As we move further and further away from the Garden of Eden, the war on gender seems to be intensifying.
It is no surprise there is a war on gender happening in our culture today—an atheological postmodernity. Even some in our culture are attempting to blur the lines of biblical masculinity and femininity. Laura Turner, writing for RNS, said this recently in response to Grant Castleberry’s article on Target missing the mark in removing gender labels from their toys,
“The Bible never teaches [roles within gender]. That’s a cultural understanding of a man’s wiring, not Biblical, and boys who want to play with Barbies are just as much boys as those who play with GI Joes. By insisting otherwise, Castleberry [Executive Director of CBMW] is actually reducing Biblical masculinity to what we consume: Protector-boys flock to Legos; Nurturer-girls want Barbies. If you want to argue that gender has meaning, you have to locate that meaning somewhere outside the aisles of Target.”
The reality for evangelicals, however, is that we cannot outrun gender—and the roles attached to gender—as much as culture, and Turner, attempts to train their pupils to do so, and as much as others attempt to ignore it in Scripture. God created gender (Gen. 1:26-27; Gen. 5:2; Mark 10:6), and the Bible talks vastly about gender roles within the family and the Church (Gen. 2:18-24; 3:16-20, 22, 23; 1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:12, 13-15; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 2:5-9; 1 Peter 5:5; Eph. 5). Because gender roles are so important, as they are created and designed by God, how should Christian parents go forth teaching their children about true manhood and womanhood? Here are a few ways:
1. Talk honestly and openly about true manhood and true womanhood in your home.
We live in a post-Genesis 3 world. Since then, gender has been under attack. As I’ve stated before, when talking with your children about these types of issues, use wisdom. Use your conscience as a parent to discern the appropriateness of their age and talk openly about gender. Talking with your children about what it means to be a biblical man (leader, provider, and protector) and a biblical woman (helper, nurture, and protector of feminine beauty) are completely counter-cultural. Men and women are completely equal in dignity, value, and worth, but different in role and function.
2. Model to your children a biblical understanding of gender roles.
It is not enough to simply talk about these things with your children. As parents, you must model it to them. Children need strong complementarian homes. They need dads who lead sacrificially as Christ led and served His Church, who work hard to provide for their family, and who model courage by protecting their family at all cost. CS Lewis coined the phrase, “Men without chests.” That is not who we need to be as men, especially in front of our families.
Furthermore, children need moms who love and cherish the beauties of biblical womanhood. The easiest way for culture to attack complementarianism is to make biblical manhood look like dictator-patriarchy and for biblical womanhood to look weak, frail, and in need of men who can lead them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Complementarian women are strong, courageous, meek, gentle, humble, hard-working, intellectually fierce, and model their womanhood according to the God who created it. Complementarianism is not theory. It is not 1950s marriage roles. It is real life. It is practical theology at its finest. It leads to the deepest of joy.
3. Be consistent with practical expressions of manhood and womanhood—in other words, don’t blur the lines.
Let me be clear, toe nail polish, dresses, and Barbies are not necessarily feminine in and of themselves. The object is neither feminine nor masculine. It is an object. It is a thing. Though the action behind these objects, and the way we use them, are strictly feminine in our culture. In our culture, dresses are feminine objects. Toe nail polish, also, is a feminine object.
As Christian parents, we must teach our children at an early age biblical femininity and biblical masculinity. We must teach our little girls about the essence of what makes them beautiful. We must teach our little boys about the roles of men and what makes a man masculine. Sports are not necessarily a ‘boy’ thing either. Girls can still play sports and have a feminine persona about them, and carry themselves as biblical women. Girls can be helicopter pilots and still be feminine. Guys can cut hair and be baristas and still be masculine.
My daughter, like many girls, plays with Barbies and toy swords. She enjoys her share of Rescue Bots and Batman interwoven with her My Little Pony and Barbie. She wants dresses with flowers on them, and she wants dresses with Batman on them (if you find one of these, let me know).
Here is the point, though. Girls should not try to act like men, and boys should not act like women. When boys act like boys and girls act like girls they then most reflect God’s intended design for his most prized possessions. When boys paint their toenails, or wear dresses, or only want to play with Barbies, they reflect femininity, which by logical comparison is not what boys should be learning about God’s design for them. When girls only want to play with toy swords and fake guns, and want to blow up the heads of Barbies, or put their heads on spikes, there is something intrinsically wrong with that, too.
4. Create Titus 2 discipleship relationships between dads and sons, and moms and daughters.
We are called by God to pass down the truths of manhood and womanhood to the next generation (Titus 2). We pass these truths and characteristics down by teaching and modeling them. Being a man who practices the marks of mature biblical manhood is completely counter-cultural–and likewise for women who practice mature biblical womanhood. We need dads who will take their sons on man trips often—not for the purpose of adventure, but for maturity. We need moms who will do the same with their daughters. The function of gender is displayed and passed down to the next generation primarily by those who model and teach it to them. Let us be dads and moms who courageously pass down manhood and womanhood to our children.
5. Defend true manhood and womanhood in your home as traits designed perfectly by God.
As John Piper questions, “Who goes into the lifeboat first when the ship is sinking?” As complementarians, women and children do—and unapologetically so. Not because men are better swimmers or women are weaker, but because men are called by God to be protectors. This might be practical manhood at its apex—giving his life for the good of women and children—but this is where complementarianism practically and logically leads.
It doesn’t lead to an equal playing field where men and women fight one another to get into the lifeboat as the ship sinks. No! Men, as Christ has done for us, give their lives for women and children. In other words, to follow the logic of complementarian theology, women are held in such high esteem that men would die in their place.
Live this way in your homes. Defend true manhood and womanhood in your homes. When culture tries to de-gender everything, stand up for God’s designs.
When we do these things, we are participating in a culture war whether we like it or not. Dads and moms who take this stuff seriously are on the front lines; they are in the trenches. According to what some might say, the Bible does teach gender and roles within gender in the family and the Church. This is why Target has missed the mark, as I’m sure many others in culture will follow suit.
Gender is important.
Men, be proud of your masculinity. Women, be proud of your femininity. God created it. It is good. The Enemy wants you to think the opposite—that if you’re a woman than you’re weak and you have to prove yourself amongst the men. These are lies straight from Satan.
So, crush those lies and keep living according to how God created you. And when you go forth discipling your children to do the same, you are doing New Creation type of work.
Therefore, be encouraged. As history progresses, and the further we get from the Garden of Eden, the closer we get to New Creation—complete, redeemed, and glorified manhood and womanhood.
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