This past Sunday (5/21/17), I taught part 5 of my church's relationship series. My topic was, what is now, the title of this blog. I'm not a fan of topicy-topics, and this topic is so broad and so polarizing that up until after both services I was not sure how it was going to be received. Surprisingly, it was received far better than I could've imagined. Awesome how the Holy Spirit works, right! Based on the feedback I received, and since I had manuscripted the whole message (minus the parts where I expounded on the Bible references, and so on), I decided to post it along with the link to the audio sermon.
May this not only bless you but challenge you to better understand and obey God accordingly.
As a student of Scripture and a student of history, I have observed, relating to the topic I’m teaching on today, that a noticeable and touchy complication in relationships is in how men and women regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences. And that is pretty much my objective this morning, to biblically address how men and women are to regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences. In order to do so, I’ll be tackling 4 things: (i)how men and women are similar, (ii)how men and women are different, (iii)how things get complicated, and (iv)how we are to be in regarding and treating one another’s similarities and differences.
Some things to NOTE:
- Topicy-topics are so broad they can pose the problem of the preaching coming across as too narrow. So if by the end, some of you think that I didn’t touch enough or address other specifics, forgive me in advance.
- Most of this won’t be surprising. But it will challenge what we say we believe to be true with how we actually live out what we say we believe to be true.
- A lot of what I’ll be touching on today is applicable for all relationships and interactions with others, not just between men and women. But my context for this message is between men and women. So keep that in mind.
How are men and women similar?
-According to Scripture, we are similar universally in...
1. being image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:26-27)
Because God decided in His love, goodness, and grace to create us in His image and according to His likeness, He has placed a divine imprint of value on humankind (both man and woman). And by doing so, God has dignified man and woman above every other aspect of His Creation, including heavenly hosts. So, whether a person believes in Jesus or not, every human (man and woman) is worthy of dignity because their mere existence is God’s testimony of His divine imprint of value upon them. Yet, because of sin, there is a constant depreciation of viewing and treating each other with this value and dignity.
2. our humanness (Gen. 1:27)
You know what this means? This means whatever trait we can think of for a human, we, both man and woman, share it (minus some biological traits, clearly). And to be sure this is being truly understood, I’ll push in a little further.
The traits that we normally attribute to men or women (e.g. men are physical, sexual, logical, etc; and women are nurturing, sensitive, emotional, etc), the Bible does not declare those things as reserved distinctly for one or the other only. Those differing traits may be true of many men and women, but not all, and they certainly don’t define a man as a “man” or a woman as a “woman”. But that’s exactly what we (society, culture, & the Church) do. For example,
- there are many women who possess traits normally attributed to men (e.g. toughness, works with their hands, analytical, driven, etc) in which we (society, culture, & the Church) chauvinistically call them “tomboy” or “boyish” or say things like “they wear the pants”, etc); and,
- there are many men who possess characteristics normally attributed to women (e.g. sentimental, affectionate, docile, etc) in which we (society, culture, & the Church) chauvinistically call them “effeminate” or “soft”, or say things like “he’s not a man’s-man”, etc.
If God does not define a man as a “man” or a woman as a “woman” by the traits mankind normally attributes to men and women, then neither should we define each other as such. Because when we do so, we are compartmentalizing our humanness to suit and justify our control or minimization of the other sex (or the same gender).
We, as the Church, through the Holy Spirit, must follow the wisdom of God in Scripture and describe individuals (each man and woman) by how God has uniquely, fearfully, and wonderfully created that man or woman in His image. We have to stop defining men and women by the customary, societal, and cultural qualifiers that overtly and subliminally emphasize the superiority or inferiority of one sex over the other, or by swinging the pendulum to the other extreme and attempt to terminate the distinction between male and female altogether. None of these are right or pleasing to God.
We are co-equal as image-bearers of God and co-equal in our humanness. Until we trust God enough to see this and accept this and stop defining one another by mankind’s flawed opinion and not God’s Word, we will not be able to treat and value each man and woman with dignity and equality.
-According to Scripture, we are similar, exclusively for those who are born-again, in that...
3. we are equal in Christ (Gal. 3:25-29)
What does this mean? This means God makes no distinction between man and woman in our spiritual status in Christ Jesus. We are equal brothers and sisters because we are both equally unconditionally loved by God as daughters and sons. We are both equally seated with Christ in the heavenlies. We are both equally citizens and ambassadors of the Kingdom. We are both equally ministers of the Gospel. We are both equally disciples of Jesus. Neither man nor woman is superior or inferior to the other in Christ. And we should never make the other feel as such.
These 3 are how men and women are similar: (i)in our value in God’s eyes as image-bearers, (ii)in our humanness, and specifically for Christians, (iii)in our spiritual status in Christ. We need to value and treat each other appropriately in these ways; and yes it will be tough, but we can do so through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
How are men and women different?
-According to Scripture, we are different universally…
1. in our individuality (Ps. 139:13-16)
While your biology defines you as a man or woman (i.e. male = man; female = woman, cf. Gen. 1:27), it is your character (i.e. the sum of your traits, disposition, and convictions) as an individual man or woman that defines what kind of a man or woman you are. When you add
how God fearfully and uniquely created you in His image
+ your sinful nature (which has distorted some of God’s image in you)
+ how you’ve been nurtured and influenced throughout your life (i.e. “the days that were formed for [you]”)
= your individuality that defines what kind of a man or woman you are.
And therein lies another reason why men and women are different, because this equation is filled in differently for each person. Hence, you will never find two of the same individuals (not even twins). So, men and women, embrace and appreciate your God-shaped individualities without equating superiority or inferiority to the other, because your individuality is what makes you “you” and others “them”.
Now, I’m not saying we have to like everybody. I’m also not saying we have to like everything about everybody. I’m saying because we’re co-equal in value to God, co-equal in our humanness, and (for believers) co-equal in our status in Christ, we have to value and respect the different individualities of other men and women.
-According to Scripture, we are different, exclusively for those who are born-again...
2. in our roles in marriage
Scripture is clear from OT to NT, man has his particular instructions for his role/responsibility as “husband” and woman has her particular instructions for her role/responsibility as “wife”. The most emphatic and defining example of the difference in the roles in marriage is Jesus and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). Jesus’ marriage with the Church is a model of how the roles in a marriage relationship are to be:
- Jesus = groom/husband
- Christian husband’s role = sacrificial love, servant leadership, and to exhaustively care for, protect, pursue, and value his wife like Jesus does so for His Bride/the Church
- Christian husband’s role = sacrificial love, servant leadership, and to exhaustively care for, protect, pursue, and value his wife like Jesus does so for His Bride/the Church
- Church = bride/wife
- Christian wife’s role = loving, respecting, pursuing, and following her husband’s lead like the Church does so unto Jesus
Notice something, Jesus never steps into the Church’s role and the Church cannot step into Jesus’ role. There is a clear and necessary distinction in these roles. To change or ignore this undermines and rejects the nature of the relationship with Christ and His Church as well as the clear instructions to each spouse in Scripture. The consequences of changing or ignoring or disobeying these distinct roles in marriage leads to the same kind of fallout as Adam and Eve—
Adam dropped the ball in his role and left his wife vulnerable and that led to sin, death, and destruction entering; Eve dropped the ball in her role and that too led to sin, death, and destruction entering; neither of them were innocent because both stepped outside of their roles.
God gave us these different roles in marriage for two reasons, (i)for our complementary benefit and (ii)when carried out rightly (which we can do because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) these roles, even through our imperfect marriage, still portrays the hidden beauty of Christ and the Church....and also of the Holy Trinity.
- The two, husband and wife, become one flesh = plurality in oneness.
- There is plurality in the oneness of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- Husband and wife are equal as image-bearers, equal in their humanness, and equal in Christ, but are also distinct in their individuality and roles.
- The Trinity is co-equal as God and distinct in personhood as God.
- Thus, marriage as also a portrait of the hidden beauty of the Holy Trinity.
All of this reinforces the severity of marriage, because marriage portrays to a watching world the hidden beauty of Christ’s relationship with His Church and the Holy Trinity. Therefore, Christian singles should not rush into marriage and Christian spouses cannot afford to be lazy in marriage.
How things get complicated...
For Christians, our normal response to how things get complicated between men and women is what...? Sin. And maybe some of us will include and say “our differences/incompatibilities”, right? Yet as men and women, we complicate relationships not solely because of the generality of sin or because we’re different, but also because sin, selfishness, and fear specifically corrupts how we view our similarities and the good from our differences. And that corruption turns us either chauvinistic toward the other or preferential towards what’s familiar.
So you know what happens then? You get us men who, in our thinking, attitudes, and behaviors, whether knowingly or unknowingly, undervalue or devalue women. So much so, that by the 1800s women began contending for liberation from the discrimination of male domination; and the Bible was the basis for this movement in the US. And from the broader positive perspective of that movement, they were right to use the Bible as we’ve already seen today from our shared similarities. Feminism exists because of the sin of men having consciously and persistently failed at treating women and loving our wives like Scripture commands.
- Men, women are not to be objectified sexually or by their appearance (this includes our wives too). They are image-bearers of God who are to be treated, valued, and loved as such. Be intentional about guarding against your lust and checking your desires for sex because of lust.
- Christian men, as husbands, marriage is not your totalitarian domain. You are to be servant-leaders who follow Jesus’ example in how He leads His Bride/the Church. How you lead your wife affects how she loves you, and that ripples down to how your kids will lead and love their future spouses.
- Men, don’t presume a woman’s role is to motherhood only or to be a stay-at-home wife/mom only. That can (not will, but can) limit the beauty and potential of their God-designed individuality.
- Men, no woman owes you a single thing. You, like they, are indebted to God alone and none other.
You know what else happens because of sin, selfishness, and fear specifically corrupting how we view our similarities and the good from our differences? You get women, yes, you ladies, who, in your thinking, attitudes, and behaviors, whether knowingly or unknowingly, either overvalue men or become manipulative or biased toward men.
- Christian wives, your husband is not an emperor or a savior, you are not a subservient subject or a co-dependent doormat. You are to be lovers of Jesus your Savior and seek to ultimately please Him in your marriage as He has instructed you.
- Christian wives, on the other hand, don’t misapply God’s design for marriage by removing or reinterpreting or reversing the distinct roles He’s clearly and repeatedly laid out in Scripture for both you and your husband—even if your husband isn’t living up to it (cf. 1Pet. 3). Be on your guard against the curse of Eve (cf. Gen. 3:16), because your fleshly desire will be, in some way, for your husband’s role.
- Women, you are not to “use what you got to get what you want”, that is sinful and distorts and devalues the beauty of God’s image in you.
- Women, men are not sugar-daddies or boy-toys or meal-tickets or emotional plug-ins. They too are image-bearers of God who are to be treated, valued, and loved as such.
- Women, don’t assume the worst of men to the point that you become guilty of the same sin committed against you—discrimination, unfairness, chauvinism.
- Women, despite the centuries of male chauvinism, no man owes you a single thing. You, like they, are indebted to God alone and none other.
Bottom line, things get complicated (and real messy) between men and women when we don’t view or treat each other as God defines in Scripture. We must recognize our necessity of each other. Man was incomplete without woman (cf. Gen. 2:20). This would then imply woman was incomplete without man (for she came from man). And since the beginning, they now both come from one another (cf. 1Cor. 11:11-12). Which means neither man nor woman is superior or inferior to the other. In actuality this affirms our necessity and complementation of each other. Otherwise, man and woman would still be incomplete.
Conclusion: How we are to be…
I started this morning by saying, a noticeable and touchy complication in relationships is in how men and women regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences and that we were going to have to address several things to discover how to biblically deal with this. Throughout my sermon, if you’ve noticed, I have pointed out several things we, as believers, “are to be doing” (and can do because of the Holy Spirit) concerning how we regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences.
- We are to see and accept our co-equality in value to God, in our humanness, and in our status in Christ, so we can esteem and interact with each other appropriately in these ways.
- We have to stop defining one another by mankind’s flawed opinion and not God’s Word, so we can treat and value each man and woman with dignity and equality.
- We are to value and respect our God-shaped individualities as men and women without equating superiority or inferiority to the other, because your individuality is what makes you “you” and others “them”.
- We are to rightly carry out our distinct roles as husband and wife modeled after Jesus’ marriage to the Church for our complementary benefit and to portray the hidden beauty of Christ and His Church (as well as the Holy Trinity).
- We must recognize our necessity of each other because we are incomplete without the other.
My hope is that by now you’ve come to realize that the big deal between men and women is that our similarities and differences are good and necessary. Our similarities are good because there is no superiority or inferiority between men and women in our value and dignity—we are co-equal as image-bearers, co-equal in our humanness, and (for Christians) co-equal in Christ. Our differences as men and women are good because in them we can see how they cause us to complement one another and not dominate the other. And our similarities and differences are both necessary because things get complicated (and real messy) between men and women when we don’t view or treat each other as God has defined in Scripture, and thus sin, selfishness, and fear creep in and corrupt that which is good between us.
We must be anchored in the truth of knowing that our similarities and differences are an extension of God’s love, goodness, and grace. Therefore, when we regard and treat one another appropriately in these ways we then are being an extension of God’s love, goodness, and grace to each other; which also means the opposite is true, we are then withholding God’s love, goodness, and grace when we don’t regard and treat one another appropriately in these ways.
I’ll end with some reflections questions and a time of response.
- How are you with treating and valuing each other with dignity and equality?
- How are you with regarding and respecting each other’s individuality?
- How are you representing Christ in these ways toward each other?
- How are you at encouraging and urging other believers to represent Christ in these ways toward each other?
Know that however you respond today, and anything you may have been guilty of from this message, it does not diminish the love, forgiveness, or grace of God toward you in Christ Jesus. He allowed you to hear this today because He loves you, because He has forgiven you, and because He is gracious toward you. So respond to Him today confidently knowing these things.
For unbelievers, what you need to know is that the God that you are running from, rejecting, and rebelling against created you in love and has placed His divine imprint of value upon you. You are valuable to God, so much so that He doubled your value by sending His Son to die for you. I implore you to respond to Him in faith today for your salvation.