Male and Female: Transcendence and immanence (godly sexuality)

transcendence-and-immanenceWe know that creation glorifies God by making His divine nature known (Rom 1:20) and in this series we are examining how gender reveals to us the nature of our God.

In a previous post we have seen that only together do male and female represent the full image of God and one of those ways was to reveal the fullness of God’s character.

In this post we look at ten ways how God’s opposing characteristics of masculine transcendence and feminine immanence are embodied in the man and the woman.

Transcendence

Transcendence is that is “God is far ‘above’ the creation in the sense that He is greater than the creation and He is independent of it.”   God creates the world from without – it is separate/external to Him.  He is the creator we are His creation (Gen 1:1, 14:19b, 22).  That is why the Hebrew word for God creating, bara, is reserved solely for Him (Strong’s H1254).  God in this sense is holy – that is He is separate/distinct from His creation.  He is Yahweh – “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14) – not defined or linked to this world.  ’adam only became a living being after he received the gift of God’s breath from without (Gen 2:7).  Similarly, God’s grace is also from without – it’s a gift independent of us or our ability to earn it (Eph 2:8-9).  He is the one who initiates a relationship with us, who pursues us and we only love because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).

Immanence

The complementary feminine characteristic of God is His immanence.  God is intimately involved in creation, “for it is continually dependent on him for its existence and its functioning”.   In Christ all things hold together (Col 1:17) and he is continually “upholding the universe by his word of power” (Heb 1:3) and “in his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10) and “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:25, 28).  He is our nurturer, our sustainer.  The spirit that God breathed into ’adam continues to give life to His body until it departs.  God is Immanuel (Isa 7:14) – God with us, the God who dwells among His people seen by the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Ex 13:21-22).  His presence filling the temple (Ex 25:8; 40:34-35; 1 Kgs 8:10-11); and ultimately His presence with us in Jesus (Mt 1:23-25) and His Spirit (Mt 28:20b; Jn 14:16-17).  He is the one who responds to us in our distress (Ps 18:6), who reveals His plans to His prophets (Jn 15:15; Amos 3:7) and responds to their desires (Ps 37:4).

Note that it is the Spirit that broods over the waters (Gen 1:2).  It is the Spirit that represents God’s shekinah glory filling the temple, His presence with them in the pillar of cloud and fire.  It is also the Spirit that gives new birth (Jn 3:5) and sustains all life.  Hence, it is no surprise that the Hebrew word, ruach, for spirit/wind/breath is feminine.  Interestingly it has masculine pronouns/adjectives applied to it when it refers to God’s Spirit.

Male embodies the masculine characteristic of transcendence and female embodies the feminine characteristic of immanence

Since transcendence and immanence are opposing/polar characteristics it is hard to keep them in balance – which is why God embodied these masculine and feminine attributes of Himself in male and female creatures and in particular humans who are made in His image (Gen 1:27).  Together their oneness reveals the glory of the unified nature of God’s attributes.

“One of the ends for which sex was created was to symbolize to us the hidden things of God.” CS Lewis

Now Greek thought separates the spirit/mind from the body/physical world (the so called Platonic divide) and this thought permeates our Western culture.  However, the Hebraic/Biblical worldview is holistic.  There is no separation between the spirit/mind and the body – we are integrated beings – spiritualised bodies or embodied spirits.  Therefore the body is an expression of the soul/spirit of the individual – it makes visible the invisible.  Hence we would, under this worldview, expect the masculine and feminine spiritual qualities to be reflected in the psychology and physiology of the man and the woman.

Below I outline ten ways that we observe this reality.  There may be others but this is all that have been revealed to me so far.  By all means feel free to add more in the comments below.

Firstly, the most obvious feature is the difference between the male and female bodies so that the male causes procreation from without, whereas the female incubates this life in her womb and then nurtures it at her breast.  This reflects how God creates the universe separate to Him and yet sustains it by His Spirit.

This is why ‘adam who, although he contained male and female, had a male body which reflected the glory of godly masculine understood that there was no suitable companion .  He saw that his body was designed to give life to another who would nurture it but there was no other like him.

“The essence of masculinity is initiation and the essence of femininity is response” Elisabeth Elliot

Secondly, this means that the male body initiates whereas the female responds.  This is also seen in the courtship display of all species – the male initiates and the female responds (whether that be by reciprocating or flying/walking/crawling off).  Likewise, despite it not being politically correct, this has been the case in all cultures around the world.  On a physiological level we might ascribe this behaviour to testosterone but on a spiritual level this reflects the fact that God initiates the creation of the universe and also initiates relationship with us and we respond to Him.

Is this the reason why the man is always attracted to “the chase” (the initiation) whereas the woman is attracted to the “happy ever after” (the incubation)?

Thirdly, we see this in how the baby is made.  The Hebraic understanding was that the man planted a seed in the fertile soil of the woman’s womb .  Now we have a greater understanding of biology we can see this on a deeper level.  The male sperm is designed to go out to find the egg, whereas the egg awaits and receives the sperm to form a new life.

Fourthly we see this in the hormones.  Men have much more testosterone than women  and this makes them assertive and gives them energy and motivation to act and take risks.  Whereas women have much more oestrogen which makes them more sensitive to emotion and feelings of others. I saw this with my children: even though they played with the same toys, the boys were propelling them and moving them whereas my girls arranged them to talk to each other.  I also saw it in a male friend that needed to take oestrogen for medical reasons who then experienced so much more emotion than before.

Fifthly, we see this in the differences in muscle and fat.  The male body has more muscle and bone growth which enables it to take action in the physical world whereas the female body is soft, with more fat to protect the womb and feed an infant during pregnancy and afterwards through milk.

Sixthly, we see this in the physiological differences in the brain.  The male mind tends to excel in visuospatial tasks whereas the female mind tends to excel in verbal fluency and perceptual speed tasks.  Again the male brain is geared to outward tasks whereas the female brain is geared to inward tasks.  Hence, boys tend to learn kinaesthetically whereas women tend to learn verbally.

Seventhly, as a consequence there are two ways of gaining knowledge.  The masculine discursive reason and the feminine intuitive mind.  The male requires external empirical facts before he will accept something whereas the female internally directly ‘knows’ something is true.  It is also the difference between learning about something as external to oneself verses experiencing or being in it.

Eighthly, we see this in how men and women respond to stimuli (sexual and otherwise).  Men react more to external/physical stimuli whereas women react more to internal/mental stimuli.  This is evident in the vast disparity in the sales of pornographic images/videos to men and the sales of romantic novels to women.

Ninthly, we see this in the way men and women relate to others.  Men naturally relate to others whilst doing something – their focus is external – whereas women naturally relate without doing something but simply by being together.  This is reflected in the statement that “men relate to each other side by side facing the same direction whereas women relate face to face”.  This is why the original way of raising sons was them learning the family trade alongside the father.

Lastly, we see this in the roles the mother and father play in the development of children.  The mother nurtures the young children and keeps them safe and secure, whereas the father helps them separate themselves psychologically from the mother and be called out into their separate identity .

“It is the father (or father substitute) who affirms son and daughters in their sexual identity and therefore as persons….at puberty and adolescence we are listening for the masculine voice…that convinces us that we are truly and finally separate from our mothers.” Leanne Payne

Children raised without a father lack this calling out and tend to be more aimless or seek their value in things – such as careers.  Whereas children raised without a mother tend to be unable to develop close relationships.

By now it should be no surprise that this is reflected in the physiology as well.  It is the man’s Y chromosome that causes the testosterone flood in week 7 to call out the male development from the ‘female’ baby.

Creation of male and female

We can see these themes reflected in the different ways male and female bodies were created.

Then the LORD God formed (yatsar) a man (‘adam) from the dust of the ground (‘adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man (‘adam) became a living being. (Gen 2:7)

‘adam was formed physically from the ground.  The Hebrew word used for formed, yatsar, means to form or fashion like a potter squeezes and moulds clay into shape (indeed the word is translated as “potter” in 17 places such as Jer 18:2- or Isa 29:16b).

So the LORD God caused the man (‘adam) to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs (tsela’) and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the LORD God made (banah) a woman (‘ishshah) from the rib (tsela’) he had taken out of the man (‘adam), and he brought her to the man (‘adam). (Gen 2:21-22)

Whereas the woman, ‘ishshah, is made from the side of ‘adam.  The Hebrew word used for made, banah, means to construct or build – it is used of a house.  The Hebrew understanding is that the man builds the physical home but the woman was understood to fill it – so ‘adam provided the frame from which the woman expanded .  Banah can also mean to establish or cause to continue.  The Hebrew connection is that to build a house implies that one establishes a family .

The man (‘adam) said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ (‘ishshah) for she was taken out of man (‘iysh)” (Gen 2:23)

But then when Adam meets the woman, ‘ishshah (woman or wife), he then give himself another name  ‘iysh (man or husband) which recognises his additional nature which is in relationship to the woman.  So man’s primary nature is the physical world (hence the name Adam which is related to the ground, adamah is also used hereafter)  but now he is also now relational (so the name ‘iysh is used whenever it is in relation to the woman).

Whereas the woman’s, ‘ishshah, primary nature is relational.  But since ‘iysh was created from the ground she also has a secondary nature that is in relation to the world.

The curse

Finally we can see this principle reflected in the curse.  Now since we know that it is God’s desire to bless and he sends the rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), then the curse must simply be a consequence of no longer being in harmony with one’s nature as well as no longer receiving the life and love of the Father.

The man, Adam, is still related to the ground, ‘adamah, but he is no longer in harmony with it – so he is no longer a gardener but a farmer having to work the ground (Gen 3:17b-19a).  There is brokenness in his outward focus.  We can see this in how men can pursue careers and ministries outside of the home and neglect the home.  Men have a bent for building empires at the expense of others – roles are more important than relationship hence they always ask “what do you do?”

Whereas the woman, ‘ishshah, is still related to the man, ‘iysh, but is now no longer in harmony with him  and there is sorrow in the nurturing and giving birth.  There is now brokenness in her inward focus.  We can see this in the nurturing of low self-esteem.  Women have a bent for intimacy at the expense of their own worth.

Summary

So we have seen that everything about the male is outward focussed – doing, taking action, risk taking, creating, initiating, giving, concerned with form (roles) – and reflects the transcendent nature of God.  Whereas everything about the female is inner directed/immanent – being, sustaining, safety, nurturing, responding, receiving, concerned with relationship – and reflects the immanent nature of God.

“The masculine faces the world: It is oriented to things; it explores; it climbs. Its energy is directed toward the physical: measuring, moving, building, conquering. The feminine looks inward toward feeling, sensing, knowing in the deepest sense. Its energy is directed toward relationships, coming together, nurturing, helping.  Both the masculine and feminine are relational, but the masculine relational drive is toward the physical, toward working and playing together the feminine drive is toward being together.  In fact, another way to describe the same contrast is masculine doing and feminine being”.  Alan Medinger

Top 10 posts of 2016

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When I started this blog I sought to share the revelation that God had been giving me on my journey to sexual wholeness and I wanted to help others on the journey and help parents communicate a godly view of sexuality to their children.  I am so grateful for the many messages from readers who have benefited from my writings and my vulnerability.  Thank you so much and I hope I can continue to bless you in 2017.

So in order from least to most views here are the top ten posts of the year:

10. Discipline vs punishment vs education (godly parenting)

This post spoke of how the word discipline comes from the word disciple and is about training.  It was a calling of parents back to the Hebrew way of showing not telling. (56 views)

9. Destination sickness (godly desire)

The Christian life is a journey not a destination.  This vulnerable post spoke about how our obsession with getting “there” leads us to work harder or give up and not to grace. (57 views)

8. Wired for intimacy part 1 (godly sexuality)

This post looks at how, even from birth, babies are wired to seek faces.  This reflects how we are wired to seek God’s face. (59 views)

7. Redeeming Christmas (Godly Parenting)

A post that helps parents make the Christmas celebration more Christ-centred for their children and themselves. (64 views)

6. Calling out your child’s true identity (godly parenting)

The story of Gideon shows us how God calls out his true identity and this serves as a model for us as parents to call our children into maturity. (78 views)

5.   How to stop looking at women lustfully (godly desire)

Another vulnerable post where I share the difference between worldly solutions to lust with a godly approach which has helped me. (86 views)

4. Trump, Clinton or Christ?

A topical post that sought to counter the political spirit that was/is seeking to break the church’s unity and therefore it’s prophetic voice to the world. (142 views)

3. Nothing is impossible (teach your children godly sexuality part 15)

As parents it’s easy to despair and think all is lost. This post spoke on the reality of our God who is able to redeem all things – not just so we are healed/fixed but so that the mistakes become sources of grace to others. (169 views)

2. An alternative ending to the Orlando shooting

A topical and vulnerable post about the similarities between my life and Omar Mateen’s.  His life ended in tragedy, mine in redemption through expressing my same sex desires to Jesus. (328 views)

1. Immature giftings (Godly Parenting)

This post was aimed at parents to help see that sometimes bad behaviour is actually an immature gifting that needs to be directed to its true purpose.  However, many people found this post as a source of grace for them on the journey to maturity – whereas before they had berated themselves – they actually saw they were stamping on their giftings/callings. (1846 views)

Destination sickness (godly desire)

***CONTENT WARNING***
This is a vulnerable post about my journey to sexual wholeness and may not be appropriate for minors nor for those of a sensitive nature

I think one of the biggest lies about the Christian life is that Christians think it is a destination rather than a journey.

destination-sickness-2

We see this view presented by Christians through books written by those who have overcome their struggles and have “made it”.  If you follow their steps then you too can be free of <fill in the blank>.

You know I’ve yet to see a book, let alone a best-seller, where the author mentions that they still struggle with anything of consequence, that they’re still on the journey.  That just wouldn’t sell because people would say that their method can’t be any good as they’re not perfect yet. They clearly can’t be an expert.  Can you see a publisher wanting to sell a book from someone who is not a “success”?

We buy into this lie.  It’s so appealing because God has set eternity in the human heart (Eccl 3:11) and our desire is to be in that place of perfection.  Hence we buy these books, follow the steps, learn the methods but yet struggle.

Maybe when this happens you are an optimist and simply think that this isn’t the right method as it doesn’t “work” for you and so continue on your journey searching for the “right” method/approach/teaching that does work.

Or maybe you’re like me and start believing that since you’re not “there” that maybe you’re not a Christian or maybe you are a “bad” Christian, that you are a sinner, that you are a failure. This is what happens to me when I believe the destination distortion.

This lie causes us to conceal our imperfections from others as otherwise the Church will know that we are not perfect, that we’re not at the destination.  They might even question if we are really saved – as Christians don’t do that sort of thing.

Where does this lie take us?

The only way I can do this is to be extremely vulnerable with you so you can see it clearly.

This week I messed up.  I looked at porn on the internet.  I masturbated.  I then felt rubbish.

I was so ashamed I didn’t tell my wife because I didn’t want to break her heart.  My brother-in-Christ who I can be honest with has gone AWOL which of course left me alone with my thoughts and exposed to the lies of Satan who loves picking off those isolated Christians.
 
“Look at what you’ve done!  How can you claim to know anything about godly sexuality?  How can you help other people to get free when you yourself are not free?  You’re a hypocrite.”

When prayer requests come in I hear “How can you pray for them after what you’ve done?”

So I stop ministering to others.

My focus changes from serving others and looking outward to looking at my sin and wallowing.
I’m no longer pressing onward on my Christian journey.  I have stopped journeying because I’m clearly not at the destination.

This is where this lie takes us.  It causes us to stop.  And Satan wins.

The cure for destination sickness: living in the light

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:12-14

Paul sees this.  Even the great Christian Paul has not arrived but is pressing on to take hold of all that Christ has for us.  We’re all on a journey.  We’re not at a destination.

Yes we have a new nature and are no longer slaves to sin but we still mess up.

..let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

How do we throw off the sin that entangled me and stopped me from running and caused me to look down at my sin and not on Jesus calling us by name?

We start by confessing what we have done to others.  No excuses.  No justification.  Just truth.  

You know how hard it was for me to tell you the truth earlier?  I wanted to use euphemisms.  I definitely wanted to miss our the bit about masturbation.  But the Father challenged me to be more vulnerable so that more freedom will be released to those who are reading and struggle:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. (Jas 5:16a AMP)

Bringing sin into the light destroys its power over us.  There’s no competition between light and darkness.  When you turn on the light switch it’s all over for darkness.  If we pretend that we’re OK we prevent ourselves from receiving God’s forgiveness and grace.  How can we be forgiven if we’re saying we’ve done nothing wrong?

When I eventually confessed what I had done to my wife.  She looked me in the eye and said “that explains everything!”  She saw that I had stopped pressing forward and was no longer ministering grace to our family.  She knew I wasn’t living in the identity of who I actually am.  A cuddle, a kiss and her subsequent words of love over me bring healing and restoration and release me from my introspection.

So I get up and I start moving forward again.  I’m already closer than I was when I had stopped.  And by His glorious grace I will reach the goal:

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)

Can I pray for others?  Yes because my prayers are answered by a powerful and perfect God and not by my own efforts?  Can I help others?  Yes, because I’m not there but I am further down the road of maturity.  By sharing my struggles I can help them to avoid or overcome obstacles that tripped me up.  I can help them go faster and further than me.

Together we will obtain the goal for which we were called if we journey together in the light.
 
Father, I pray for those who are reading this.  That they would find fellow brothers and sisters who would journey with them.  They would find those who would be open and honest about their struggles so that together they can experience your healing grace and be transformed into the likeness of your glorious Son.  In Jesus’ precious name.  The author and perfecter of our faith.  The one who calls us onward in love.  Amen

Gender differences: conflict or complement (godly sexuality)

gender-differences

As we saw in our last post, male and female together make up the full image of God and so both are needed if we are to glorify God.  We saw that they are created different to represent the plurality of our Three-in-One God and they were created for unity.  It was the fact that Adam (man and woman together) were created one and then separated that leads to God saying:

For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and will be joined to his wife. And they will become one flesh.
(Gen 2:24 NASB)

Adam who has been split into male and female now seeks to reunite and recreate the unity that existed before that reflects the unity of our God who is also One.

Now this all sounds great until you flip it around.  The corollary of “male and female together make up the full image of God” is that individually a man or a woman do not reflect the full image of God*.  People don’t like that.  People don’t like being told that they need someone else.  It’s the sin of pride and of rebellion that goes against popular culture “you can do it all” attitude.

However, unlike Jesus who is the exact image of the Father (Heb 1:3; Col 1:15) God in His wisdom did not create male and female the same.  Otherwise we wouldn’t have blind spots and we wouldn’t need the other.  We would already be complete†.

The Hebrew words used for their creation testify to this difference.  The man was יָצַר  (yatsar) moulded/squeezed from the earth like a potter does to clay, whereas the woman was בָּנָה (banah) built/fashioned from the side of Adam.  It is also interesting to note that the development of a baby mimics the split of Adam into male and female when at 7 weeks boys experience a testosterone surge which literally destroys the corpus callosum that joins the two hemispheres of the brain. The male baby is cut off from part of himself.

The saying opposites attract actually has a lot of truth to it.

However, without unity in Christ opposites may attract but they can also destroy each other.  My early marriage is an example of this.  You see I was attracted to my wife because she was so different to me.  I’m actually quite introverted whereas she is such a people person.  I like everything predictable whereas she likes surprises.  Yet I am fine with mess but she loves the house looking ordered.  I am a hoarder whereas she is a thrower.  I’m a sorter, she’s a tidier.  I like going to the same places again and again whereas she likes going to different places each time.  You get the picture.

However, when we got married I assumed that my way was the “right” way and tried to make her like me and said her way was wrong.  I crushed the spirit out of who she was.  She too assumed that her way was the “normal” way and so didn’t understand why I didn’t see the things that she did.  Why didn’t I see the mess, why didn’t I wrap up presents, why did we always do the same things, buy the same food and not go to parties?  She became frustrated with me.

We both became unhappy as we both wanted the other to be like us and neither of us were.  And my domineering ways meant the she capitulated and did things my way but actually this didn’t please me as my life became dull and monochrome.  This is no surprise as we were no longer reflecting the full image of God – the plurality in unity – we were no longer bringing Him glory.

Even our children became partakers in this battle.  If one of them said “I like doing… with you daddy” I would take it as confirmation that I was the better parent.  If one of them said “Mummy lets us …” I would take it as an offence.

Fast forward some 15+ years and we are in a different place.  We came to the brink of divorce but a marriage course, the transforming work of the Spirit through courses such Celebrate Recovery and Freedom in Christ, together with sozo and other prayer sessions and just the ongoing maturity through the Spirit’s work means that we are unashamedly who we were created to be.  We recognise that we are different.  But we realise that our differences are a gift to the other and we need to honour that gift or we will become diminished as a result.  We each have blind spots and the other is God’s gift to to show us what they are.

Here’s a silly example that illustrates this.  I always used to berate my wife that she never checked the oil or the tyre pressures.  This was something that I felt I “had” to do because she never did.  But the reality is that God has made me different – so that I see this but she doesn’t.  Therefore my gift to our marriage is to check the oil and the tyre pressures.  She blesses me if she honours that difference “Thank you for checking them – it means a lot to me” (or whatever love language works for you).  I don’t need to resent that she never does this – because her gift to me is something different.  An example is that she always remembers to get birthday cards for friends and family.  This is something I never did before I was married.  So I honour this difference by thanking her and signing the card and encouraging her to send gifts too.

We also celebrate the fact that the children enjoy doing different things with each parent.  They are special mummy things (like going to a coffee shop) or daddy things (like going tree climbing).  We stop them when they say “I prefer mummy because…” and we tell them that God gave them both of us as only then will they see all of God. It’s interesting to see that our children are becoming a beautiful unity of the different characteristics.  For example our eldest daughter is incredibly creative like her mother and is taking art at A level.  She is also very analytical like her father and is also taking maths at A level.  The school is bewildered but we see it as the glory of God.

But remember marriage is a shadow of the heavenly reality – our marriage to Christ (Eph 5:31-32).  Realising that we need the other opens our eyes to the greater truth that we need Jesus: without Him we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).  Without Him we are incomplete.  Without Him we will never glorify God.

Father, forgive me that I have resented my spouse’s differences.  Forgive me that I have tried to make them like me or got upset when they didn’t see what I saw.  Help me to honour their differences as their gift to me and let me offer my complementarity as a gift to them.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Further Reading

Culture of Honour by Danny Silk

*A note to single people. Don’t let anyone bash you over the head and say “You need to get married to experience the fullness of God”.  The church community is the body of Christ and is made up of male and female and so you will experience this fullness when living and serving in the church community.

†This is the same in a church.  One person does not make a church.  And Christ deliberately gives different gifts to the members of His Body so that all members are needed to build each other up.  We only mature in community.  Despite our worldly mentality that says there is one person in charge who does it all – this is simply not the case.

Unity not uniformity

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There’s some fantastic laws in Leviticus (no really!) that contain immense truth:

Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals.  Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.  Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. (Lev 19:19)

And in Deuteronomy:

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this… Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled…Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.  (Dt 22:5, 9, 11)

Why on earth are these important?

God is Three

Well remember that creation was made to glorify God.  It does this by making known God’s divine nature (Rom 1:20) and since our God is three the different genders, species and materials reflect the plurality of the Godhead.

So anything that seeks to remove these differences actually seeks to destroy how creation glorifies God.  That is why crossbreeding, cross-dressing and the intermixing of seeds and material were prohibited.  Each of these actions ultimately causes the loss of the distinctive characteristics and qualities of the different species, genders or materials.

These differences are especially important in marriage as only male and female together make up the full image of God:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. (Gen 1:27; 5:2 KJV)

And in the church, the Body of Christ:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Cor 12:12)

The members of the church are different and have been given different gifts and all are needed to express the full image of Christ and all are needed to build up each other (see also Eph 4).

God is love

Intuitively we know that honouring the differences shows love and this reflects our God who is three and whose nature is love.  For example I wouldn’t be loving all my children if I gave them all the same gift of a stunt bike for their birthdays.  My eldest son would be delighted but my three other children would be upset and feel unloved.

We see this in how God deals with the different individuals in the Bible in different ways.  He even heals the same condition (such as blindness) in different ways.  So too the Spirit of love gives different gifts to the members of Christ’s Body, and God created male and female different to each other.  These differences glorify the full nature of the Godhead.

God is one

However our God is also one (eg Jn 10:30).  There is unity in the Godhead hence we use “Trinity” which comes from tri-unity.  And so God is glorified when there in unity amongst the differences.  Jesus prayed that the church would be one like he and the Father are one (Jn 17).  Hence we speak of communion which comes from common-union.  And one flesh (Gen 2:24) comes from the unity of male and female.

Unity is a beautiful and godly thing (Ps 133:1) but the counterfeit to unity is uniformity.  This has been seen throughout history, such as in the Hellenisation of different cultures.  It is more prevalent than ever in our common age under the guise of technological advances or equality.  The world speaks of diversity but to think different is to be classified as sexist or a bigot.  To say anything different is now classified as “hate speech”.  Love has been confused with agreement.

This lie has permeated the church:

  • There must be one “right” way of ministering healing – all methods must be wrong.
  • There must be one “right” way of worshipping – other methods are clearly inferior/not spirit led or unscriptural.
  • There is one “right” way of doing church – all other denominations are wrong/unbiblical.

And so we end up not with unity but competing ministries/churches where each contain cookie-cutter Christians who look the same, think the same and act the same.

It’s easy to understand why.  Because uniformity requires no grace/love for those who are different.  It requires no sacrifice/change in one’s own life.  It’s convenient Christianity.  It’s not taking up your cross and denying self (Mk 8:34).

How can we have unity of differences?

If we return back to those laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy there was actually times when the forbidden mixture of wool and linen was allowed – in the prayer tassels and the clothes worn by priests.  Only priests were allowed to mix the aromatic spices to make the anointing oil (Ex 30:33) and for the mixing of seeds in Dt 22:9 the Hebrew word (bizarrely translated as “defiled”) is qadash (H6942) which means consecrated/holy.

You see the holy unity of differences can only occur through our great High Priest Jesus (Heb 4:14).

Jesus is glorified if there is unity amongst believers (Jn 17:20-23) but it’s impossible to have unity between a zealot and a tax-collector without Christ’s spirit of love.  And so this could only be realised after the Spirit came at Pentecost:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
(Acts 4:32 see also Acts 2:42-47).

It is this unity between differences that glorifies/speaks of God.  That’s why Jesus said “everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (Jn 13:35).  A sign of a church that reflects Christ’s love is one that crosses social, racial, political and denominational barriers – people who are different – that’s what the world will see as astonishing.

That’s why when Paul speaks of the differing gifts of the spirit in 1 Cor 12 and 14 he speaks of God’s Spirit of love in 1 Cor 13.  And again when Paul talks of the different gifts and ministries in Eph 4 he speaks of unity in love through the Spirit.

Jesus is glorified when there is unity between the man and women in marriage.  And this is only possible through the Spirit of love.  Hence God breathed his breath, his spirit into them (Gen 2:7) and the man, woman and Spirit makes a cord of three strands that is not easily broken (Ecc 4:12).

Only in Christ is there unity in churches and marriages.  But greater than all of these is the truth that only in Christ can there be unity between God and man.  Things so different that could never be together on their own.

Making it reality

So when you become frustrated with someone who is so different to you, whether that be in church or in your marriage, and you find yourself crying out “I just can’t love ” then look to Jesus who cried “it is finished” and through his death broke down the dividing walls (Eph 2:14), ripped the curtain of the temple (Mt 27:51) and brought unity between God and sinful man, Jew and Gentile, slave and free and male and female (Gal 3:28).

Father, forgive me that I want to take the easy route of uniformity.  I want everyone to be like me so I can have a convenient life.  Father, I can’t love them on my own, I need your Spirit.  Help me to honour their differences and to sacrificially love them like your Son sacrificed himself for us when we were your enemies so that we can be one.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

In case you’re wondering about the picture.  It’s all the components of a camera.  Only if all those individual parts are become one do we get the whole camera.  Only together do they give the full picture (pun intended).  So too may it be in our marriages and churches.

Further Reading

  • I am indebted to this Jewish article that first opened my eyes to the significance of Leviticus and its application to sexuality.
  • To read more about oneness in sexuality you can read my earlier post here.
  • I also highly recommend “The Culture of Honour” by Danny Silk that gives some great tips of loving and honouring the differences in the church.
  • And finally I thought this article from relevant magazine on sub-cultures of uniformity in the church rather than unity in love was worth reading.

How to stop looking at a woman lustfully (godly desire)

*Content warning*
This post discusses desires in a frank but godly way.
desire

All Christian men know the passage:

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28)

The problem is we don’t know is how to stop this.

Sometimes it feels like we are wired to notice the bodies of others. In fact we can often be shocked at how much we can be aroused by just looking someone. But as a Christian man, we think “I’m a new creation – I’m not meant to feel this way!”

A brief internet search shows that we are not alone when looking for help to stop lusting after women:

looking-lustfully
looking-lustfully-2

However, the advice given seems to fall into one of three camps:

  • Condemnation/shame/works – you shouldn’t do this, it doesn’t honour God or the woman. Try harder, chop off everything that causes you to sin, etc.
  • Triumphalistic – you’re a new creation, you’re free from this, shake it off as it’s the old you, repeat “I am the righteousness of Christ”, etc.
  • Liberal/humanistic – it’s natural, men are designed the polygamous, there’s nothing you can do about it, accept it as part of who you are, etc.

As well meaning as all of these are, all of them are lacking:

  • Using internet filters to cut things off is helpful but ultimately it’s external and doesn’t change our heart.  And you can’t avoid going out in summer, nor filter the first accidental glance.  Besides self-effort will ultimately fail as apart from Jesus we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).  And so the cycle of shame will begin again and the more rubbish you feel the more you will act out of that identity.
  • Realising your new identity is important – it helps renew our mind (Rom 12:2), and how we act flows out of our new identity. But it’s too easy to treat this as a formula: “I’m saying the right words but it’s not working!” and miss intimacy with the father that changes our heart.  It’s also to easy to become inward rather than outward looking.
  • Whilst we do need to recognise how God has made us as men, we are not animals subject to our biological urges. We’re made in the image of God and our sexuality means something.

So what can we do? How can we take the good in each of these approaches?

First we recognise that God has made us men and has wired us to notice beauty – so when you notice this happening don’t try and suppress it or pretend it’s not there. That won’t solve anything.  Acknowledge it, however realise that the woman is not the goal, but merely the shadow of who our hearts are really looking for.

Second we realise that we are made in the image of God and men are meant to love women sacrificially like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). We have a higher calling: we are meant to give (love) not take (lust).

Thirdly, we men are made to act not just acknowledge our godly calling to give.  After all we are meant to be co-workers with Christ (1 Cor 3:9). I have found the best way to do this is to pray for the woman we see.  Something like:

“Father, I thank you for this beautiful woman.  I thank you that you created her and that you love her.  I thank you that you have made her to be loved and cherished.  Father I ask that you would pour out your blessing on her, that she would become aware of your presence, that she would find her value in your love and not how she looks….” 

This prayer is not a formula – it’s from the heart.  It’s not a inward prayer “father help me to stop lusting!” which assumes we are still bound by our old identity as a sinner.  It’s a prayer from our new identity in Christ and in line with what we are meant to do as men.

The Kingdom is advancing – and seeing a beautiful woman is an opportunity for it to forcefully advance in our lives as we step into our destiny as men.  Amen.

Speak to the desires of the heart (teach your children godly sexuality)

So one of my boys kept lifting up the skirt of one of my girls to see their knickers.  An excellent opportunity to talk about godly sexuality with them I thought…

4

So true to form I followed the principles I give in my workshop and talked about the goodness and the holiness of sexuality with them.  How it’s a good and beautiful part of a lady made by God but it’s also a special part and so we need to treat it with honour.

However he kept on doing it, despite talking about its specialness and despite disciplining him for repeatedly doing it.

I know, I know, I should have called out to God for help sooner – but sometimes we have to get desperate before we find ourselves on our knees actually listening – but He’s so gracious that when I did he gave me the wisdom I needed:

“Speak to the desires of the heart”

You see the trouble was that I was saying all the right things but I was talking to his logical mind rather than his desires.  And if we want to see change then we need to address the desires:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

But the question is: how do we address desires in a godly way?  In the same way as we teach any other aspect of godly sexuality; we talk about the goodness and the holiness of our desires.

You see God made him a boy and so there is a godly fascination and yearning in him for to complete the whole image of God:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mt 19:4-6 emphasis mine)

The holiness is the fact that this fulfillment occurs in a covenantal relationship and this yearning is a shadow of our yearning for Christ (Eph 5:32) who is the “desire of all nations” (Hag 2:7).

Since he was only about 5 at the time, I had to keep things a bit simple, so I began:

“There’s something really interesting about girls, isn’t there?”  He nodded.  “God made girls attractive to us so that we really want to find out more.”  I could see that I now had his full attention.

“And that means that there’s something in us that wants to see their knickers.”

“But God made seeing a girl’s knickers to be something special for marriage just like you only get presents on special days like Christmas.”

Now it’s tempting to stop here, but doing so means that we are expecting them to conquer desires by self-effort which is law not grace. So now we need to offer to pray for them:

“But in the same way it’s hard to not open presents until Christmas day, it’s hard to stop looking at knickers.  So we need Daddy God’s help.  Can I pray with you?”

He nodded and the rest is history.

You see affirming the goodness of our children’s desires speaks to their reality, only then can we begin to steer these desires towards their intended goal.

Wired for intimacy part 2 (godly sexuality)

wired for intimacy

We saw in our previous post that babies brains are pre-wired to see faces and in particular their initial focus of their eyes is designed to see only those who hold them close, such as the mother who feeds them.  This is a shadow of the spiritual reality that we are designed to seek our Father’s face who gives us our daily bread and the affirmation of His love for us.

Unlike other objects our brains process faces in a different part of the brain (the fusiform face area) which is dedicated to recognising faces.  Furthermore this part of the brain is given priority over the other image processing areas in the brain, which is why we often see faces in things (called facial pareidolia):

faces in things

Hence advertisers use faces in their images as it is an effective way of getting a viewer’s attention.  Using eye tracking software you can see below how we focus on faces and their eye gaze:

face recognition

Hence the text gets more attention from viewers when the baby’s eye gaze was in that direction.

Now the world will say that this must have developed as a survival technique – so we can spot the faces of a predator in the brush.  However, we know that we are made in the image of God:

“As the Father, Son and Spirit have always know fellowship with each other, so we in the image of God are made for fellowship”  Michael Reeves

We look into another’s face to see the meaning behind their words and discover their true self – their nature and character.  For, as we know, the eyes are the windows of the soul.  Faces are needed if there is to be any intimacy.

Unlike animals*, we make love face-to-face this speaks of the fact that sex is meant to be an expression of intimacy† and it is no surprise that the Hebrew word for sexual intimacy, יָדַע (yada’), is literally translated as “Adam knew Eve” (Gen 4:1).  And in its pure form there is “no shame” as there was complete openness, acceptance and intimacy.

Interestingly, research shows that those who have religious or paranormal beliefs are more prone to see faces in things than sceptics or unbelievers.  This is a shadow of the fact that despite the intimacy of another no human can ever meet our need to be fully known.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12 emphasis mine)

Jesus is “the Desire of all nations” (Hag 2:7 NKJV).  Jesus is the face that we are wired to seek.

 *After extensive research I can only find two documented cases of animals having sex face-to-face. Both were gorillas and in both cases it was commented on that this behaviour was extremely unusual.

† It is no surprise that since the sexual revolution and the rise of pornography, where sex is seen to be just biological and devoid of meaning, there has been a corresponding rise in sex in positions that are not face-to-face. It is not about intimacy or connecting but satisfying our own urges and getting pleasure.

Wired for intimacy part 1 (godly sexuality)

wired for intimacy 1

Before we had our first miracle baby we read the book “The Social Baby” which shows that even from birth babies are wired to seek faces over other images:

“Within minutes of birth, the baby will turn her head to the sound of someone’s voice, when another sound, even if of the same pitch and intensity, will not attract her attention…the baby is also attracted to faces…Given a choice between looking at a face-shaped pattern, and one with the arrangement of eyes nose and mouth scrambled up, the newborn baby will spend longer looking at the face”

wired for intimacy

Recent research has now identified that the part of the brain used for recognising faces is far more developed in babies and is almost equal to that of adults by even 4 months.

As Christians we don’t believe that this design is merely for survival, we believe that the things made reveal God’s divine nature (Rom 1:20a) for “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1).

In the same way the physical tabernacle was “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Heb 8:5), this physical realm is a shadow of the spiritual realm.  A baby seeking the face of his/her parents is a shadow of the reality that we as children of God (1 Jn 3:1) are designed to seek the face of our Creator.

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18)

In the Father’s face we are going to find the love, affirmation and protection that we need.

A baby know this – they take delight in looking at faces.  Children know this as any parent who hears a their child say “look at me!”.  This is why God instructed Aaron to bless the Israelites with the phrase “the LORD make His face shine upon you” (Num 6:23-25).

To have God’s face turn from us is to be cursed and cut off from our hearts desire (eg Ps 27:9; 2 Chr 30:9).  Babies know this – they become distressed if there is no response from a parent’s face (you can see an example in this YouTube video).

We are wired to seek the Father’s face, to have His face shine upon us and to have Him respond to us.  But not just a father’s face but the mother’s face too:

“A babies vision is a little blurry at birth but within a week a baby can focus on objects about 8 to 12 inches from his face which is the distance between a mother and baby’s face during feeding.”

One of the names for God used in the Old Testament is “El Shaddai” which is translated as “God Almighty” in places like Gen 17:1 and Gen 49:25.  Now shaddai could be come from the root “shadad” which means powerful (hence Almighty) or “shad” which means breast.  If it is the latter root then “El Shaddai” could be translated as “many breasted one” (sources: here and here).  Implying that God, like a mother, is our comfort, our sufficiency, our nourisher.

Given the current environment there are parties that sit firmly on both sides, each fiercely arguing that their version is correct translation.  The complementarians will argue that it’s a powerful, strong masculine God, the egalitarians will argue it’s a nurturing, tender, feminine God.

I believe that both are incorrect.  Each side only sees one part when both parts are needed*.  You see we are made male and female in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and only both together represent the fullness of God”†:

“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam” (Gen 5:2 KJV).

Adam was created in the image of God as one being – both male and female (Gen 2:7).  This is a shadow of the heavenly reality of the Father and the Son being intimately one (Jn 10:30) and indeed his nature of Oneness despite many opposing characteristics (eg grace/mercy vs truth/judgement).

Adam was then separated into two: male and female (Gen 2:22-23 the word rib is literally “side”) as a shadow of the plurality of the nature of God (both in the Trinity and His nature).  But designed to become one again (Gen 2:24).   Hence the fullness of the image of God on earth is male and female together as one.

So babies are wired to look into the face of their parents and receive all the love, affirmation, protection, comfort, nourishment from them.  This is the shadow of the spiritual reality of us as God’s children looking to Him (whose nature includes both masculine and feminine aspects) and receive all that we need from Him, our all-in-all:

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22:3-4)

* Why then does Jesus say we should call Him father and why is Jesus the Bridegroom if God is both masculine and feminine?  This requires us to understand how sexuality reflects the relationships in the Godhead and between God and man, which will be covered in a later post.

† So does that mean that only married people image God?  Not entirely, because ultimately the one flesh union of a husband and wife is also a shadow of the union of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32).  Perhaps this post might help.  And so if you’re single, you image God by being one with the Body of Christ becoming one with Christ.