In "Made as Men and Women (Part 1)," I noted that God is Creator, Sustainer, Protector and Provider, and He has given to those who bear his image the privilege and responsibility of embodying those things in the world. So while women and men individually often share interchangeable traits and are sometimes able to function effectively in all these roles, the Old Testament gives us a foundational starting point. Men can do a lot of things, but they must commit to making the world safe within the scope of their ability and opportunity. Women can do a lot of things, but they must commit to helping the world come to life and flourish within the scope of their ability and opportunity.
This post will discuss what the New Testament shows about the design for men and women. The next will look at what the New Testament reveals about how we are to do life together in in our homes and in the church. Finally, the last post in this series will show how all of this is meant to bring glory to God.
1) The Old Testament was the start of the discussion, not the end.
The Old Testament is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). It is however, incomplete. It was an important step in the right direction, but it wasn’t the end of the journey. I ended last week by noting that in the Old Testament, the way for men and women to recapture Eden was to walk in the “path of life” (Psalms 16:11), which was found in God’s law. It wasn’t going to change our hearts; it would, however, direct our hands. Fast forward to Paul’s discussion of the Law….
“Now you’re asking yourselves, “So why did God give us the law?” God commanded His heavenly messengers to deliver it into the hand of a mediator for this reason: to help us rein in our sins until Christ, about whom the promise was made in the first place, would come…. “So,” you ask, “Does the law contradict God’s promise?” Absolutely not! But it will not lead us to resurrection and life; if it could have, then surely we could have experienced saving righteousness through keeping the law. But we haven’t. Before the coming of Christ, we were surrounded and protected by the Mosaic Law, our immaturity restrained until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian or tutor until Christ came that we might be acquitted of all wrong and justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:19-24)
I don’t know how you felt after last week, but I’ve been really conscious about how totally inadequate I am to stay in the path of life by my own strength. So while the Law showed us how to live well and bring about goodness, it also showed us that it is an impossible task. The New Testament makes it clear that this dilemma is not the end of the story - the “path of life” was paving the way for the only One who can help us do it well.
“This is the kind of confidence we have in and through Christ. Don’t be mistaken; in and of ourselves we know we have little to offer, but any competence or value we have comes from God. Now God has equipped us to be capable servants of the new covenant, not by authority of the written law which condemns us by showing our inability to keep it, but by the Spirit who brings life...” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)
So the New Testament will show us what the Old Testament has been pointing us toward, and will show how Christ will transform our hearts and empower our hands so that we can do that which is simply impossible for us to do on our own.
2) The NT goes out of its way to talk about how God is in the process of bringing about a “new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15) characterized by unity (John 17:18-23).
“Father, may they all be one as You are in Me and I am in You; may they be in Us, for by this unity the world will believe that You sent Me. All the glory You have given to Me, I pass on to them. May that glory unify them and make them one as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be refined so that all will know that You sent Me, and You love them in the same way You love Me. (John 17:20-23)
We read Galatians 3: 19-24 earlier (“the law is a tutor”). Here’s what follows:
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28)
This is probably a direct response to a typical Jewish prayer in which the men thanked God they were not a Gentile, a woman or a slave. But it highlights a shift in thinking that takes place in Christ. The things that were used before to decide who was important, or whom God liked – race, gender, social hierarchy – have been dissolved in Christ.
What we are going to see in the New Testament won’t negate that there is a purpose and design in gender – it’s not going to claim that men and women are interchangeable - but it will show us that our differences can only be made truly complementary when we understand what it means to be unified in Christ.
3) The NT offers Christ as the ultimate example of life and godliness. And we are being transformed as Christians into that image:
“Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6; 18)
In Christ, we see all the elements we talked about last week for men and women brought together in their fullness (well, except for having kids J). In Christ, who was fully God and fully human, we see the imago dei fully expressed. Christ protects and provides; He creates and sustains. He challenges injustice and he weeps over Jerusalem. He takes dominion over the sea and he tenderly cares for children. He casts out demons and he “sees” people deeply and empathetically. So whatever the New Testament has to say is going to point us toward what it looks like to be transformed into the image of Christ, in whom we see the fullness of God’s image represented.
That's one reason we see men and women moving effectively in areas that are are typically associated the opposite gender. Women can clearly order the world and make is safe. Just read the book of Judges to see how women showed leadership in Israel, then take a look at how women in the early church offered leadership in many areas. Men can also clearly nourish life. When Paul challenges men to "cherish(thalpo) their wives (Ephesians 5:29), it's the same word he uses when he talks about how " a nursing mother tenderly cares (thalpo) for her own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
So as part of this “new humanity” who is brought to unity in Christ, increasingly transformed into the image of Christ and empowered by Holy Spirit, what does the New Testament add to what it means to be a man or a woman? It means we are designed to become and called to be mature disciples of Christ. With that in mind, there are at least three things that men and women must do if they want to live in the fullness of God’s design as mature disciples of Christ.
Count the Cost
“If any of you come to Me without committing to me over your own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and yes, even your own life, you can’t be My disciple. If you don’t carry your own cross as if to your own execution as you follow Me, you can’t be part of My movement. Just imagine that you want to build a tower. Wouldn’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to be sure you have enough to finish what you start? If you lay the foundation but then can’t afford to finish the tower, everyone will mock you: “Look at that guy who started something that he couldn’t finish!” Or imagine a king gearing up to go to war. Wouldn’t he begin by sitting down with his advisors to determine whether his 10,000 troops could defeat the opponent’s 20,000 troops? If not, he’ll send a peace delegation quickly and negotiate a peace treaty. In the same way, if you want to be My disciple, it will cost you everything. Don’t underestimate that cost!” (Luke 14:26-33)
The walls protected people and crops. A guard was posted in the tower during harvest. A king defending his nation in war needed wisdom to know which course of action was best. If you didn’t know what it would cost to accomplish your goal, your enterprise would fail.
Disciples need to make an informed decision. This is why we have to be honest with people about life in Christ. That’s why it is so damaging to say things like, “God wants everybody to be rich,” or “You will never be sick.” It makes Jesus into a Wish Fulfillment God who just gives you everything you thought you needed to make you happy. If that were true, there would be no cost to count. That’s easy math. Jesus is just laying it out there for them. “You must know that if you follow me, it will cost you everything: your money, your time, your attitudes, your priorities, your relationships, your free time, maybe even our health or your life.”
- You cannot simply make money and do with it what you want.
- You cannot simply think of yourself when you organize your day.
- You cannot simply act out every emotion, or justify every emotion.
- You cannot simply come up with a ‘bucket list’ without consideration of God’s priorities.
- You can’t just consume entertainment mindlessly
- You can’t just settle for bad relationships with your family.
Following Christ will cost you your autonomy and independence. But what is the cost if you don’t? Look at the ruin in the world when people live outside of the path of life.
- Has sexual impurity brought greater good to the world than purity?
- Have greed and lust have helped us?
- Have gossip and slanderhelped bring life to the world?
- Can we argue that when men dominate and use women or when women emasculate and undermine men that we have somehow achieved the good life?
- Can we argue that squandering our resources, or being mean to our kids, or cheating at work, or always being jealous has somehow helped the human enterprise?
So we can choose ruin, or we can choose life. Each will cost us. If we choose ourselves, we will surrender to ruin that we bring into our life and the lives of those around us. If we choose Christ, we surrender to God’s will. Our life will be not our own, but we will experience what it means to walk in the path of life.
Take up your cross and follow Christ
“If any of you want to walk My path, you’re going to have to deny yourself. You’ll have to take up your cross every day and follow Me. If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything. If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake, then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full. Listen, what good does it do you if you gain everything—if the whole world is in your pocket—but then your own life slips through your fingers and is lost to you?” (Luke 9:23-25)
It’s so counter-intuitive. How can it be that not doing what I feel like doing can be for my benefit? Nevertheless, if you want to be rescued, healed and made whole and full, you must follow Christ.
- We die to our privacy and hiddenness and follow Christ to honesty and transparency.
- We die to our emotional outbursts and we follow Christ to self-control.
- We die to self-justification and blame and follow a Christ who frees us to say, “I am the worst of sinners” without shame and with a longing for holiness.
- We die to pornography and promiscuity and follow Christ to purity.
- We die to wanting our spouse, or kids, or our friends to make us happy and instead serve them for their happiness.
And in all these things, you will take up a cross and walk toward your own crucifixion. Day after day. Christ will empower you with His Spirit, His Word and His people, and he will guide you in the path to genuine fullness of life, and in the end you will understand how the Resurrection of Christ brings you to life.
Ladies, if the men around you counted the cost, took up the cross and followed Christ, would this not be a climate in which you could flourish? This isn’t a 50 Shades of Grey man, who ruins the women in his world. (The actor playing him in the upcoming movie said he was asked to do things for the movie that he would never do to women in real life. Thank God.) Ladies, is that kind of man truly more desirable than a man who has counted the cost, then taken of the cross of Christ so that he might give his life for the good of those around him every day?
Men, when the women around you count the cost, take up the Cross and accept it, is it not be beautiful to see the glory of God’s image in them Listen, Katy Perry caught the attention of the world during the Superbowl when she rode out on a tiger like the girl on fire, but she can’t hold a candle to my wife. Now I think my wife is beautiful, but that’s not the reason. My wife takes up her cross daily and offers her emotions, her actions, her schedule, her life in the service of Christ and those around her, and in her transformation she is beautiful in ways that far surpass the shallow markers in our culture.
This is why 50 Shades and halftime shows break my heart. Our culture does not understand what it means to be feminine or masculine in the deepest sense of the word. The good news is that we have a tremendous opportunity to show the world how the Resurrection power of Christ brings us life in the fullest sense of the word.
Press On in the Power of the Christ
“I want to know Christ; I want to experience the power of His resurrection and join in His suffering, shaped by His death, so that I may arrive safely at the resurrection from the dead. I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything Jesus has in store for me. Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind and straining toward what is ahead.
I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed. All of us who are mature ought to think the same way about these matters. If you have a different attitude, then God will reveal this to you as well. For now, let’s hold on to what we have been shown and keep in step with these teachings.” (Philippians 3:10-16)
If we want to flourish in God’s design for men and women, we must count the cost, take up the cross of self-denial and discipleship, and follow Christ as we press on toward the fullness of life.
Christ does all the heavy lifting in making the transformation of our hearts possible. When we are dead in our sins, He alone has the power to bring us spiritual life. Christ does all this for us. It’s why we never boast. But Paul notes that this doesn’t mean we never do anything. We don’t earn our salvation, but it is often the case that God’s will is done “on earth as it is in heaven” when we press on by keeping in step with God’s teaching.
When our presence harms relationships, we will ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation. When our words hurt instead of heal, we will seek to make amends with humility. When we see the lonely or the damaged, or the sinner lost and maybe even glorying in the midst of their sin, we won’t turn up our nose and walk away. We will press in, because that’s what Christ and others have done for us, and we will press on because of God’s call to Resurrection life.
We don’t throw up our arms in frustration and bail. We don’t rest on our accomplishments when we do well, and we don’t confuse history with destiny when we fail. None of us have arrived, but we acknowledge it, we hold fast to Christ, we absorb His word, we surround ourselves with men and women who will walk with us, and we press on toward the only goal that counts, not because we are awesome in our own strength, but because Christ is awesome in His power. We recommit to walking in the path of life with the help of Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit. We won’t be perfect, but we commit to stepping up and striving for the fullness of what Christ has to offer.