Understanding Sexed Embodiment
When the Son of God took on a human nature, he underlined forever the dignity and value of human embodiment, because he shared it—and still does. He did not leave his human nature behind; he is still fully human and fully God, seated at the right hand of the Father. Additionally, he affirms sexed human embodiment—that is, being female or male. Jesus did not appear in his resurrection as an androgynous being but as he had been in his earthly life: as a male.
This helps us understand that God’s creation of us as female and male is part of his good design and meant to be a blessing. Male and female are not temporary patterns or results of humanity’s fall into sin. Jesus’s taking on a sexed body affirms that God’s creation of humanity embodied as male and female was indeed very good (Gen. 1:28, 31). And because Jesus’s resurrection body is still male, we have reason to believe that our sexed embodiment will continue in the new creation. After all, Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians to put their hope in a resurrection that will be like Jesus’s (1 Cor. 15:42–56).
But right now we live between Christ’s first and second comings. The punishment and power of sin have been defeated, but we remain in its presence—and in a broken creation, which does not function as God originally designed it. The day when God will make all things new is still in the future. This has implications for how we experience femaleness and maleness.
The ESV Teen Study Bible informs the mind, encourages worship and communion with God, and promotes living for the Lord in day-to-day life.
One way in which the brokenness of the world can impact our sexed embodiment is in disorders or differences in sexual development. A few of us were born with conditions that make it hard to tell whether we are male or female, or make our bodies not align as usual with things like our chromosomes. Others of us may experience a sense of alienation from our body, a sense that, though we have a female or male body, it just does not feel right. These experiences can be disorienting and sometimes deeply painful. But they do not mean we are more broken, or more sinful, than anyone else. These are simply evidences of the groaning of creation that longs for final fulfillment under the perfect reign of Christ (Rom. 8:19–22).
Living Faithfully as Women and Men
Our response to these experiences, either in ourselves or in others, should be compassionate hope. Just as Jesus wept as he experienced grief with his friend Mary (John 11:35), so he cares deeply for our own pains. He also promises that he will make all things new and wipe all tears from our eyes in the new creation (Rev. 21:1–5). These experiences will not be forever.
In the meantime it is good and right for each of us to work to embrace the sex that God gave to us. For someone born female, discipleship includes living faithfully as a female. For someone born male, discipleship includes living faithfully as a male. For some of us this will be easier, and for others harder. Each of us needs the grace and wisdom of God to do it well.
When the Son of God took on a human nature, he underlined forever the dignity and value of human embodiment, because he shared it—and still does.
Fortunately, the Scriptures give wide room for what living faithfully as women and men can look like. On the one hand, the Bible is clear that men and women should be distinct and identifiable in culturally recognized ways (1 Cor. 11:2–16). On the other hand, there is great freedom in living into our femaleness and maleness. King David slaughtered Goliath and wrote poetry. Jesus’s female disciples sat at his feet to learn (which was not encouraged among women at that time) and also practiced hospitality (Luke 10:38–42). Both women and men are called to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–24).
This is to say, not every categorization of things in our culture as “female” or “male” is biblical or ultimate. We should become diligent readers of God’s Word, with the help of God’s Spirit and God’s people, to discern together what faithfulness looks like in our context. Maybe you do not feel that the stereotypes of male or female represent you! You can still live faithfully as a man or a woman in line with God’s Word, because the stereotypes of any culture do not necessarily describe something that God himself values.
Additionally, we should be compassionate and wise as we relate to folks who do not know the Lord and call themselves “transgender.” There has been a rapid growth in people, especially younger people, identifying as transgender. Some people do so because they experience a sense of alienation from their bodies and want to find relief. Others do it because they suspect the categories of male and female are overly limited, or they find transgenderism to be trendy. Still others identify this way for other reasons. We do not know these reasons unless we ask!
We can humbly and confidently believe that God created humanity good as male and female while we relate with kindness and respect to people who do not believe this. It is not surprising that people who do not follow Jesus as King also do not always follow what he says about their bodies. There is much confusion today. Our enemies are not human beings but spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). We should seek the opportunity to listen well to our friends who are different than us, humbly imploring them to be reconciled to God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Only from within a relationship with Christ can someone begin the work of living as a woman or man for God’s glory.
This article is by Rachel Gilson and is adapted from the ESV Teen Study Bible.
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