind in the beginning? Ironically, perhaps Matt Walsh hits pretty close to the mark in this part of his article in The Blaze:
“This is why it’s advisable for a child to have both a mom and dad around (revolutionary concept these days, I realize) so they can learn about femininity and masculinity, and gradually grow into a personality that’s influenced by both. A girl’s identity will be fortified by the example of her mother who demonstrates womanly traits, and the example of her father who demonstrates the masculine. Importantly, she’ll also learn how the two should treat and love each other, and what that looks like in practice.”
If the goal is to be influenced by both femininity and masculinity, or at least the traditional ideas of what these mean, wouldn’t it be better if everyone was a combination of the best feminine and masculine traits? Is being a “real man” or a “real woman” the ideal? Or does that just cause the rift between the sexes (and the rift between people in general) to become wider?
Give it some thought.