Made…as men and women (Part 2)

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.

(Note: I highly recommend Matt Chandler's series, "A Beautiful Design," if you want to hear some excellent teaching on these distinctions.)

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.

MADE…as men and women (Part 1)

 If God made us in his image, how are women and men designed to reflect something about God’s good nature, how do we tend toward ruin, and how can we recover the good of Eden? There are so many different ways to approach this subject biblically and practically, and I have chosen one. I pray that it is honest and true, but it will be incomplete and, like everything on this side of Heaven, imperfect. Let’s pray that that the Holy Spirit brings us all wisdom and discernment, and let’s use this as an entry point for walking together as a church, committed to God and His Word and each other, as we seek to better understand this issue.


The Eternal God placed the newly made man in the garden of Eden in order to work the ground and care for it. He made certain demands of the man regarding life in the garden. Eat freely from any and all trees in the garden; I only require that you abstain from eating the fruit of one tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Beware: the day you eat the fruit of this tree, you will certainly die.”

 “It is not good for the man to be alone, so I will create a helper for him, a perfectly suited partner”… So the Eternal God put him into a deep sleep, removed a rib from his side, and closed the flesh around the opening. He formed a woman from the rib taken out of the man and presented her to him. And Adam said, “At last, a suitable companion, a perfect partner.
Bone from my bones.
Flesh from my flesh.
I will call  her “woman” as an eternal reminder
 she was taken out of man. 

 Now this is the reason a man leaves his father and his mother, and is united with his wife; and the two become one flesh. In those days the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed…. The man named his wife Eve (life-giver) because she was destined to become the mother of all living. ” (Genesis 2:15-18; 21-25; 3:21, The Voice) 


You don’t have to read the Bible to recognize that men and women are different. You can study biology, sociology and psychology as a purely secular endeavor and see this clearly.

  • Men get lots of testosterone, women get lots of estrogen. Men tend to be taller and broader, built for confrontation (we actually have thicker skulls).
  • Men have more grey matter in their brains (processing center) and women have more white matter (network connections) in their brains.
  • Women bond with their children chemically (oxytocin) in ways that men don’t. Cells from the unborn baby actually permeate the mother’s body.
  • Men often score better at tasks that involve orienting objects, while women usually do better at language tests.
  • Women tend to build relationships with words, men with activities. It's “Ladies, shall we go out for dinner and talk for 5 hours?” vs. “Hey, you guys want to watch the Superbowl or go golfing?”
  • Women are generally more concerned with how to solve a problem (it’s relational). Men want a solution to demonstrate their competence.
  • Women tend to build support networks; men don’t. In studies, girls tend to go through mazes together with “collective intelligence.” Boys tend to establish a chain-of-command and send out scouts.
  • Women tend to see the interconnectedness of problems in a task and can be more easily overwhelmed. Men get more done, but they tend to minimize the complexity.
  • Women tend to remember things that have strong emotional components. Men tend to remember memorable events. “Do you remember that trip when we really connected with your family?” vs. “Do you remember the zoo?”
  • Men often feel validated through shared activities; women through shared experiences. If my wife goes to Stratford for a Shakespeare Festival she could care less about, that’s a good trip to me. And we could go to the Bahamas, but if we don’t connect emotionally on that trip, the dream trip will be ruined.
  • Women generally determine the quality of a day or a life by their relationships; men value accomplishments. Little girls will make sticks play together; boys will fight something with them. I look at a finished project and think it was a good day; my wife is more likely to consider whether we did projects together to reach the same conclusion.
  • Women tend to respond to emotion with more empathy. Even as babies, girls respond to the emotion around them in ways boys do not.

God’s Word and God’s world give a unified picture of the general way in which men and women see and interact with the world – and that’s differently.  Our culture wants us to view these differences through the lense of power. The Bible views it through the lense of service. Rather than trying to erase these differences, let’s understand them and maximize them for the glory of God and the good of the world.*

(It's important to note that this does not mean there is an insurmountable wall erected between the sexes, or that there is an exclusivity to these generalized categories. Just because men and women generally have different strengths or tendencies does not mean they always do, and neither men nor women are somehow exempted from seeking to flourish in the 'image bearing' commonly found in the other. Men and women combined - and thus the masculine and feminine combined -   fully represent the image of God as revealed in humanity.  If we desire a well-rounded view of God to be increasingly seen in us as individuals as well as in combination, men should desire to have and grow in 'feminine' traits, and women should desire to have and grow in 'masculine' traits. One can identify with both sides of the previous list and still very capably fulfill the tasks God has designed for them.)

So let’s look more closely at what service looks like for men and women.

God is a protector and provider.  So is Adam.  We see Adam tasked with the privilege and responsibility of serving God and the world by doing the same. When Adam is told to “care for” the land, it’s shamar, a word used in Psalm 12 to describe how God keeps Israel safe from evil. This encompassed the physical (the land), the people in it (“be united”), and the spiritual (“Keep that tree off limits”). 

Men, within the reach of your abilities and opportunities, protect and provide for everything in your environment, not because women shouldn't or can’t but because you must. Get involved in the needs around you. Raise the spiritual bar. Protect the oppressed and helpless. Honor and value women. Be a father to your kids or to those whose fathers are gone. ‘Be united’ to your wives. Stand for truth and justice. Fight against sin and for righteousness. Biblically speaking, real men do not sit back and watch the world become overrun with thorns and thistles physically or spiritually. We have got to do work!  This is genuine masculinity, and the world flourishes when we do this well.

God is a creator and sustainer, and we see Eve tasked with the privilege and responsibility of serving God and the world by doing the same. This isn’t just about having children, though that is included. Eve is bringing God’s “help,” a word used throughout the Old Testament to describe the kind of help God Himself gives humanity.  If Adam was to order the land and provide safety and resources for those under his protection, Eve was to take that environment of safety and provision and use it to nurture and encourage the people in it. 

Women, within the reach of your abilities and opportunities, nurture and bring life (literally and/or figuratively), not because men shouldn't or can’t but because you must. The world flourishes when you see the needs around you and engage with and enter into the lives of people. The ways in which you impact our culture reflects this. It’s not just bringing life and nurturing by having children: the top fields women dominate in America show how crucial your presence is for our world to work: day care (99%), health care (78%), social assistance (74%), educational services (69%), and advocacy and civil organizations (67%). ( There are plenty of women who are in politics and business and the military, but the vocations that more overtly encourage, sustain, emote, and empathize flourish because of the overwhelming presence of women.

Cue the Fall.

(To Eve) “As a consequence of your actions, I will increase your suffering—the pain of childbirth
and the sorrow of bringing forth the next generation. You will desire your husband; but rather than a companion, he will be the dominant partner.”

(To Adam) “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistle for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:16-19)

How do we tend toward ruin? Primarily, we stop seeking to serve and we start wanting to be served.

 Men, at least two things happen as a result of the fall.

First, we now fail to provide as we tend to drift toward the ruin that comes with being lazy. We see a broken world full of thorns and thistles and we just aren’t motivated to break a sweat.

 Second, we now fail to protect as we tend to abuse our power. With other men, everything becomes an unhealthy competition. We gauge our manliness in comparison physically, or financially, or by social status. We think dominance is the mark of a man.

 With children, we aggressively dominate them verbally or physically because they are aren’t strong enough to challenge our anger or frustration, or we force them to become the kids we wish we had been and live vicariously through them with no thought for who they are.

With women, we use them instead of protect them. It might be a recreational approach to sex that uses and discards women so casually – or it could be an approach to sex in marriage that demands availability no matter the circumstances. It might be that we dismiss the intelligence, talents, and gifts that the women around us bring to any given situation. It might be that the jokes we tell or the places our eyes roam make women feel unsafe or demeaned.  

Women, the Fall distorts how God has designed you as well.

Eve’s increasing “pain’ after the Fall was emotional “sorrow” more than physical. The call to relational and emotional engagement with people will now bring you sorrow.

 You will tend to feel the pain of broken lives and failed relationships in ways that men do not, and instead of that motivating you to press in even more, it will bring resentment, despair or anger. You will not want to serve; you will want to be served. You will tend to build emotional walls to preserve your heart and disengage, or you will tend to lash out and hurt others to keep them at bay.

With other women, if they hurt you or intimidate you, you will not try to serve them more. You will try to make them feel it too. Your capacity for empathy and understanding that gives you this tremendous power to bring good also gives you an incredible capacity to bring ruin. That’s why gossip, or comments about appearance or capability are so devastating between women. When deeply relational and empathetic people decide to hurt someone else, they know how to do it.

 You will tend to sabotage your own longing for connection with men by pushing them away instead of engaging with your attitudes and words. How many times have I heard the phrase, “If he can’t handle me at my worst, he doesn’t deserve me at my best!” Or,  “I was just too much woman for him to handle!” What that usually means is that you either withdrew and became hard or cold, or lashed out and insulted or belittled him, and showed him what it looks like when someone decides that ruin is more important than relationships.

Instead of nurturing and serving children, you will want them to serve you. You will tend to resent the obligations they put on your life, or you will count on them to respond perfectly to all your nurturing needs and place on them an impossible burden to bear.


If we want to recapture a vision of Eden, we must walk in the path of life (Psalm 16:11). In the Old Testament, this was done through the Law. David said it delighted him (Psalm 119:97).Why? God has made clear that you can plant particular things so you can reap a particular kind of harvest. And you CHOOSE. Over and over again:

‘After all, what I’m commanding you today isn’t too difficult for you; it’s not out of reach. It’s not up in the sky, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go up into heaven and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?” It’s not across the sea, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go beyond the watery abyss and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?”  No, the words you need to be faithful to the Eternal are very close to you. They are in your mouth (always talk about these laws, as I’ve commanded you) and in your heart (treasure them there). Look, I’ve given you two choices today: you can have life (“tob”) with all the good things it brings, or death and all the ruin (“roa”) it brings.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-15)

And we are right back to the language of Tree of the Knowledge of Good (tob) and Evil (roa). God’s law is for our good. It’s not just OT law; just read Proverbs, and you will get a fantastic overview of the path of life that anyone who bears the image of God can read, put into practice, and receive the benefit.

 This will not save us, but it will guide us. It won’t transform our heart, but it will guide our hands. (We will talk next week about how Christ fulfills the Law and brings us hope in ways the Law can’t). It will give us general boundaries for “sowing and reaping” so that we can bring good to the world and not ruin.

MEN – – Within the scope of your abilities and opportunities, provide and protect  - not because women shouldn't or can’t, but because we are designed to reflect God’s image in this way as you serve the world. Show the world what it is like to live in a church, a workplace or a home where men not only bring safety, but men are safe. Be committed to character and integrity; make it your goal to help those around you flourish, praise and honor the women around you. The world is desperate for men like that. Watch the women around you flourish.

 WOMEN – Within the scope of your abilities and opportunities, create and sustain life in all its depth and complexity - not because men shouldn't or can’t, but because you are designed to reflect God’s image in this way as you serve the world. Show the world what a nourishing, life-giving presence looks like. I think I speak for all men when I say we long for it, we flourish in it, and we will respond to it. Show us what life is like when our hearts are safe with you, and watch what happens.

This is not yet the path to Eternal Life. Next week we are going to talk about why it took Christ to fulfill what the Law started. But God has given us a path to help us recover the Eden we long for. Let’s choose it for our good and His glory.


* It's worth noting that the issue of gender distinctions rises to the surface in more places than just the church. While there is plenty of debate about how much we are socialized to act like what we think is masculine and feminine, there is also plenty of reason to think that - no matter whether it is nature, nurture, or both - the differences matter. Here are a few excerpts from studies and articles about this issue from a non-Christian perspective.

“In a 2008 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a group of international researchers compared data on gender and personality across 55 nations. Throughout the world, women tend to be more nurturing, risk averse and emotionally expressive, while men are usually more competitive, risk taking, and emotionally flat. But the most fascinating finding is this: Personality differences between men and women are the largest and most robust in the more prosperous, egalitarian, and educated societies. According to the authors, ‘Higher levels of human development—including long and healthy life, equal access to knowledge and education, and economic wealth—were the main nation-level predictors of sex difference variation across cultures.’ New York Times science columnist John Tierney summarized the study this way: ‘It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India's or Zimbabwe's than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France."

 “Shared church attendance and normative support for the institution of marriage are associated with higher levels of women’s marital happiness… Specifically, we find that the gendered character of marriage seems to remain sufficiently powerful as a tacit ideal among women to impact women’s marital quality even apart from the effects of the continuing mismatch between female gender role attitudes and male practices…women are not happier in marriages marked by egalitarian practices and beliefs… men’s emotion work (and women’s assessment of that work) is the most crucial determinant of women’s marital quality. It is more important than patterns of household labor, perceptions of housework equity, female labor force participation, childbearing, education, and a host of other traditional predictors of global marital quality.” Social Forces, Volume 84, Number 3, March 2006.

"A study called “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” which appeared in The American Sociological Review last year, surprised many, precisely because it went against the logical assumption that as marriages improve by becoming more equal, the sex in these marriages will improve, too. Instead, it found that when men did certain kinds of chores around the house, couples had less sex. Specifically, if men did all of what the researchers characterized as feminine chores like folding laundry, cooking or vacuuming — the kinds of things many women say they want their husbands to do — then couples had sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those with husbands who did what were considered masculine chores, like taking out the trash or fixing the car. It wasn’t just the frequency that was affected, either — at least for the wives. The more traditional the division of labor, meaning the greater the husband’s share of masculine chores compared with feminine ones, the greater his wife’s reported sexual satisfaction."

Made In God's Image

When we were kids, we had this kind of instinctive question: “What is that for?” We’d walk into the shed, or the kitchen, or the store and just point and ask. Eventually we’d ask that question from the shower, and then things got awkward.  But it’s a great question. You need to know what a thing is for, what it’s supposed to do, how it is supposed to be used.  We call this design: “purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object.”

We want to know the design of things because we recognize that if we don’t understand what something if for, things can go bad quickly. We don't walk into the pharmacy when we are sick and just pull something off the shelf and hope it works. We need to know what it is designed to do so that we can know what it is intended to accomplish, and how we can effectively use it for that purpose.

There’s a difference between what we can do with something and what we should do with something. And when we use them within the design, the flourish; when we use them outside of the design, they fall apart. 

  • I can use a hammer to put screws into my deck, but that will break the screws, because they were not made to be hammered.
  • I can use my hammer as a poker in a fireplace, but it will hurt the hammer, because it’s not made to stir hot coals.
  • Or I can use a hammer on nails, and all is well.

 I should use my lungs to inhale oxygen; I can use my lungs to inhale lots of other things. I should use my teeth to chew food; I can tear off bottle caps or pull a train with a rope. I should use my words to speak truth and bring life; I can lie and leave devastation behind me if I so choose.

It is tremendously important to figure out the purpose or intention of something. Why is it like it is? What did the designer intend? What is it made to do, not just what can I do with it? And specifically in this series, we are going to ask the question, “What is the purpose, planning or intent that exists in us, not just as humans but as men and women?”

So we have to put a foundation in place this Sunday that we will build on for the rest of the series. We will breaking down the following statement over the next  six weeks. We are made in God’s image, designed to flourish as men and women in complementary community for the glory of God. We are starting today by focusing on what it means to be made in the image of God.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

 We live in a universe that was created purposefully. A personal, infinite, eternal, just, loving, holy God designed this universe and everything in it to reflect his glory, greatness, beauty, power, intelligence, love, wisdom, justice, mercy… the list goes on. The universe is God’s artistic masterpiece, and we are part of it. A purposeful, creative God created humanity purposefully and creatively as well.

 We are the “imago dei” designed in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)

In the Ancient Near East, rulers would put up statues or icons in their territory so there would be an image representing the presence of that ruler. That’s the language the Bible uses to describe us. In all of creation, we are unique. As humans, we are the icons of God in the world. We are designed to represent God. There are at least two important implications we need to address.

First, we are image bearers, not animals. In 2005, the London Zoo put on an exhibit of people. "Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment" read the sign at the entrance to the exhibit. Some were joking they should start a breeding program. Others were disappointed they wore swimsuits under their fig leaves. Several children could be heard asking, "Why are there people in there?" London Zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills says that's exactly the question the zoo wants to answer. "Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals ... teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate," Wills said. "We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man's place in the planet's ecosystem," a London Zoo spokesman said. One participant added, “It kind of reminds us we aren’t that special.”

But there were differences. “While their neighbors might enjoy bananas and a good scratch, these eight have divided interests, from a chemist hoping to raise awareness about apes to a self-described actor/model and fitness enthusiast. For others, the aping around is just another forum for rampant exhibitionism and self-promotion.…[they have] board games, music…allowed to go home each night.”   (“Crowds Go Ape Over Human Zoo Exhibit,”

 The idea that we are image bearers is increasingly a counter-cultural message. I hear stories all the time about how animals do certain things and so we should too. “Did you know swans mate for life?”  Yes, and rabbits don’t. “Did you know young male elephants will go rogue when adult male elephants are absent?” Yes, and marmoset fathers basically steal the baby from the moment it’s born and let it interact with its mom as little as possible. “Have you seen the list of animals that display homosexual behavior, or that never do, or that lay down their life for their young, or that eat their young?” 

 Yes, I saw that on Animal Planet. It was all very entertaining. But you know what? My dog did not watch that with me thinking, “Wow, lions are just mean. And I wonder if crocodiles ever considered how the parents of those little deer might feel?”  No, my dog licked himself and then worked at not peeing on the carpet when Braden got home.

We have been designed to be more than just animals. Why does this matter? Because ideas have consequences. We tend to act on things we believe are true. If you listen to the message our culture sends us, you would think we are, in fact, just a high order animal. I apologize if any of the following lyrics offend you, but it’s what you hear when you go the gym or walk down the street, and I guarantee your kids know at least some of these songs.

  • “You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” (The Bloodhound Gang)
  •  “Baby, I'm preying on you tonight, hunt you down eat you alive. Just like animals, animals, like animals.” (Maroon 5)
  • “No, we're never gonna quit, Ain't nothing wrong with it. Just acting like we're animals. No, no matter where we go,'Cause everybody knows, we're just a couple animals.” (Nickelback)
  • In a song about wanting to have sex with both underaged and married women, Toma says, “Let me see you act like an animal straight out the cage…”
  • When Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke made headlines last year for doing a dance during an award ceremony that was astonishingly graphic, Robin Thicke sang this line: “But you're an animal, baby, it's in your nature.”

This doesn't include all the nature shows and school textbooks that insist we are lucky accidents of evolution. If that’s true, then we should just choose the animal we like and copy it.

But Christianity insists that we aren’t animals. We have been designed differently. There is a purpose, planning and intention to us that is not found anywhere else in creation. That’s why we can even have a discussion about how God has not only designed the world, but designed us. The Bible presents a clear break between mankind - as the only part of Creation bearing the image of God in body, soul and spirit - and the rest of the animal kingdom. 

  • Artistic Awareness. We recognize beauty as beauty. We create for the sake of enjoyment. We take long walks on the beach because it’s soothing. We climb mountains because they are there.  We tell stories with art, we are profoundly moved by music. We write fiction that tells us truth.
  • Conscious Identity. We have a sense of self, an identity that is formed throughout the course of our life. We ask questions like, “What is the purpose in life?” I promise you my cat is not asking that question.
  • Rationality. We study, predict, experiment. We reason our ways through dilemmas. We make a distinction between truth and non-truth. As a kid, I had a goat that couldn’t even distinguish between tin cans and food.
  • Abstract Thinking. We try to identify our emotions. We say things like, “Yeah, but what if we did it this way. I wonder what would happen? We brainstorm. We have Think Tanks. Dolphins are really smart, but there are no think tanks at Sea World.
  • Moral Nature. We have the capacity to make moral judgments and be held morally responsible.  When we were in Gulf Shores, we went to a small zoo. For $10, you could sit in an enclosure with five lemurs and play with them. One of them peed on me.  Now, had that been another guest, there would have been some consequences. But it was a lemur. A furry monkey pees wherever it wants, and it’s really cute the whole time. No on judged him; no one put him in time out.
  • Stewardship. We can bring order from chaos. We have the ability to come up with a plan on how to bring peace to hostile situations. We can step into nature and purposefully alter it – for better or worse. While at that zoo in Gulf Shores, we saw a couple majestic lions sunning themselves on a pedestal. Lions are strong enough that in the wild, a pack of them can pretty much do what they want. But watching those two, I’m pretty sure they weren’t thinking much past, “Wow. It’s really warm up here. And I would so eat that lemur if that fence weren’t there.” People put the fence there. People made a plan. Animals don’t do that.
  • Relationships. Our relational capacity is different from an animal’s relational capacity.  We not only experience empathy, kindness, altruism, fellowship, transparency and honesty, we can choose to do that or not.
  • Spiritual Communion with God (the desire and ability). Animals don’t worship. They don’t have a “God-shaped hole” in their heart. Our rabbit wants us to scratch it’s nose and give it food, water, and attention. And an outdoor pen it can escape from. When it shows up at our neighbor’s, it wants food, water and attention. People want those things too, but God has placed something is us that seeks him and connects with Him. In addition, we are recipients of Christ’s salvation and love. Horses and whales are not dead in their sins. The rest of the created world will benefit when one day God’s renewal of all of creation through Christ finally arrives, but when Christ died for the ungodly, he was not dying for animals.

 Bambi and Babe and Finding Nemo have helped to create an image of animals as analogous to people, but they are, after all, just fictional. While humans and animals can both have mind, will and emotions - and animals have value and worth of their own -  the similarities are superficial, not deep. We share a common creator; it should be no surprise that we see common threads. But only humanity has a free will with which to override instinct, an immortal soul that Christ died to redeem, a longing for transcendence, a moral sense and duty, and a spirit to experience God and form a relationship with him. 

Second, we are image bearers of God, not our culture. This has to do more with our identity of Christians than simply our identity as people.The ways in which our culture determines what it means to be a real men or a real women is terribly flawed.

 You are not a man because you are an athlete, or you have money, or you have a gorgeous wife hanging on your arm, or you like to climb mountains, or whatever other currently fashionable trend is used to measure manliness. The rugged mountain man look is coming back. I guess the metrosexual look got old. Give it a year or two and “real men” will look entirely different.

You are not a woman because you look like whatever type of model is currently popular, or you know how to keep up with fashion, or you can cook great meals or juggle a job and a family or you have men falling all over themselves to get to you or whatever other stereotype is currently putting pressure on you.

We bear God’s image, not Madison Avenues’. Men’s Health and Maxim are not the standard bearers of what it means to be a man. Vogue and Redbook and the O Network are not the measure of what it means to be a woman. As Christians, we believe that,

 “We are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” 

We are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Why does this matter? Because ideas have consequences. We need to know for what purpose or intention God created us, and we need to know more specifically for what purpose or intent God created men and women, and more specifically as followers of Christ. Here’s the crucial idea Christianity has about people: We are unique, stamped with the purpose plan and design that comes from bearing the image of God. And because of that, it’s important that we make sure we understand how God designed us so we can see how our Creator has ordered life so that it is for our good and His glory.