I love learning. One of the best parts of being back in school, is that I have many opportunities and challenges to learn from a very different perspective than has been the “norm” of my past. Another thing I really love about it is the opportunity to share with others and to hear from others, especially over common questions and texts and instructors.
It just dawned on me that I also have another venue for sharing with and hearing from others – right here on my blog. We recently had an assignment that asked us to look at the question of God’s design for gender and marriage as presented in Genesis 1-3. I found a great deal of excitement and wonder as I worked on this assignment, so I want to share it with you – and hopefully hear some of your thoughts as well.
God Has a Design for Marriage and Gender?
Genesis 1-3 introduces us to God’s creative power and purposes as they pertain to this earth and its inhabitants. For this paper, my focus is on the people, whom God created in His image, placed in the context of marriage and gender. Genesis 1 gives an overview that describes the process of this creation. Genesis 1:27-28 uses these terms:“Created in the image and likeness of God.” “Male and female.” “God blessed them and said…” As I read this passage, I hear equality in the creation of human beings, male and female. We are each created in God’s image – together. We are each blessed by God – together. We are each given the commission to be the caretakers of all that God created – together. Each and together. Interdependence. Co-unity. I believe this to be indicative of a both/and unity rather than an either/or difference. We have a gender and in marriage we are to live into our gender with one another, both revealing and discovering God’s glory, His image, through a life of choosing and being out of our likeness to God.
Genesis 2 fills in the details and gives us a deeper understanding of God’s purposes and design for this creature to whom He endowed His likeness. The Biblical account of creation clearly tells us that at the culmination of the creative process, a man was created. In Genesis 2:15-17, we are told Adam was created and placed alone in the Garden of Eden and given the charge to tend and watch over the garden, along with the instruction not to eat the fruit of the one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 2:21-25, Adam is instructed to name all the creatures as God brought them to him, and thereby made aware that he was alone and without another like him. And then God created the woman, after Adam was made aware of his need for a helper suitable to carry out God’s commission. We are then given a description of Adam’s response to his introduction to Eve and his realization that this woman was indeed an integral part of himself and God’s purpose for him. Adam was fully capable of fulfilling his charge on earth and fully in need of Eve to completely display the glory of being the image of God. He was just male, not male and female. Just as Eve (just female, not male and female) was fully capable of being a helper, one to come alongside and complete Adam, was fully in need of Adam.
It seems that Adam alone was given the charge to tend and care for the Garden of Eden, but both Adam and Eve were given the charge, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it … and have dominion…” I interpret that as indicating a degree of leadership responsibility in his relationship with his wife and their work, not as a defined role that excludes partnership in specific tasks or areas of gifting and calling. Eve was created as the “helper” – which takes me to the Gospel of John and Jesus’ promise that His leaving was for the best, as His departure would issue in the presence of another “Helper” – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is fully God, and yet not the Father and not the Son. Equal in name and power, and equally submitted to the unity of the Godhead. Each fulfilling specific purposes and each submitting to the will of the Father. Even so, man and woman have their roles, but they are not roles that limit activity or creativity, they are roles that define character and purpose in our equal submission to each other and to the will of our Heavenly Father as we reflect His image and His likeness.
In Genesis 3 we are introduced to the consequences of the decision to not live as God’s image-bearer and not be wholly committed to living up to being His likeness. And the primary consequence for all is an unnatural bent to thwart the communal nature of God’s purposes and a denial of what should be our natural bent to mutual submission and unity. In marriage specifically, the husband’s primary “role” to tend and watch over the Garden, that place of union and intimacy with God, is now fraught with conflict and resistance. And the wife’s primary “role” of coming alongside and empowering and calling forth the glory of God is now fraught with conflict and resistance.
I think I can sum it up in these terms: the husband’s primary role is to maintain the space (and all that is present in that space) for unity and intimacy with God and the wife’s primary role is to call forth the relationship and communication that is necessary for unity and intimacy with God. And of great importance is the overarching need for mutual submission and response one to the other and each to God. And in this unity, both together are the image and likeness of God – revealing His glory and fulfilling His purposes and completing His commission to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves upon the earth” Genesis 2:28, Amplified Bible.