What is mature manhood and womanhood? Here is perhaps one of the most important questions for Christian parents to help their adolescent children answer. If we place emphasis on an identity as a “sexual being,” we miss the opportunity to discuss what masculine or feminine personhood really is. Men are not men and women are not women because of their sexual urges or desires, nor does marriage make a person more fully male or female. By labeling children or adults as “sexual beings,” we can actually distort the purpose and vocation of manhood and womanhood.
Genesis 1:27 tells us four things about the first man and women. They were created by God to be human, not the same but male or female, in the image of God (not animals) and, because they were created in God’s image, they were created to be holy. There is no mention of anything of a sexual nature (“one flesh”) until God brings man and woman together as husband and wife (Gn. 2:24). Too may of us scurry from Genesis 1:27 and skip straight to that union. But in doing so, we miss something very important about the essence of male and female.
We are more than sexual beings because God first spoke to Adam about being a man. Man was put in the Garden to “work and keep it” (Gn. 2:15). Man was to be a good steward over all of creation. In faithfulness to God, he was to defend life and avoid death (Gn. 2:16-17). “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gn. 2:18). The creation was incomplete without woman. Man had no one like himself nor did he have a way to procreate. God made (literally “built”) woman from man’s rib. In marriage, the woman is her husband’s “helper” (Hebrew: ezer), assistant and ally. The vocation of “helper” is not inferior. Jesus called the Holy Spirit a “Helper” in John 14:16 which can be translated as “comforter,” “encourager,” or “advocate.” In her “one flesh” union with Adam, Eve became the bearer of life who would nurture, comfort, and encourage husband and children.
Sin distorted God’s perfect design and rhythm of life. Sin causes the relationships of men and women–married or not–to be difficult. But even in chaos, God’s order of creation stands. Whether married or single, men are stewards of creation. Whether married or single, men are called to defend life and lead away from death in faithfulness to God. In or out of marriage, women are called to help men do good (not evil), be encouraged (not discouraged), built up (not torn down). Mature manhood and womanhood are not dependent on being married; thus, neither are sensually or sexually driven.
Do you see that boys can be mentored to work, build, protect and engage life without sensual implications? Do you see that girls can be mentored to help, encourage, counsel and build relationships without sensual suggestions?
From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (pp. 100-101)
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)