Professor Georges Balandier was most certainly correct when he observed that “the relationships established between the sexes seem to conform to extremely ancient and intangible structures.” In fact, those structures trace their origin to the creation of the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve. Genesis1:27 tells us that God created these two in His own image, “male and female He created them.” This is speaking of more than our physical attributes. It also refers to traits like emotion and intellect.
Man and woman—created in the same image, created to be comparable to one another (Genesis 2:20) and to complement one another, and yet very different from each other in so many ways. Why?
To appreciate the reason, we must first understand how we are the same. According to the Bible, what men and women have in common is their destiny. Notice what the apostle Paul has to say: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26–28, New American Standard Bible). The Creator’s design for all of humanity is the same. We were all created with the potential to inherit eternal life as His children and become members of God’s own family (Hebrews 2:5–13).
So, in respect of our destiny and potential, men and women are equal in God’s mind. But why did He create us to be different from one another? Simply said, to teach us what it means to achieve the destiny for which we were created. When Adam and Eve were created, they were instructed to come together and learn to become “one flesh” and to “multiply and replenish the earth”—to come together in a committed marital relationship and create a family.
Such a union images the relationship, although not sexual in nature, that exists between the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. In John’s Gospel (17:22), Jesus says that He and His Father are one; they are of one mind with one purpose. So, too, two different but complementary human beings can learn to develop spiritual unity. The spiritual, emotional, intellectual and sexual union of a man and a woman completes them both and creates a family.
The distinct and notable differences that exist between men and women represent a dividing by God of His own attributes. By coming together in a committed marriage and working to reintegrate those traits, we can obtain a more complete picture of the purpose for our existence. That requires that we take some instruction from the One who created us.
In the family of God, Jesus Christ is subject to His Father and the Father has subjected all things to the Son (1 Corinthians 15:27–28). A certain mutuality exists in this relationship, despite the clear authority structure.
With respect to men and women in marriage, the instruction we are given about our roles in this most important of all human relationships reveals a similar structure. In Ephesians 5:22–33 we are told that wives should be subject to their own husbands, just as they would be to Jesus Christ. That is so because, as the Father has determined it should be, the husband is the head of the wife in the same manner as Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. It is shameful that these instructions have been used to justify the misconduct of men and the wrongful subjugation of women in marriage, because that is not what God wants. Immediately following the instructions regarding the role of the wife in marriage, the apostle Paul says that a husband is to love his wife just as Christ loved the Church. This, Paul says, is a love that nourishes and cherishes the wife. It is a love that serves and gives of itself to do whatever is needed. The example of this kind of love is Jesus Christ, who gave His own life for the sake of the Church.
This instruction reveals a relationship that is predicated on mutual submission within a clearly defined structure. When we as human beings change this structure and redefine our roles with respect to one another, particularly in marriage, we deny the purpose for which we are created, and we sow the seeds of our discontent. Just as important, we begin competing with one another as opposed to complementing and completing one another.
Human sexuality was created for a purpose—both genders equal in terms of destiny, yet distinct and different in the role they are to fulfill in achieving that destiny. How will we ever attain to our full potential if we fail to hear and practice the instructions of the One who created us?