Male, Female, and the Image of God

  • March 2017 Issue
Theology Matters

When God created humanity to reflect His image, He made them male and female (Gen. 1:27). This implies something important about human nature. The polarity of male and female is essential to our role as bearers of the divine image. This is one reason God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman and why homosexuality is described in Scripture as “shameful,” “unnatural,” and a “perversion” (Rom. 1:26–27). Why would the Bible offer such a strong denunciation for behavior that many today would prefer to think of as an expression of predetermined preferences?

The Bible describes homosexuality as a distortion of God’s design for humanity. Homosexual practice became a part of human experience because fallen humanity refused to acknowledge God (Rom. 1:21). The tendency of today’s culture to normalize homosexual behavior and affirm same-sex marriage is evidence that we have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).

The polarity of human male and female as a reflection of the divine image implies something equally important about God. He does not have a sexual identity, but this does not mean that gender is alien to Him. Although God is neither male nor female, the cultural roles of both sexes are used to describe Him. God’s compassion is compared to a nursing mother in Scripture (Isa. 49:15). He promises to comfort Israel as a mother comforts her child (Isa. 66:13). At the same time, the Bible predominantly uses male pronouns and images to refer to God. Jesus taught the church to address God as Father (Matt. 6:9). This use of gender-specific language to describe God dignifies both sexes as bearers of the divine image and tells us something about Him that other words cannot.

The growing acceptance of same sex unions is proof that our culture continues to suppress the truth about God and His design for humanity. But the Scriptures offer this hope to all who will recognize their sinfulness and turn to Christ: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

FOR FURTHER STUDY

To learn more, read Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship Beyond an Age of Individualism by Dale S. Kuehne (Baker).

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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