In what was the first high profile public confrontation of what will undoubtedly be many over the gender bathroom issue, the NBA recently pulled it’s All-Star game for the upcoming season from Charlotte, North Carolina. When millions of dollars are lost, this stuff gets heated quickly and this issue doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
I recently preached through a series titled The Design of Love. In the series, we meditated on Scriptural directives about relationships, marriage, gender, and sexuality.
Our society’s perception of genderedness has most definitely shifted over the years. But in a strange way, I’m increasingly convinced that the biblical sexual ethic is once again being affirmed. My conviction is that biological and sociological study inevitably catches up to theological truth. And as far as society’s gender envelope has been pushed, it seems to me that once more a biblical point is being made.
From the 1960s, the western world went through a supposed “sexual revolution.” The sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll cliché was appropriate for a period characterized by the pursuit of feeling good. But the thinking on these pleasures changed. Recreational drugs, while obviously still an issue, became universally recognized as a massive hindrance to success in life. Rock n’ roll accidentally tripped on hairspray and quickly became shockingly uncool, all but dying as an art form by the 90s. And the perception of sexuality changed too.
During the sexual revolution, sex was largely understood as merely an appetite. You get hungry, so you eat. You feel sexy, so you have sex. This is a rather low view of sex that’s been around at least since the paganism of Corinth, when the Apostle Paul quotes them by saying, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” (1 Cor. 6:13) when talking about sexual immorality. Apparently many in 1st century Corinth were champions of that sexual revolution too. When they felt the hunger for sex, they would seek out male and female shrine prostitutes.
During the American sexual revolution, sex was perceived as a mere physical, mostly external thing we do. In tow with a feminist movement touting that a woman could do anything a man could, the societal perception shifted to men and women being essentially the same, our genderedness only running genital deep. It was a sexual equivalency culture of sorts.
And then came the 90s. One of the eye-opening aspects to the 90s was the coming out of many celebrities. Ellen Degeneres, George Michael, Melissa Etheridge, Nathan Lane were just a few of America’s favorite entertainers who put a face on homosexuality in the 90s. The overall number of celebrities and various industry leaders who felt comfortable sharing their sexual identity must have multiplied by ten in the subsequent decade.
In essence, what you had was many famous figures saying, “Please don’t make assumptions about my sexuality based on externals. My sexuality runs much deeper.”
And biblically speaking, they’re right.
In more recent years, as same-sex marriage became the law of the land, and thus common, the attention obviously shifted to transgender celebrities like Chaz Bono and Caitlyn Jenner.
So we now have a rise of people who are more publicly saying, “I definitely FEEL male/female on the inside.” In other words, what’s en vogue today is people rejecting the idea that sexuality is only skin deep. That’s correct. Now, they’re missing the fact that sin absolutely wrecks all of us and can distort our sexuality too. But, in a strange way, Paul’s teaching on human sexuality is being affirmed – your gender is NOT just an external thing, it’s part of your hardwiring.
The current cultural narrative about genderedness is agreeing with the latest brain research – men and women are absolutely wired differently.
And you know who pointed this out quite some time ago? The Bible.
The Bible teaches that the original man and woman were created differently – man from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7), woman from the side of the man (Gen. 2:21-22). And if you include different ingredients in the recipe, you’re naturally going to pull a very different cake out of the oven.
When sinned entered the world there were also different consequences for the genders – thorns and thistles in the field for the man (i.e. frustration in his work) (Gen. 3:17-19), pain in childbearing and “desire” for husband for the woman (i.e. frustration in relationships) (Gen. 3:16). As a general rule, these tend to be areas from which men and women most commonly define themselves. By way of example, I can nearly guarantee that if I randomly selected 100 women from church and asked them, “How’s it going?” 75 or more would tell me something about their relationships – their spouse, their kids or grandkids. But if I asked 100 men from the congregation the same question, “How’s it going?” 75 or more would tell me about something they’ve done recently – their work, their hunting trip, their fantasy sports team.
Perhaps more vividly, my colleague recently commented that you don’t ever see a group of four men out to lunch with gift bags. Very true. And I’d probably counter with the fact that you rarely see a woman kill an animal, stuff its head, and mount it in her living room in order to brag to any visiting company.
Men and women are wired differently.
This is also why the Apostle Paul gives Christian husbands and wives different directives in order to meet the most fundamental needs of their spouses. “Wives, submit yourselves (offer respect) to your own husbands.” (vs. 22) And he says, “Husbands, love your wives.” (vs. 25) If we didn’t have different needs, God wouldn’t have to offer different directives.
Again, God wired men and women differently. As a society, there are some signs that we’re starting to once again realize that.
So I get that Christians have a tendency to lament how far a culture falls. I’m not even suggesting that’s completely unjustified (the Apostle Paul does something similar in Rom. 1:18-32). But take confidence in the inevitable victory of God’s revelation.
The gospel means that out of the darkness of death comes the dawning light of resurrection. Truth always rises to the top of a pile of lies. And as surely as our Savior Jesus rose from his grave, his Word rises to authority as well. Even in a dying world we can see his living truth.