Sunday, September 27, 2015

Same, Different, Together

Today, we're going to begin to deal with one of the hot spots of our culture. And it's all because of something that God did.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” …  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2.18, 22-23)

So, God made a woman. That seems innocent enough. That is, until you ask this question. What does it mean that some people are women? And once you ask that question you have to ask its companion. What does it mean that some people are men? Our culture is so confused about the answers to those questions. And the sad fact is that the church in America is only a little less confused. You'd think that getting a good, biblical definition of femininity and masculinity wouldn't be that hard. And yet, these days it really is. And that actually isn't something that is so very new. This has been an issue for a few generations.

All of this brings us back to that recurring theme I’ve pointed out to you: How does God run His creation? In this context that results in this question. How does God define being a woman and being a man? Now, one sermon, or even the series of sermons that I'm intending, will not answer all the questions. But it's a start.

The goal of today's sermon is to clarify some things and thus to establish a foundation for the next few sermons. The heart of the sermon can be captured by three words: same, different, together. Men and women are, in some ways, the same. They are also, in other ways, very different. But the goal is for men and women to work together to accomplish the mission God has given to us.

First word: same. Both men and women are equally the image of God. That means that they are both equally valuable, equally significant and equally important. And that is the case because they are both reflections of who God is. I spoke to you about this when we were back in chapter one where God said,

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Both males and females are made in God's image. And because of this, both are given the mission of exercising dominion - and equally so. There is no thought that the man is given the mission and the woman can tag along as an apprentice assistant. Both are given the mission because both are made in God's image. In this, women and men are the same.

Next word, different. When it comes to the image, while they are both equally God's image, one is the male expression of the image and the other is the female expression of the same image. In this, they are different. It is very important that you understand that this difference is not some superficial difference.  This is not simply about their bodies. This difference goes very deep. So, consider the saints who have died are now waiting in heaven. They are souls waiting for the resurrection of their bodies. And they are all still either male or female. Being a man and being a woman is not just about the body. It's about the person. There are profound differences between men and women, differences that deeply define who they are. This does not mean one is better than the other. Our culture does not understand that there can be difference without better and worse. But God does. He made them equally His image. In that they are the same. But He also made them with differences.

So, the one has certain strengths that the other doesn't. And the same is true the other way around. These are differences that are built into being a woman and being a man. And that is a very good thing.

As a result, men and women are not interchangeable. A hammer is designed to drive nails into wood. A wrench is designed to tighten bolts. Each is really good at what it is designed to do. But they are different. You can try to use a hammer on bolts and a wrench on nails. You might even make some progress. But they weren't designed for that. God made men to do certain things and women to do certain things. And, by the way, this goes way beyond men having muscles and women having babies - way beyond. Each has strengths that the other will benefit from. But each will benefit from the other only when the other is living in the way that God designed him or her to live. Now, men can live in ways that God meant women to live, and women can live in ways that God meant men to live. It will work - for a while. But in due time, it will crash.

Sometimes problems with how we live show up immediately. Other times it takes a few generations for things to fall apart. More than a generation or two have been getting this wrong. And by that I mean that both those whom we might call conservatives and those we might call liberals have been getting this wrong for quite a while. And we're seeing things begin to fall apart. This could have been avoided if we had been careful to answer that question: How does God run His creation? And it can be fixed by paying attention to that same question and answering it wisely. But problems that have been around for a few generations won't get fixed quickly. We still have a ways to go in our culture's downward spiral. But the Church can prepare for the time of rebuilding by carefully answering that question as it applies to this and other areas. How does God run His creation? Answering that question correctly will make it possible for us to work with God instead of against Him.

We've looked at 'same' and we've looked at 'different'. Now, it's time for 'together'. The woman was created because the man was unable to accomplish the task given to him. The woman was created so that she and the man could work at dominion together. She was created to help him to do that. There are those who hear that word 'help' and come away with the idea that the woman is the man's sidekick. He's the star of the show. She's just a supporting actress. We're going to look at 'help' next week to debunk that. But for now let me remind you that both the man and the woman were created in the image of God. And both were given the task of exercising dominion. There is no star here. They both have equal roles in this drama. So, to say it again, they are equally valuable, equally significant, equally important. In this they are the same. However, they pursue this calling in different ways. He does it as a man, and she does it as a woman. But remember, that doesn't mean better and worse. They are the same but also different. And each one has something unique to offer to the other as they both work at the calling to have dominion. And the best way that each can assist the other is by being what God made each to be. Men need to live as men. And women need to live as women. And as each does that there is no better and worse, no star and supporting cast. They are the same in one sense while very different in another, and they work together obeying God's call. And the trick these days is to be able to hold on to both of those poles – same and different – as you work together.

Let me illustrate this in a way that I think can be very helpful. I'm going to talk about something that is transcultural. I'm going to talk about the Trinity. God is one God and yet, at the same time, God is three, Father, Son and Spirit. This is how our Standards state this Bible truth.

There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties. (Westminster Larger Catechism Answer #35.)

So, the three persons are the same, 'the same in substance, equal in power and glory'. And yet, they are also different, 'distinguished by their personal properties'. That means that the Father is different from the Son who is different from the Spirit who is different from the Father. The same and yet different.

Now, here's where 'together' comes in. When it comes to the Gospel, the mission of rescuing us from the mess that we have become, each person of the Trinity has a particular role. The Father sends the Son to rescue us. The Son obeys the Father in how He lives, dies and rises for us. And then, the Son sends the Spirit who applies to us the benefits of what Jesus has accomplished. We saw those three facts expressed in John’s Gospel.

Do you see it? Same, different, together. They are equally God, the same. But their roles are so very different. And what they do together, each one acting according to who He is, is critical to the success of the mission. In all of this there is no better and worse. It's same, different and together. And that's what being men and being women is about. And when we get this right we are faithfully expressing the image of God.

This is all introductory. I wanted to establish some things. We'll come back to look at another aspect of this topic next week. The goal is for each of you to live well, to live as the woman or the man that God has designed you to be.

It would be good if you prayed about this during the week. Pray for me. Just like all of you, I have been affected by the culture. Pray that what I will say will be true to the Scriptures and helpful to you. And then, pray for yourselves. This is a large and difficult topic. The question about masculinity and femininity is one that is going to have a profound affect on your children and grandchildren. Actually, it’s already having an affect on them. Pray that you would understand God's design so that you can prepare them for what will come.

1 comment:

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