“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
Matthew 19:4-6 (NLT )
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.
Galations 3:26-28 (NLT)
"Knowing God and knowing others is the ultimate answer to our deepest longings.”
Tennent, For the Body, 63
Sunday’s sermon was about the cultural perception of a “Battle of the Sexes”, or the idea that men and women are “worlds apart” in their thinking ("Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”). What does the Bible have to say to us about the creation intention of human beings being male and female? Couldn’t God have done things differently and saved us a lot of hassle?
Jesus, in responding to the question of his day (easy divorce, Matthew 19:3), went back to the creation account in Genesis 1-2. He even qualified that the law of Moses concerning divorce was given as a concession to the “hardness of your hearts”, i.e., the consequences of Sin (Matthew 19:8). Instead, Jesus points to a radical equality of man and woman in representing God in creation (see last week’s sermon). This creation intention precedes both marriage and culture. That means all men and women (single or married, parents or without children) can participate in God’s plan as equals as the Holy Spirit restores the image of God in us. The New Testament Christians were working out the implications of Jesus’ radical example of equality between men and women, which led to statement like this by the Apostle Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galations 3:28)
Later in the day we continued “Wrestlin’ with the Word.” Pastor Carl and I have committed to spending time working through the implications of our study on the body and sexuality with whoever wants to join us on Sunday afternoons. For those who couldn’t make it, see below for the guide we used as well as a point-form synopsis of our discussion. This is one way you can keep up to speed on how we’re processing the questions around these important topics.
As always, if you have questions or feedback around these topics and our approach, Pastor Carl and I would love to hear from you.
Wrestlin’ with the Word – Session 2
Prayer for Wisdom and Unity
God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light on the path of life. Jesus is the Word made flesh, and he lived in a human body like ours and shared this human life. May we, in our desire to be your image-bearers, love others as you have loved us. May your voice be heard in our conversation, and your mind be known in our pondering the mystery of our creation as your icons. Amen.
- North American cultural conceptions of men and women: “battle” or “worlds apart”
- the North American Church has too often simply “Christianised” the cultural idea of men and women
- Jesus points to creation intention when responding to Pharisees’ question about divorce (Matthew 19, Mark 12)
- New Testament Christians believed the Spirit was restoring God’s creation intention (Galations 3:26-28)
- Created male and female (sexed biology) so that we could:
- find unity in difference – woman is “like against man”
- know and be known in community
- participate in creation as equals
- This precedes marriage and culture (foundational for humans in general, not just marriages)
- “The cultural conversation around sex and gender has its roots in the brokenness of the male/female dynamic.” Agree or disagree? Explain.
- “100% of human beings experience sexual brokenness, according to the Bible.” What does this mean for how Christians should care for and relate to sexual minorities?
- In what ways has the Church failed to understand and nurture God’s creation intention for men and women? How has this touched your life specifically? What do we need to confess and repent of?
- What response could a Christian make to either a radical feminist or a radical men’s rights/incel proponent? What about God’s creation intention for sexually differentiated humanity is life-giving?
- Do your non-Christian neighbours or co-workers have an idea about male/female interaction, implicit or explicit?Is it a “battle” or “worlds apart” conception or something else?
Group Discussion: General Feedback
- Does a church stance on sexual issues require division? Is there a way to be a church with multiple opinions that are reflected from the pulpit?
- Does any place RCC “lands” on these issues require compromise? No matter what, won’t we need to accept that it may not be exactly as we see things?
- Some pastors/leaders suggest there are “1st, 2nd, 3rd order” issues which Christians must attend to:
- e.g., the Trinity, Jesus’ death and resurrection (items from the historic creeds) might be 1st order
- Is sexual ethics a 1st order issue? Can we fellowship with Christians who think differently about sexual ethics?
- How do we invite people into obedience to scripture? Is biblical holiness (related to the body) truly life-giving? How might we invite people into exploring the bible’s view of bodily holiness?
- One of the popular concerns is how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament
- What is an ethical and consistent (not picking and choosing what we want) reading of the Old Testament law?
- How has the Church through history approached the Old Testament law and its place in the Christian life? Is this something to also be clarified for modern Christians?
Group Discussion: Question 1
What are some connections between the brokenness of the male/female relationships and wider issues concerning the LGBTQ+ community?
- Why are two concepts (sex and gender) necessary? Is this part of the brokenness of our human sexuality?
- What if I don’t fit into the Church’s “box” or the culture’s “box” of what a man or woman is supposed to be? What other options might be presented to me in the wider culture?
- Has the Church’s adoption of cultural stereotypes of men and women exacerbated the struggles of those who “don’t fit?”
- Note that the complexity of interpersonal relationships is multiplied by individual brokenness of each human person
- We all bring our own “baggage” into relationships--> this necessitates a humble and gracious approach to these very personal issues with everyone!
- What about those who have chosen to present as “agendered?” How does this relate to male/female cultural stereotypes? Is it a way around the issues?
- What does scripture say about the gender roles of men and women? How definitive are specific scriptures around gender roles, or are passages about men and women more focused on character? Is there a different focus in the Old Testament/New Testament? (something to be looked at in depth)
- Is gender identity/sexual orientation an issue of the authority of science vs the authority of the Bible?
- What does science actually tell us about the origins of human desire?
- Are scientific studies definitive on this point?
- What might be the potential risks to the LGBTQ+ community if the origin of their desire was biologically pinpointed?