Theology

Embracing Gender Distinctiveness: A Prescriptive Reading of Genesis

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Jesus’s singular and most predominant message was the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Every story, every sermon, every conversation announced the arrival of the much awaited return of God to his people. This uniquely Jewish expectation was the hope of both liberation and renewal—liberation from political oppression and renewal of God’s design for his people.

Jesus fulfilled this hope in his very person, through his incarnation, yes, but also through his death, resurrection, and ascension. The resurrected life of Jesus embodied the kingdom of God and displayed what a human being fully alive looked like. When we enter the kingdom of God we receive life, the life of the age to come, the good life God desires for us. To live under the reign of Christ is to become fully alive as God designed. To understand God’s design for humanity requires we look back to creation.

A Christ-informed reading of Genesis 1 and 2 typically follows one of two (if not more!) interpretive approaches. First, there are those who read the creation narrative as descriptive, simply reading about the events of creation recorded in story and myth. Second, there are those who read the creation narrative as prescriptive, reading about the events of creation and drawing ethical conclusions from the story and myth.

The descriptive reading says, “God did this and that in creation in the past and these prehistoric events have no weight in contemporary ethical and social questions.” The prescriptive reading says, “God did this and that in creation as a signpost for things to come, which shapes our answers to contemporary ethical and social questions.” I tend to read Genesis 1 and 2 prescriptively, in part, because I see Jesus and Paul doing the same thing (e.g. See Matthew 19:3-9 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14).

In reading the second creation account in Genesis 2 we see the uniqueness in God’s creation of man and woman. In the first creation account, we are told God desired to create mankind in his image, so he created them male and female. He did not create them as identical creatures, but he created them as two complementary beings both bearing his image and likeness. In the second creation account, we are told God created man first and then woman, but this order does not imply masculinity is closer to the image of God than femininity. One gender is not more God-like than the other because both genders bear the image of God. However we do see distinctiveness. The church will continue to discuss exactly how men and women are distinct from each other but to ignore the differences between the genders would be to overlook an important component of the creation narrative.

For me, as a man, to live under the rule and reign of Christ is to discover masculinity in his love for us. For a woman to live under the rule and reign of Christ is to discover femininity also in his love for us. His invitation to receive his kingdom is an invitation to respond to his love. When we receive his love and celebrate his love, we become enlivened by his love.

Therefore we strive not to be ubiquitous unisex creatures but fully alive men and fully alive women celebrating and honoring our uniqueness as we live together as citizens of the kingdom of God.   

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