“Male and Female He Created Them”
“God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.”—GENESIS 1:27.
1. How is the truth a blessing to Christian men and women?
HOW pleasant it is to be among Jehovah’s people and to associate with men and women, as well as boys and girls, whose priority in life is to love and obey God! The truth also sets us free from attitudes and conduct that displease Jehovah God, and it teaches us how to live as Christians should. (John 8:32; Colossians 3:8-10) For example, people everywhere have traditions or concepts about the way that men should express their masculinity, and women their femininity. Is it just that men are born masculine, and women feminine? Or are there other factors that must be considered?
2. (a) What should determine our view of masculinity and femininity? (b) What has happened to views of the sexes?
2 For Christians, God’s Word is the authority that we submit to, regardless of personal, cultural, or traditional viewpoints that we may have acquired. (Matthew 15:1-9) The Bible does not elaborate on all aspects of masculinity and femininity. Rather, it leaves room for variety, as we find in different cultures. To be what God created them to be, men must be masculine, and women feminine. Why? Because in addition to man and woman having been made to complement each other physically, they were to complement each other through masculine and feminine qualities. (Genesis 2:18, 23, 24; Matthew 19:4, 5) Yet, views on sex have become twisted and distorted. Many equate masculinity with harsh domination, toughness, or machismo. In certain cultures it would be rare or shameful for a man to weep, either in public or in private. Yet, in the crowd outside Lazarus’ tomb, “Jesus gave way to tears.” (John 11:35) That was not inappropriate for Jesus, whose masculinity was perfect. Today many have become unbalanced about femininity, considering it to be mere physical and sexual attractiveness.
True Masculinity and True Femininity
3. How do men and women differ?
3 What is true masculinity, and what is true femininity? The World Book Encyclopedia states: “Most men and women differ from each other not only in anatomy, but in behavior and interests as well. Some of these differences are biologically determined. . . . But many nonanatomical differences appear to be based on sex roles that are learned by every individual. People are born male or female, but they learn to be masculine or feminine.” Our genetic makeup may account for many things, but the development of appropriate masculinity or femininity depends on our learning what God requires and on what we choose to pursue in life.
4. What does the Bible reveal about the roles of man and woman?
4 Bible history reveals that Adam’s role was to take the lead as head of his wife and children. He was also to comply with God’s will to fill the earth, subdue it, and have all lower earthly creation in subjection. (Genesis 1:28) The feminine family role for Eve was to be a “helper” and “a complement” to Adam, submissive to his headship, cooperating with him in the accomplishment of God’s declared purpose for them.—Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:3.
5. How was the relationship between man and woman damaged?
5 But Adam did not live up to his responsibility, and Eve used her femininity in a persuasive way to entice Adam to join her in disobeying God. (Genesis 3:6) By allowing himself to do what he knew was wrong, Adam failed to display true masculinity. He weakly chose to accept the word of his deceived mate instead of what his Father and Creator had said. (Genesis 2:16, 17) Soon the first couple began to experience what God had foreseen would be the consequence of disobedience. Adam, who had earlier described his wife in glowing, poetic terms, now coldly referred to her as ‘the woman you gave me.’ His imperfection now marred and misdirected his masculinity, resulting in his ‘dominating his wife.’ Eve, in turn, would have a “craving” for her husband, likely in an excessive or unbalanced way.—Genesis 3:12, 16.
6, 7. (a) What distortion of masculinity developed before the Flood? (b) What can we learn from the pre-Flood situation?
6 Misuse of masculinity and femininity became grossly apparent prior to the Flood. Angels that forsook their original position in heaven materialized in human bodies to enjoy sexual relations with women. (Genesis 6:1, 2) The record mentions only males being born from those unnatural couplings. And it seems that the offspring were hybrids, unable to reproduce. They became known as mighty ones, Nephilim, or Fellers, since they would cause others to fall down. (Genesis 6:4; footnote) Evidently they were violent, aggressive, displaying no tender compassion.
7 Clearly, physical beauty, body shape, size, or strength do not of themselves impart acceptable masculinity or femininity. The angels that materialized were likely good-looking. And the Nephilim were big and muscular, but their mental attitude was twisted. The disobedient angels and their offspring filled the earth with sexual immorality and violence. Hence, Jehovah brought that world to an end. (Genesis 6:5-7) The Flood, though, did not do away with demonic influence, nor did it eliminate the results of Adam’s sin. An improper reflection of masculinity and femininity again surfaced after the Deluge, and there are examples in the Bible, both good and bad, that we can learn from.
8. What fine example of appropriate masculinity did Joseph set?
8 Joseph and Potiphar’s wife present a powerful contrast as to appropriate masculinity confronting worldly femininity. Potiphar’s wife, having become infatuated with good-looking Joseph, tried to seduce him. At that time, there was no written divine law prohibiting fornication or adultery. Yet, Joseph fled from that immoral woman and proved himself to be a real man of God, one showing masculinity that had God’s approval.—Genesis 39:7-9, 12.
9, 10. (a) How did Queen Vashti abuse her femininity? (b) What fine example of femininity did Esther provide for us?
9 Esther and Queen Vashti provided a remarkable contrast for women. Vashti evidently thought that she was so beautiful that King Ahasuerus would always accede to her wishes. But her beauty went no deeper than many skin creams sold today. She lacked modesty and femininity, for she failed to display submission to her husband and king. The king rejected her and chose a truly feminine woman who, in fact, feared Jehovah to be his queen.—Esther 1:10-12; 2:15-17.
10 Esther serves as a wonderful example for Christian women. She was “pretty in form and beautiful in appearance,” yet she manifested the adornment of “the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit.” (Esther 2:7; 1 Peter 3:4) She did not view showy adornment as the prime thing. Esther showed tact and self-control, being submissive to her husband, Ahasuerus, even when the lives of her people were in danger. Esther kept silent when it was wise to do so but spoke fearlessly when it was necessary and the right time. (Esther 2:10; 7:3-6) She accepted counsel from her mature cousin Mordecai. (Esther 4:12-16) She demonstrated love and loyalty toward her people.
11. What should we bear in mind as to outward appearance?
11 What is a key to appropriate femininity? A mother stated: “Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.” (Proverbs 31:30) So a reverential fear of God is essential, and loving-kindness, pleasantness, modesty, and a mild tongue contribute far more to femininity than does physical beauty.—Proverbs 31:26.
12, 13. (a) Sadly, what marks the speech of many? (b) What is the meaning of Proverbs 11:22?
12 Sadly, many men and women do not open their mouth in wisdom, nor is loving-kindness on their tongue. Their speech is abusive, sarcastic, vulgar, and inconsiderate. Some men think that filthy language is a mark of masculinity, and some women foolishly imitate them. Yet, if a woman is pretty but lacks sensibleness and is argumentative, sarcastic, or arrogant, can she really be pretty in the best sense, truly feminine? “As a gold nose ring in the snout of a pig, so is a woman that is pretty but that is turning away from sensibleness.”—Proverbs 11:22.
13 Prettiness coupled with unclean speech, sarcasm, or a lack of sensibleness would be out of harmony with any feminine appearance that a person may project. In fact, such ungodly conduct could even make a physically attractive person appear ugly. We can easily appreciate that the physical appearance of man or woman cannot of itself compensate for or justify outbursts of anger, screaming, or abusive speech. All Christians can and should make themselves attractive to God and to fellow humans by their Bible-based speech and conduct.—Ephesians 4:31.
14. What type of adornment is praised at 1 Peter 3:3-5, and how do you feel about that?
14 While valid femininity and masculinity are based on spiritual qualities, physical bearing and appearance, including the clothing that we wear and the way that we wear it, make a statement about us. The apostle Peter undoubtedly had in mind certain first-century styles of dress and grooming, when he counseled Christian women: “Do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God. For so, too, formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting themselves to their own husbands.”—1 Peter 3:3-5.
15. What should Christian women strive to display in their dress?
15 At 1 Timothy 2:9, 10, we find Paul’s comments about feminine dress: “I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind . . . in the way that befits women professing to reverence God, namely, through good works.” He there emphasized the need for modesty and well-arranged dress that reflects soundness of mind.
16, 17. (a) How has clothing been misused by many men and women today? (b) What should we conclude from the advice found at Deuteronomy 22:5?
16 For a man or woman, boy or girl, to act in or dress in a sexually provocative way would not enhance true masculinity or femininity, and it certainly does not honor God. Many people in the world go to extremes to flaunt masculine or feminine sexuality in dress and in conduct. Others obscure the differences between the sexes because of immoral objectives. How thankful we Christians can be that the Bible reveals God’s thinking! Jehovah declared to ancient Israel: “No garb of an able-bodied man should be put upon a woman, neither should an able-bodied man wear the mantle of a woman; for anybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Deuteronomy 22:5.
17 In this regard, you will likely enjoy reviewing what The Watchtower of August 15, 1988, said on page 17: “The issue is not whether a certain style is extremely fashionable but whether it is appropriate for one professing to be a minister of God. (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 6:3) Overly casual or tight-fitting clothes can detract from our message. Styles that blatantly and deliberately feminize men or masculinize women are definitely out of order. (Compare Deuteronomy 22:5.) Of course, local customs may vary, according to the weather, occupational needs, and so forth, so that the Christian congregation does not make hard-and-fast rules to cover the worldwide brotherhood.”
18. What steps might we take in applying the Biblical counsel about dress and grooming?
18 What balanced and fitting counsel! Sadly, some Christians, males and females, blindly follow whatever the world promotes in dress and grooming without considering how it might reflect on Jehovah and the Christian congregation. Each of us might do some self-scrutiny to see if we have been influenced by the world’s thinking. Or we might approach a respected, experienced brother or sister and ask for observations as to any adjustments we could make in our dressing style and then seriously weigh the suggestions.
Christian Men and Women—Real Men and Women
19. What undesirable influence do we need to fight?
19 The god of this world is Satan, and his influence can be seen in the confusion over the sexes, and that goes beyond clothing. (2 Corinthians 4:4) In some lands many women compete with men over headship, ignoring Bible principles. On the other hand, a great number of men simply abandon their headship responsibilities, as Adam did. There are those who even try to change their sexual role in life from one to the other. (Romans 1:26, 27) The Bible does not set out any alternative life-styles approved by God. And any who, before becoming Christians, were confused about their identity or sexual preferences can trust that it will be to their everlasting good to live in accord with God’s standard, one that will certainly be appreciated by all who reach human perfection.
20. What bearing should Galatians 5:22, 23 have on our view of masculinity and femininity?
20 The Scriptures show that Christian men and women need to develop and manifest the fruitage of God’s spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23) God, in his great wisdom, enabled men to enhance their masculinity, and women their femininity, by cultivating those qualities. A man who displays the fruitage of the spirit is easy to respect, and a woman who does so is easy to love.
21, 22. (a) What pattern did Jesus set as to life-styles? (b) How did Jesus manifest his masculinity?
21 The greatest man who ever lived was Jesus Christ, and it is his life-style that Christians should imitate. (1 Peter 2:21-23) As Jesus did, both men and women should prove loyal to God and obedient to His Word. Jesus manifested wonderful qualities of love, tenderness, and mercy. As true Christians, we are expected to imitate him to prove that we are his disciples.—John 13:35.
22 Jesus Christ was a real man, and we can see his masculine qualities as we study his life record set forth in the Scriptures. He never married, but the Bible shows that he enjoyed balanced association with women. (Luke 10:38, 39) His relationships with men and women were always chaste and honorable. He is the perfect model of masculinity. He allowed no one—man, woman, or disobedient angel—to rob him of his godly masculinity and faithfulness to Jehovah. He did not hesitate to accept his responsibilities, and he did so without complaining.—Matthew 26:39.
23. With regard to the roles of the sexes, how are true Christians distinctly blessed?
23 What a delight it is to be among Jehovah’s people and to associate with men and women, as well as boys and girls, whose priority in life is to love and obey Jehovah God! We are not hemmed in by obeying God’s Word. Rather, we are set free from this world and its ways that debase the beauty, the purpose, and the distinct roles of the sexes. We can experience the genuine happiness that comes from fulfilling our God-given position in life, whether we be male or female. Yes, how grateful we are to Jehovah God, the Creator, for all of his loving provisions in our behalf and for having created us male and female!
How Would You Answer?
□ What appropriate roles for men and women does the Bible describe?
□ How was masculinity distorted before the Flood, and how have it and femininity been twisted in our time?
□ What Bible advice about appearance will you seek to apply?
□ How can Christian men and women prove themselves to be real men and women?
[Picture on page 17]
Though she was beautiful, Esther is particularly remembered for her modesty and her quiet and mild spirit
[Picture on page 18]
Give reasonable attention to grooming while giving greater emphasis to inner beauty