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The Wonderful Differences Between Men and Women
There is a distinct and clear difference in how men and women are designed. Every branch of science from neuroscience to anthropology now confirms something the Bible has laid out all along. Of course, we believe that those differences are good and there for a reason: God has an intended framework for what a man should be and what a woman should be. And every part of our identities will be affected by how we live out that design.
Most of us today would agree that yes, men and women are different, and move on. But without a clear biblical definition of manhood and womanhood, without a clear vision of how they are different and why, both men and women have trouble separating life-giving pursuits from mistakes and mirages. There is nothing specific to aspire to, strive for, or check ourselves against. “Am I a good woman?” “Did I behave like a man today?” If God really has created us male and female for a purpose, those are absolutely essential questions. And the only place the life-giving, encouraging answers can be found is in a biblical understanding of maleness and femaleness.
We learn in Genesis that of all the things God created, none is more meaningful than humanity. Men and women stand as equals at the apex of God’s created order. In Genesis 1: 27 we read, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Here we learn that women and men were designed to reflect God’s image over the rest of creation. But just as important is what lies at the heart of this design. Of all things it is gender: male and female.
The thing we must first decide is whether we’re going to believe this central tenet. This is a crucial first turn in the maze, the divide for living life. Did God create us special, and is one’s gender purposeful, or are we all merely a product of random chance? Our decision here has huge ramifications for how we proceed in life and view masculinity and femininity. Of course, you can choose to believe that everything exists by pure accident and that nothing has a fixed purpose. If that’s the case, then you are left to create your own definition of manhood and womanhood. On the other hand, if God created the universe as Genesis says He did and you believe it, then you find yourself called to embrace a breathtaking dignity and fixed meaning to your life and your womanhood. You are purposeful, designed, intentional, and God has put you here because He is out to achieve something in the gender He wrapped you in. The same is true for men.
We'll delve into the specific callings that are unique to women in the next chapter, but for now let's take a look at what makes a man a man and what makes a woman a woman.
How does the Bible define a man, a real man? We find that a vision of manhood is inspired by history’s two most influential men. Both are called Adam the Hebrew word for man. Both have left indelible marks on the human race. At times Scripture plays them up as opposites – two men who made radically different choices and pursued equally different lifestyles. But when they are brought together as men, they provide us with a way to envision and define biblical manhood.
The first of these two Adams is the Adam of Genesis. He was divinely fitted for masculine success. Strong, intelligent, favored by God – the whole earth was his to rule and subdue. He was set for a great adventure. All he had to do was get three things right:
1. Adam had a will to obey.
2. Adam had work to do.
3. Adam had a woman to love and care for.
These were Adam’s responsibilities as a man. But we know from Genesis 3 that Adam failed on each of these counts in one fell swoop. Standing under the boughs of a forbidden tree, he refused to obey God’s will and he “checked out” instead of doing the hard work of manly leadership; in utter selfishness he refused to protect his wife from the serpent’s seductive advances and then blamed her. His mistakes come down to one simple theme: he lost his masculine focus, and without it he became passive. Sadly, this passive masculinity is part of the sin that has been passed down through the ages.
Generations later we find a second Adam, literally, “the second man” – Jesus. The Gospels make clear that Jesus is God the Son, the Creator of the universe, and humanity’s only hope for salvation. But they also make sure we know Jesus was a man: flesh and blood, mind and heart – like every other man who ever lived. And as history’s second Adam, Jesus unveiled a new vision of masculinity even as His life paralleled the life of the first Adam with the same three responsibilities:
1. Jesus had a will to obey.
2. Jesus had a work to do.
3. Jesus had a woman to love and care for.
Like Adam, Jesus the man was obligated to submit to the will and work of God. He also had a woman to love. Scripture calls her the bride of Christ. She is the church – every Christian throughout the generations. So how did Jesus’ new masculinity supersede Adam’s failed one?
As with Adam, Jesus’ greatest test took place in a garden. Would He allow Himself to be betrayed, captured, beaten, crucified, and separated from the Father to pay the price for the sins of everyone else? Or would he slip away into the darkness and protect Himself, as the human part of His nature was screaming at Him to do? It was the moment for both His life and His masculinity. All of His God-given responsibilities came together during a night of grief and betrayal. Set before Him was God’s way, and, of course, the other option we all have… my way. Jesus’ understanding of His humanity and masculinity called Him to submit to His Father’s will even though it would cost Him unspeakable agony and death. Adam’s example, on the other hand, offered Him another option: choose selfishness and passivity over responsibility.