“Gender is hard to understand because God is hard to understand.”
— Sam A. AndreadesSam A. Andreades, enGendered: God’s Gift of Gender Difference in Relationship, (Wooster, Ohio: Weaver Book Company, 2015), p. 37.
“Masculine and feminine can be understood only in terms of each other; basically they are opposite and complementary qualities. They are like darkness and light. It is very hard to understand darkness except in terms of light, and light except in terms of darkness. They are two extremes on a continuum.”
— Robert SiegelAs quoted by Leanne Payne in Crisis in Masculinity, (Grand Rapids, MI: Hamewith Books, 1985), p.85.
God honored humans by making us in His own image, male and female. For years now, our society and “gender” activists have said male-female differences are socially learned. But science is showing us this is not completely true and that differences between men and women are rooted in biology.
Each person is unique, and men and women are equally valuable and worthy of dignity and respect. Certainly not all men are alike and not all women are alike — there is great variation within each sex. However, the differences between the sexes are even greater, and our biological differences are only the beginning. The fact that we’re created male and female in God’s image points to the deeper realities of masculinity and femininity.
Every woman will show her femininity in a unique way. And each man will display masculinity in a unique way. Our masculinity and femininity are seen first in our body, but then seen in our person, our identity and character. And both the masculine and feminine reflect things about God’s character: justice and mercy, strength and beauty, nurture and protection.
Being male or female isn’t just about cultural stereotypes. Masculine and feminine characteristics reflect something much deeper—attributes of God that resonate in the core being of our souls and personalities.
Masculinity and Femininity—Complements
Masculinity and femininity are abstract concepts or qualities, and this can make them difficult to understand and define. Alan Medinger, who worked for years in ministry with men and women coming out of homosexuality, explains masculinity by contrasting it with femininity. In his book, Growth into Manhood, he writes, “The masculine can only be understood in relation to the feminine. … One gives meaning to the other.”Alan Medinger, Growth into Manhood, (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2000), pp. 82-83.
Medinger goes on to explain some of the ways masculinity and femininity define each other. Drawing from a variety of authors and thinkers, he writes about four general complements between masculinity and femininity, giving us a deeper understanding of these concepts (emphasis his):
- The Masculine Is That Which Is Outer Directed; The Feminine Is That Which Is Inner Directed. The masculine faces the world: It is oriented to things; it explores; it climbs. Its energy is directed toward the physical: measuring, moving, building, conquering. The feminine looks inward toward feeling, sensing, knowing in the deepest sense. Its energy is directed toward relationships, coming together, nurturing, helping. … Another way to describe this same contrast is masculine doing and feminine being.
- The Essence Of Masculinity Is Initiation; The Essence Of Femininity Is Response. … Herein we can see why God the Father has revealed Himself first of all in masculine terms. He is the ultimate initiator. All things come from Him. He is the Alpha. In our relationship with the Son, Jesus must always be the bridegroom and we must be the bride; it is never the other way around.
- Masculine Authority; Feminine Power. … To understand authority and the masculine, we again look to God. God is the ultimate authority (masculine). He is also the source and sustainer of life (feminine). He holds us in His hand and sustains our lives day by day.
- Masculine Truth; Feminine Mercy. … The masculine seeks truth; the feminine, mercy.Medinger, 2000, pp. 84-88.
These pairings certainly don’t give us the whole story, but they offer some different pictures of the masculine and the feminine. They give us glimpses into the deeper meaning of both and they suggest how we can better reflect God’s image as men and women. In each pair we can see not only complementarity, but also the incredible goodness and value of both masculinity and femininity.
Watch a man and woman ice skating together: They may perform the exact same athletic move, but they do so very differently, she as a woman and he as a man. They have two very different roles to play in their carefully choreographed and rehearsed routine. Both are equally necessary to skate as a duo; but, they need to perform very different roles to create the overall effect and beautiful union we see displayed on the ice. Typically what is enhanced and noticed in the woman is her grace and beauty. In her male partner, we see solidity and strength.
Something similar is often reflected in male-female relationships where we see both feminine beauty and masculine strength. In general, a woman desires to be loved and told she is beautiful, while a man wants to be respected and admired. We honor God when we acknowledge and celebrate the good in both men and women.
Note: Of course there is much more that could be written about femininity and masculinity; however, that’s beyond the scope of this article. We hope this small taste will whet your appetite and create a desire to explore more fully the works of Christian writers and thinkers, including:
- Fr. Earle Fox, Homosexuality: Good and Right in the Eyes of God? (with David Virtue) and Biblical Sexuality and the Battle for Science;
- Leanne Payne, Crisis in Masculinity and The Broken Image;
- Andy Comiskey, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness and especially his Living Waters program;
- Mario Bergner, Setting Love in Order and his Redeemed Lives program,
- Gordon Dalby, Healing the Masculine Soul;
- Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them—A Theology of the Body;
- Christopher West and his many explications of Theology of the Body, such as Theology of the Body for Beginners;
- J. Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex; and
- Alan Medinger, Growth into Manhood.
NOTE: Referral to websites not produced by Focus on the Family is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of the sites’ content. Some of these websites deal with sensitive and difficult issues and may contain content for mature readers.