I think it’s interesting to consider how public opinion on the topic of gender differences has shifted over the years. People have always recognized the physical differences between men and women, of course, but since the 1960s it has been somewhat controversial to speak of non-physical differences between the genders. The reason for this is clear enough: some people feel that non-physical gender differences would imply inequality between men and women at some level.
The Bible is bold enough to present what has been called a “complimentarian” view of gender differences, though. Men and women, according to God’s Word, have distinct and complimentary characteristics on the non-physical as well as the physical levels. When the Scripture says that God created people as male and female (Genesis 1:27), it means just that: He created male and female people, not just male and female bodies. Besides this, men and women have distinct roles in relationship with one another. When instructions to husbands and wives appear in Scripture (see, for example, Ephesians 5:22–33; Colossians 3:18–19; 1 Peter 3:1–7), husbands never receive the same instructions as wives.
As Wayne Grudem and others have eloquently argued, the reason the complimentarian view of gender differences is not demeaning to either gender is that differences in characteristics and roles do not mean inequality of essence. We see an analogy in the nature of God Himself, who exists as a Triune being, three co-equal persons who have distinct roles. The Son submits to the Father (John 5:17–47; 1 Corinthians 15:27–28), not the other way around, but the Son Himself is of equal value, dignity, and majesty as the Father (John 1:1; John 20:26–29).
The bottom line for us, men, is that it is legitimate and holy for us to act like men, just as it is legitimate and holy for women to act like women. God has given us masculine souls, not just masculine bodies. To be manly in God’s eyes has nothing to do with the amount of sporting events one watches. It is to be a servant-leader who rejects passivity (see Robert Lewis’s Raising a Modern-Day Knight) and takes seriously what Richard D. Phillips calls The Masculine Mandate, namely, the mandate to work and keep (Genesis 2:15). It is also to value the complementary differences in women that men so often cut on.
What are your thoughts on gender differences? Have you been fortunate enough to meet people who are/were examples of biblical manhood or womanhood?
—Beau StanleyFollow @beaustanley