The conversation around gender issues has grown in more recent years and as debate and polarity around societal pressures build on the definition of male and female, I can’t help but reflect on the biblical perspective.
It seems to me as if culture has begun to view gender as a human construction, rather than a part of the ultimate, divine design of God. When we look at gender as a societal construct, we begin by assigning roles and identities that are founded in those gender definitions.
When we assign a woman’s value in being able to have children or in her physical youth and beauty we dismiss the woman who can’t have babies or has simply been called to a different purpose in life. We dismiss her when she has aged.
When we assign a man’s value in being able to provide for his family or in his physical masculinity and athletic ability we dismiss the man who has lost his job. We dismiss the man who falls ill or was gifted differently.
When we assign value based on physical characteristics, ability to fulfill a role, and how they assume certain responsibilities in society, we miss the point and we lose the foundation of our identity. This strips people of their humanity and begins to break down the entire human value of vulnerable people. Society has us questioning if we should continue to pour resources into those who can’t contribute. Lines blur into societal definitions rather than godly distinctions. This is the wrong way to look at human life.
God created gender, but not to be a dividing social construct that places worldly expectations on those who don’t fit the mold we’ve created. God’s design is that each person, male and female, would be created equal in dignity and worth. Both are image bearers of God. When we begin to look at another human in the way that God sees them, we should be in awe. They both have profound intrinsic value and worth that is not contingent on their ability to serve in a specific role or fulfill a certain function, that value is innate and without condition. That is the gospel.
There is an ancient Jewish prayer that says, “Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe who has not created me a woman.” This prayer is evidence that gender inequality has existed in society and even in the church for hundreds of generations. We still carry these sentiments in our modern society when we casually use phrases like “you throw like a girl” or when we equate weakness as a feminine trait. It’s our job to begin to look critically at how we create and build societies of inequality and how we contribute to the injustices placed on others.
If we looked at every single community that lived in extreme poverty, we would see that over 90 percent of those communities have long-standing social practices and societal expectations that devalue women and treat them only as tools for labor or objects of lust. This deeply inhibits growth and development for a community. I believe this is because women have a value and purpose and an identity given to them by God and when we fail to recognize that and give dignity, respect, and equality where it’s deserved, we’re contributing to the fall, rather than the restoration.
We need to change the conversation. As Christians, we need to lead the transformation of societies and recognize that when we embrace diversity, we’re richer because of it. Diversity and equality can coexist. Healthy societies should hope for that. We can be better and more creative and life is more exciting when we fully embrace everyone as they were created.
We can’t remove the distinctions between genders as God did create us differently and with unique characteristics, but when we start with identity in God as the primary value on someone’s life, I believe that the roles and responsibilities tied to gender isn’t even up for discussion.