This is the third installment of the series, “A Theology of Sex and Gender.” Part 1, 2, 3

Jesus & Redemption

God created men and women in His image. Both of them are fully equal in dignity and worth. Unfortunately, sin has broken God’s design. Jesus Himself recognized the profound effects of sin on sexuality and gender. In a discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus upholds God’s original creational design for men and women. But Jesus also shows us that there are also certain exceptions to God’s design due to living in a fallen world:

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you,whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 19:3-9

Jesus & God’s Good Design

In a discussion with the Pharisees concerning divorce, Jesus affirms two very important truths about God’s design. First, Jesus states explicitly that God created humanity as male and female: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (19:4a). Jesus’ understanding of gender comports with the original intention of Genesis 1:27 where God created humanity as male and female. Furthermore, Jesus affirms that a man and a woman will typically be united in marriage: “And He said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (19:5-6). 

For Jesus, marriage is not only mean for a man and a woman, but also, it is meant to be a permanent union. One man and one woman should be united for one lifetime. Jesus acknowledges, however, that sin breaks down God’s design of a man and a woman being united in marriage for a lifetime: “Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you,whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’” (Matthew 19:8-9).

God is the ultimate realist. Although He created a typical pattern for a man and a woman to aspire to, He also knows that we live in a Genesis 3 world. We live in a broken, post-Fall world. Sometimes, according to Jesus, the situation becomes so bad for a husband and a wife that the covenant of marriage needs to be broken through divorce. Jesus saw divorce as a concession to human hard-heartedness, but definitely not in line with the God’s design for marriage.

It is important recognize that Jesus grounded the permanence of the marriage union in God’s creational design: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female…” (19:4). It was “from the beginning” that men and women were created different. And it was “from the beginning” that the purpose of this distinction was so that men and women could be united in marriage.

Jesus’ teaching on the permanence of marriage made His disciples question if they even should get married (19:10)! Jesus’ teaching was radical because it demanded fidelity and commitment. Jesus’ teaching on sexuality was also radial because He elevated singleness as an acceptable lifestyle for His followers: “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He is who is able to accept this, let him accept it.” Whereas marriage was often considered a duty in Jewish culture at the time and children were considered the highest form of a “legacy,” Jesus commended celibacy.[1]

Jesus also seemed to acknowledge that there were those who—through no fault of their own—did not have the typical genitalia to correspond of their biological sex: “There are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (19:12). Jesus reaffirms the good design of God: one man with one woman for one lifetime. Yet, Jesus also acknowledges the brokenness of the world through our sin. And even acknowledges that God made a concession to human sinfulness in the institution of divorce. Divorce is never God’s ideal for a marriage, but sometimes, it is allowable. Furthermore, Jesus reaffirms a “gender-binary”: humanity is typically made male and female. It is not a spectrum. Yet, Jesus also sees some people suffering from living in a broken world and do not have the necessary genitalia that typically is associated with their biological sex: eunuchs from birth.

An important point to recognize is that the church should model Jesus’ posture on the issue of sexuality and gender. The church should affirm, like Jesus, that there is a normative, good design from God for men and women to be united in marriage. And yet, the church must also recognize that there are certain exceptions to God’s creational design due to living in a broken world. Although divorce is never ideal, sometimes it is allowable. Although marriage is God’s usual destination for a man and a woman, sometimes marriage is not an option for various reasons. Sometimes people may come out of the womb damaged by the effects of the fall through no fault of their own. While the culture wants to obliterate any notion of a normative design for men and women due to the exceptions which exist in the world, the church must not give up God’s good design as being normative. Jesus doesn’t.

[1] D.A. Carson, Matthew 13-28. EBC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 419.

2 thoughts on “A Theology of Sex and Gender–Pt. 4–Jesus & Redemption

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