This blog post is the first in a 3-part series on God's Design for sex. This series is rooted in our ministry's three core Statements on Sexuality. This post is focused on expounding Statement 1: Sexual Identity.
We believe God created human beings in his image, purposefully and distinctly male and female, each reflecting unique facets of God’s image.
For most Christians around the world, this statement is basic and straightforward, with no controversy. And yet we live in a time in history, sometimes referred to as postmodernism, that requires every simple, basic statement to be challenged and dissected until virtually nothing is left that makes any sense.
I will attempt to keep things simple while still digging below the surface to seek and uncover a deeper understanding of God's design when it comes to sexual identity.
The above statement can be broken down into 5 main points that will be explored further:
In his image
Male and Female
Reflecting unique facets of God's image
"We believe God created..."
Foundational to any understanding of sexual identity or anything that could be dubbed "God's design" is the necessity that God is the ultimate source of matter and life. This is so elementary to the Christian faith that I sometimes wonder why it must be stated at all. Yet, with the rise of modern, secular science and the plethora of atheistic worldviews, it needs to be stated.
The main reason we must start with the fact that God created is that this grounds the reality of human beings and sexuality in their appropriate Source. Human beings didn't invent themselves, nor did they create sex. God is the Architect and Engineer of human sexuality. He designed us to have physical bodies that possess sexual organs and desires. What genius and generosity!
Because God is altogether good, this means that everything he made is also good, including human sexuality. Sexual desires were part of God’s design from the beginning. It is not an accident that you have your particular chromosomes and hormones.
You may be wondering, “But why is there so much sexual harm and disease and brokenness if God created human sexuality and it is good?” The simple answer is sin. When we willfully choose to violate God’s good design for our lives, whether through sex or any other act, we distort its beauty and intention. Sin takes anything that God has made and twists it into something it was never intended to be. But this doesn’t destroy God’s original design or the hope that he can restore whatever we have broken by our sin. Since God is the Creator, he can fix whatever we break, including ourselves.
That God created us (and sex) is the first key to understanding his design and how we fit into it.
"We believe God created human beings..."
You and I did not arise from some primordial soup. We are not the random collocation of atoms held together by an impersonal “force” in the universe. No, you and I originated in the mind and heart of God. This makes us more valuable than the cosmos.
This section will be a bit hard to write without quickly jumping to the next bit of the statement about being made in God’s image, but let’s try to focus briefly on what it means to be human and why this is important to our understanding of God’s design for sex.
When God created the universe and everything in it, he made a distinction in his process when it came to human beings. Prior to the sixth day of creation, God merely spoke and whatever he spoke happened. But then on day six, he said, “Let us make man…” God’s creative process seemed to move from a strictly verbal context to a corporeal one. It’s as if God wanted to be much “closer” to his creation of humans than of anything else he created. He chose to make us.
Human beings are different from the rest of creation, even of animals¹. We instinctively know this, even as we try so hard to concoct other reasons than the simple fact that “God made us.” Humans think and believe and act differently than other creatures, even though there are similarities such as procreation, grouping, and self-preservation. But in the soul we know that we are not the same as a dog, pig, or even a monkey.
God created. And the part of his creation that received the most attention and care was human beings. This is good news for us.
In His Image
"We believe God created human beings in his image..."
The essence of being human is not found in the many distinctions we could point out from the rest of creation. No, the essence of being human is that we are created in God’s image. God made us to “reflect” him².
This doesn’t mean we are God or “little” gods. Being made in God’s image means that by God’s design we possess certain attributes that are utterly unique from everything else in the cosmos. These attributes include conscience, reason, faith, and freedom (i.e. free will). But even these attributes don’t fully encapsulate what it means to be made in God’s image. It is more personal and intimate than aptitude or ability.
Think of God’s image as a “birthmark” of sorts. Every human bears this mark whether they believe in God or not. This is why every human being has some sense of right and wrong, justice, faith, and love. These are not “social constructs”; they are inherent in what it means to be made in God’s image. God’s image is a gift, whether we see it as one or not.
God’s image also speaks to the matter of identity. You cannot choose your identity; it is a gift given to you by God. You did not choose your parents. You did not choose your gender³. You did not choose your birthplace. You did not choose your name, your skin color, your voice, your smile, and so much more. In the same way you did not choose any of these aspects of your life, you did not choose to be made in God’s image. Yet, by his grace and mercy you bear his image anyway. It is a gift of love.
What does any of this have to do with sexual identity? God tells us:
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God’s image is not disconnected from the physical body. We are not merely “spiritually” bearing God’s image. We bear his image in our bodies, even down to how he made us sexual creatures: male and female.
Male and Female
We believe God created human beings in his image purposively and distinctly male and female..."
When God created human beings he designed them to bear his image in physical bodies that have sexual distinctions. But these sexual distinctions are not contradictory, but rather complementary; they fit together. There is far too much to unpack here in a short blog post on this matter, so I recommend that you consider reading Our Bodies Tell God’s Story by Christopher West. But I do have some points to highlight on what is so important about us being made male and female.
This section is actually the main point of this statement on sexual identity: God made human beings male and female on purpose in order to fully reflect his image in the world.
I know this is very unpopular to say in the world today, but men and women are different – by God’s design! Down to the very chromosomes in our bodies, men and women are not the same. This doesn’t mean we are so completely different that we are alien to one another. It just means that God was purposeful in how he created diversity in his image bearers by distinguishing them as male and female. This is beautiful and brilliant.
In one scientific article⁴, there were 45 biological differences highlighted between male and female. Some of these differences included brain differences in utero at 26 weeks, differences in hearing, differences in body fat storage, differences in processing emotions, and even differences in heart size, nose size, and finger length. God was truly creative in making us male and female.
It is no accident that you are male or female. This is one of God’s many gifts to you. Embrace it and celebrate the distinctiveness in your sex.
Reflecting Unique Facets of God’s Image
We believe God created human beings in his image purposively and distinctly male and female, each reflecting unique facets of God's image."
God made men to reflect him in a distinct way from women and vice versa. He made the union of a husband and wife to reflect him in another way. He formed his Church as a “body” of males and females to reflect him in still another unique way. And even pre-pubescent boys and girls he created to reflect him in a beautifully distinct way to a watching world. God created us with physical and emotional distinctions as male and female to bear his image.
God is not one-dimensional. He is personal, with incalculable facets to his character. He possesses consciousness, will, intellect, power, emotion, beauty, and so much more. When he made us in his image he endowed us with similar qualities. These distinctly human qualities contained in God’s “image” are meant for our enjoyment and to glorify God. Our lives, including our sexuality, are meant to point to, and magnify, our Creator.
Because God created us male and female, the full reflection of his image is seen in the community, not just the individual. This doesn’t mean that individual males and individual females aren’t made in God’s image—we have already establish that. It simply means that, because God created males and females with distinct qualities, we shouldn’t assume that males can reflect the fullness of God’s image separate from females and vice versa. The differences in the sexes are meant to express harmony in God’s image, not discord.⁵
It is important to note on this topic of God’s image that God is utterly distinct from all of his creation. Even though human beings are made “in his image,” we could never be—nor were we meant to be—an identical reflection of God. God is in a category by himself. The fact that he would even consider making a creature “in his image” is a gift of such humility, it staggers the imagination.
When it comes to reflecting God’s image through our “maleness” or “femaleness” we do this by embracing how God defines us and living according to his Word. Basically, this means that boys and men are to live according to God’s design of masculinity, and girls and women are to live according to God’s design of femininity⁶. We don’t have the right to define our own terms when it comes to “male and female” and what this means in bearing God’s image. He is the Creator, not us.
When we understand and embrace our identity as given by God, gender and sexuality make sense. And we begin to experience the simplicity and wonder God intended from the beginning when he placed a man and woman in a garden to enjoy him and each other.
You have been given your body and its gender as a gift from God. He planned to make you the sex you are so that you could personally reflect his image in the world. Your sex is not a mistake or a problem to be solved. It is a gift to be received, understood, and expressed in a way that gives glory to its Maker.
³In this article, gender is synonymous with sex as an indicator of male or female. While this may be unpopular (and very much confused) in modern culture, it is the proper word to use for one’s biological sex. The root of the word is literally “gene,” as in “generation” or “genitive”. https://www.etymonline.com/word/gender
⁵As Nancy Pearcey states in her book, The Toxic War on Masculinity, “Men and women exercising their gifts are like a violin and a cello playing a duet, blending in harmony while retaining their unique, individual tones. (p. 31)