Gender Roles in Life

Gender Roles in Life

The differences between men and women, both physical and behavioral, are centered around bearing and caring for children, because our flesh’s highest priority is self preservation. We instinctively are driven to eat, drink, and sleep long enough to reproduce and sustain the human race. Since our sexual differences are for this purpose, and our drive to bear children is one of the most fundamental aspects of who we are, our masculinity and femininity is fundamental to our identities. But childbearing is not our most important purpose. There is so much more to life, like recreation, fellowship, art, science and exploration, serving other people, ruling over God’s creation and doing his will. Because our differences as men and women are part of who we are, they affect all areas of our lives, not just reproduction.

Gender Roles in the World

The characteristics that make men and women unique give each an advantage in different areas. This is why we usually find men and women being responsible for different things in a marriage. For example, in a godly relationship, it's more common to find men acting as the spiritual leader, protecting the family, working and earning money, taking initiative, fixing things that are broken, being the disciplinarian for the children, being more sexually dominant, driving the car, speaking in public, and negotiating big sales and purchases. Similarly, we usually see women managing her household, decorating, supporting and encouraging her husband, caring for her family, preparing food, taking care of medical needs, being careful with details of tasks, cleaning, being the more approachable parent, and managing the social calendar. Gender roles don't just apply to family life, but to education, jobs, politics, art, sports, and every area of life.

While the concept of gender roles is biblical, it is possible to twist this concept of gender roles into something it's not. Many people have taken parts of the Bible out of context and changed their meaning. Nowhere does the Bible say that a wife is to be devoid of opinions, personality, and agency, nor that she should be stuck inside, not interact with other people, and not serve a purpose outside of the home. Just as a man is good for more than just providing for his family, a woman is good for more than childbearing. If such is the case, how can a woman help her husband as she was created to? In Proverbs, King Lemuel wrote about how incredibly valuable a Godly wife is. She is hardworking, supports her husband, has a good reputation in the community, provides food and clothing for her household, is generous, wise, strong, financially prudent, and fears the Lord. This wife is vital to her husband and their household’s well-being both inside of the home and outside of it.

Gender Roles in the Kingdom

For a husband and wife following Jesus, the cares of this world are the least of their concerns. A couple who is lead by God’s Spirit cares more about growing the Kingdom of Heaven than anything else. And just as their differences serve each other well in the worldly things, their differences serve each other well in their ministry as well. Both men and women should always be motivated by love. But love comes in many forms. Men are typically gifted at giving tough love and discipline, and women are typically gifted at giving gentle love and encouragement. We see Jesus displaying both kinds of love in his ministry. For example, picture how love made Jesus zealous and angry enough to overturn the temple tables. And remember how love prompted him to be empathetic and merciful to the adulterer whom the Pharisees wanted to stone. Love can take many forms, and being able to love in different ways allows a couple to serve God together in a way much stronger than either one could do on their own. As Ecclesiastes says:
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.” 
Paul wrote to the Corinthians about how vital it is that different people fill different roles and bring different gifts to ministry:
“There are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
The differences between men and women make them the perfect team. They each have strengths and weaknesses that allow them to bring unique contributions to the relationship in their role. These differences don’t make one more valuable than the other. On the contrary, they increase their value to each other. We must learn to value people for who they naturally are as men and women, not try to change them into something we consider to be more ideal. If we remove these differences, why have men and women in any kind of partnership at all? What good is there to a team made up of people with the same attributes? Opposites attract for a reason. Masculinity and femininity are not arbitrary traits that society randomly teaches little boys and girls to have. The traits are part of our identities, as who we are created to be, and they serve an important, divine purpose. They should be celebrated and enjoyed, because masculinity and femininity, each in different ways, reflect the image of God in humanity. That image is what makes us rulers of creation and allows us to have fellowship with God.

Interactions Between Every Man and Woman

This is the kind of relationship God wants a husband and a wife to have. But we have many interactions with people of the opposite sex who we are not married to. Do the biblical instructions we've been studying apply only to married couples, or to all men and women? 

The curse of death and inequality between genders was not just for a husband and wife, but it affected all of humanity. When Jesus came to overcome the curse, he overcame it not just for a husband and wife, but for all of humanity. So the principles of love and submission that Jesus taught us to overcome this curse are also for all of humanity. Therefore the principles of how a man and woman are to interact are not just for a husband and wife, but for all of humanity. The qualities that make man and woman unique in a marriage also make them unique in all aspects of life. A marriage is the foundation of a family, and a family is the foundation of a society. So the ideals that influence a marriage should carry through and influence all of society. 

But is all of society is going to suddenly adopt these principles Jesus taught us? Of course not. Most of the world is still under the curse of death. Women are still fighting men, and men are still dominating women. However, the curse does not exist in Heaven, and Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The Kingdom of Heaven exists wherever the King has domain. Where God’s will is done is where his kingdom is, and where his kingdom is, there is no curse. This is why it is the mission of followers of Jesus to grow the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is always advancing, but there will always be enemy territories until Jesus’ final return. People who are part of the Kingdom shouldn’t expect the rest of society to live as we do. But those of use who are part of the Kingdom and follow Jesus should not live under the curse, but live according to Jesus’ example of love and submission. While it’s not for all of society, people in the Kingdom form our own society with its own culture. This society, the assembly of Jesus’ followers, is the church. We will explore the roles of men and women in the church in a future post.

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