Male and Female He Created Them

Male and Female He Created Them

Of all that was created, there is only one unique creature into which God breathes his breath and declares that it is his own image and likeness.

The dignity and character of God are embodied in the human creature. No other created thing is given the relational and rational capacity to understand this or respond back to the creator.

The union of a fragile creature and a faithful creator is the intent of our making. We are fashioned for relationship with God. John Wesley said, “For what is the most perfect in heaven or earth in Thy presence but a void, capable of being filled with Thee by Thee” (from A Plain Account of Christian Perfection).

But it doesn’t end there. Our narrative also says that God created the human, male and female he created them. And it was not good that the male was alone. No other material being filled the ache of aloneness – not birds, trees, or rivers – though he was made of the same stuff as they. Only when presented with the woman, made of the same dust yet fully other, did the male find his aloneness addressed.

Male and Female Become One Flesh

God placed within man and woman sexual desire for the other. This desire is an expressly felt yearning for someone to fill a void. I find it interesting that many call this “basic animal instinct.” I beg to differ. Man and woman, made in the image of God, with capacity for a union that signs the mystery of the Trinity… this is not descriptive of animals. It is the essence of human dignity. The narrative tells us that they are joined to one another and the two become one flesh. It is unmistakable throughout scripture that the sexual union of a man and woman in marriage is a sign and witness to the very essence of God.

Our gender marks us as incomplete. The male or female body makes no sense by itself. We are incapable of conceiving babies alone.  Our bodies signal capacity for the other. So what does our maleness and femaleness sign to the world about the God in whose image and likeness we are made?

A theology of human sexuality interfaces with all theology – Trinity, creation, a doctrine of sin, ecclesiology, and eschatology. But nowhere is it more essential to connect the dots than between our sexuality and the incarnation of God in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth. The incarnation is God’s signal to us that life as he intended is meant to be experienced in a human body. God pitches his tent in a skin sack full of blood and bones. The bull’s eye of God’s liberating and sanctifying grace is these sexual bodies of ours. To be even more direct, our sexual bodies are being built into the holy temple of God.

Fallen Creatures

So what went wrong? In a word, sin fractured the trusting relationship between a faithful creator and his fragile creatures. God provided everything we needed for life, graciously and freely; but he also veiled and boundaried the tree in the center of the garden, asking for our respect. We seized the forbidden fruit because we desired to be something more than human. In our grasping, we believed we could transcend our dust-ness and dependence. Rather than accepting our identity as the beloved creatures of God, we seized the opportunity to be equal with God. Rather than finding our ache met in God, we sought to erase the ache, and thereby became sub-human. We fell.  And we broke ourselves really bad when we did. And we have never fully recovered.

In our lusting after self-sovereignty, we saw God as a thing that stood in our way rather than the source of our life. If we could violate God’s boundaries to get what we wanted, it would be easy do the same with our fellow humans. And thus lust was born.

So where do we go from here? The meaning of human persons is at stake. Is it even possible after the fall to be set free from lust? Can we see the human body as a revelation of our created dignity and a sign of the mystery of union with God?

I don’t know if our cultural narrative of sexual desire can be reclaimed or reformed or redeemed. We may be too far gone. But then, we are the followers of a dead man, crucified and buried, three days in the tomb – far past recovery, too far gone – and God raised him to life. If God can resurrect dead flesh, might this same God also sanctify living flesh?

Holiness of Heart and Life

One of the central doctrines of scripture being grandly ignored these days is the doctrine of sanctification, or holiness of heart and life. It speaks of the activity of God remaking the human in likeness to Jesus. It is a deeper work of cleansing that goes to the root of our desires.  While lust is forgivable, and objectification is forgivable, and porn and sleeping around and infidelity and prostitution are all forgivable, they are also most likely to be repeated until the twisted desire that drives them is reformed – or better yet, transformed. “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world” – this dying culture – “but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:1). Our gospel of sanctification is about resurrection to new life, the sanctification of eros, cleansing of the heart’s desires, purity, love made whole, liberation from bondage, maturity in likeness to Christ.

We may be losing ground in the battle of sexual narratives because Christians are not experiencing the kind of sanctification that transforms their sexual desire and forms love where lust once ruled. This requires a death to the old but also a long maturation into the new.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Human Sexuality: A Primer for Christians.

Comments

  1. Randy Anderson says

    Well said

  2. Michael Curtis says

    Beautifully expressed my heart on this issue and I totally agree with the last paragraph.

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