Designed for Joy

We have a gift for you this morning as you go. It’s a book called Designed for Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice. It releases this coming Friday, July 29. Pastor Jonathan is one of the editors, and he and Pastor Joe and I have short chapters in it.

The subject is one of the most controversial of our day. We believe that what the Bible teaches about men and women is that we are equal in value and distinct in role. Men and women stand before our Creator (our Designer) in equal worth and value as his creatures — and for Christians, this is doubly true in our equal value as his redeemed.

And the Bible unfolds a beautiful vision of how men and women complement one another in our roles and inclinations and strengths.

We live in a land that is one-dimensionally egalitarian. Equality has been so hammered into our heads — much of it very good — that we’ve not only pressed equality into all the right places, but also into many of the wrong ones. But we want to stand for equality in all the right places, and not mistake God-given diversity and complementarity for inequality.

We all know this from Olympic pairs skating or from watching So You Think You Can Dance. Consistently the best routines, the most captivating displays, are not two men or two women, but one man and one woman. The man’s contribution of initiative and strength accents the women’s beauty and elegance. They are equal in value, yes; yet glorious complementary in their roles. It would not be pretty if the woman tried to lift, and he tried to do what only she can do.

The stalk is not the pedal, and the pedal is not the stalk, yet there is no beautiful flower without each.

So, in giving away this new book, we wanted to summarize briefly this morning what we believe about God’s design for our joy in his good gift of gender.

Gender is God’s good design and gift. He created man male and female in his own image (Genesis 1:27), to share together in his calling to multiply, subdue the earth, and exercise dominion (Genesis 1:28). Men and women are of equal dignity and worth, made to flourish in differing, but complementary, and mutually beneficial roles. God created man first, then woman, to make a point, not about value or competency, but calling (1 Timothy 2:13). God looks to the man as “head,” as the leader with final accountability for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of his family (Genesis 3:9; Ephesians 5:23; 6:4; Colossians 3:21). The woman is “a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).

The entrance of sin and evil into the world, through the transgression of the first man and woman, brought special distress and disarray to the husband-wife relationship. In our sin, men and women both are inclined toward passivity, on the one hand, or aggression, on the other, making the relationships between genders often fraught with difficulty. In human history, this has too often produced a tragic collective mistreatment and degradation of women. The presence of gender sin, including polygamy, in the Old Testament does not sanction such practices as righteous then or permissible today.

Into such a broken world of men and women came the Son of God in full humanity. Jesus treated women differently. He didn’t shun, degrade, or abuse them, but pursued and engaged them for spiritual good. In his life, he put in motion a reversal of the fallen pattern of male-female passivity and aggression. He died and rose again to pay the penalty for the sins of his church, including our gender sins, and he reigns over a new order in the church.

In Jesus, men and women are together fellow heirs of God’s eternal grace (1 Peter 3:7). In the life of the Christian family, community, and church, God is restoring in redeemed men and women the created equality of worth and complementarity of roles. Here gender distinctions are not suppressed, but given encouragement and space to flourish. Being male or female provides no inside track, or barrier, to acceptance with God, but we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Now, redemption of God-created gender leads to not merely a restoration of the original creation, but something better. A wife reverses the curse as she submits to her own husband (Ephesians 3:22, 24; Colossians 3:18) and respects him (Ephesians 5:33), with a disposition to yield to his leadership.

Husbands echo the gospel by loving their wives, as Christ loved the church, and not being harsh with them (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33; Colossians 3:19). Together they fulfill God’s calling (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20) in the church, the community, the home, the neighborhood, and among the nations.

We believe that God calls men to lead in the home as husbands, and that a plurality from among the church’s mature men are to serve in leadership as church officers (1 Timothy 3:2; 3:12). We believe that marriage is a covenant union between one man and one woman, until death do them part (Mark 10:9).

We believe singles are not second-class citizens in the church, but integral members of our church and community. We honor God’s calling to singleness, in pursuit of the Great Commission, to trump the created order of marriage and family, and we rejoice as God gives that gift and strengthens his church with the unique giftings and callings of unmarried Christians.

We acknowledge that the Christian vision of manhood and womanhood is threatened from both the left and the right, and that biblical fidelity to the Scriptures means taking care to steer clear of both the progressive errors of feminism and egalitarianism, as well as the traditional errors of misogyny and chauvinism.

Which reminds us of our need to confess our sins.

Prayer of Confession

Father in heaven, we have all sinned in these areas related to your good gift of gender. Whether in passivity or aggression, most of us erring regularly in both, we have dishonored your design as our creator and we have rebelled against your goodness and plans for our joy.

We have rejected your design for our joy in our assumptions, thoughts, feelings, reactions, and habits. We have listened to the rogue tune of our society rather than dance according to your song. We repent of our chauvinism, of our misogyny, of our feminism, of our one-dimensional egalitarianism and any other efforts to flatten and distort your complex and beautiful design of gender for our joy.

We thank you for your grace, that doesn’t only forgive our sins, but also empowers change. You not only forgive our old selves, but you also make us new. Do this for us, for all our gender sins, and for the other sins we now confess you in the quiet of this moment.