Men and Women Ė Respect the difference!
A Sermon on Genesis 2 by Nate Wilson
A few months ago, the 6-year-old daughter of some friends of mine, Jon and Lynda Hardin, walked into the kitchen and asked Lynda, "What is sex?" Lynda had to think hard for a second, but she finally answered, "God made boys and girls differently, so there is a male sex and a female sex." Quite satisfied with that answer, their daughter wandered off to play again.
Today weíre going to talk about sex ó about what it means that God made us male and female, with unique differences. We must have an anchor point in the Bible to understand why God made men and women differently or we will end up with all kinds of problems. Our culture has lost that anchor point and we are seeing the consequences of it:
Over half of the marriages today in our country end in divorce. Itís a sad commentary on our society when almost every movie that comes out of Hollywood features a dysfunctional family. Whatís even a sadder commentary on our society is that the Presbyterian church is debating whether or not it is o.k. to ordain homosexuals! Another outworking of this problem that Iíve noticed lately is the way modern unisex fashions tend to minimize the distinction b/w men and women. The problem of losing the scriptural understanding of male and female also has pervasive outworkings in the attitudes which men and women have towards themselves and the opposite sex. Many women feel ugly and useless; many of them feel constantly beat down in life with a "glass ceiling" that keeps them from achieving greatness. And over the years, I canít count the number of times that married women have told my wife that their husband doesnít understand them and is not fulfilling his role. Thereís also the problem of men who abuse women physically or verbally. In fact, I even heard a derogatory joke about women at a seminary. The story goes that God was talking to Adam and said, "Adam, I can make you the perfect counterpart. Sheíll always look beautiful, sheíll always make you happy, and sheíll never talk back -- but itíll cost you an arm and a leg." Adam though for a minute, then replied, "What can I get for a rib?"
How does that joke make a woman feel? Cheap, inadequate. The Bible addresses the root of many of these problems in Genesis 2, where we have the account of the creation of woman. Do you want to learn how to solve these problems? Letís turn to Gen. 2:15. Now, just to give a little context, Gen.1 gives a brief creation account that God "made man in His own image, male and female He created them," but Genesis 2 gives a more detailed account of the 6th day of creation with respect to man and woman:
15 And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
18 And Jehovah God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground Jehovah God formed every beast of the field, and every bird of the heavens; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them: and whatsoever the man called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the heavens, and to every beast of the field; but for man there was not found a help meet for him.
21 And Jehovah God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof: 22 and the rib, which Jehovah God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And the man said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
God made woman to be the perfect counterpart to man, He made the woman different from the man, and we should respect the difference! Verses 15-18 tell us a little bit about what it was like before women were created: In Verse 15, we see that man had a relationship to creation in that he was to "keep" it and "eat from" it. We also see that man had a relationship to God as the creator, lawgiver, and judge. He knew that God had created him, and in v.16 & 17, he knew that God had laid down a law not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and that God had also laid down a judgement that if man were to eat from the forbidden tree, he would die. (This passage deserves a sermon by itself, but I want to focus on the creation of woman rather than the covenant of works today.) So, there were well-defined relationships with nature and with God, but his relationship to man was NOT GOOD. After 5 days of creation and proclaiming His creations good, God said, "it is not good for the man to be alone!" (Can I get an AMEN from one of you husbands?)
So God decided to create woman. Notice in v.18, it was Godís idea, and if women were Godís idea, then they were a GOOD idea! Notice also what God calls her in v.18: a "helper corresponding" to man. The word "helper" is usually used in the O.T. to designate military assistance from another nation or from God, but is also used (esp. in the Psalms) to designate material and spiritual assistance given to an individual. It is used both of persons of inferior rank and of superior rank, so this is not necessarily an indication of the woman being subordinate to man. It has more to do with the actions God intended her to do; God intended woman to be a "helper" to man. I can certainly attest that I could not handle all the responsibilities of my work, my personal care, and the raising of a family without the help of my wife! The second descriptor of the woman is even more fascinating: כְּנֶגְדּוֹ "corresponding to him." The Hebrew word has to do with standing "in front of," or "opposite to" the man. It is describing a person who is different, yet corresponding to the man. There is enough difference to make contrasts, but enough similarity to make comparisons.
God was going to find a perfect counterpart to this man, but He first went through this animal parade in v.19 & 20. Now, I donít think that God thought Adam was going to find a helpmeet among the animals; I think that God rather wanted to underscore to Adam the fact that no animal would be suitable for him. I read a clipping from a Fort Collins newspaper a few years back describing a wedding ceremony held for a man and his dog. It described the dress the dog had on and everything. I couldnít believe it! I donít care how good your dog is, it doesnít hold a candle to Godís design in woman!
In verse 21, we have the record of the first anesthetized surgery; God puts Adam to sleep, pulls a rib out of his side, and makes a woman. Check out Adamís response (v.22-23) when he wakes up and sees this perfect helpmeet: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh..." Even though this is a different creature from man, she is made of the same stuff as him. She came from the rib on his side and was meant to be in unity with him, side by side.
This is followed by a mini-lecture on marriage in v.24. "For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." Some people think that this was said by Adam, just continuing his poem about woman, others think it was delivered by God to Adam and Eve to institute marriage, and still others believe that this was inserted by Moses thousands of years later. Whoever it was that wrote it, the point is that the man and the woman, with all their differences, were to exist together in unity, cleaving, or sticking together.
The basic idea is that we should respect the differences God created between males and females and seek to live together in unity. This applies in our VOCATIONS: The focus of the manís activity (cf. 3:17-19) is work in Godís creation; the focus of the womanís activity is to help the man (also childbearing: 3:16&20, I Tim. 2:15). This is not to say that itís a sin for a woman to get a job or for a man to babysit, but that husband and wife must understand what their primary vocational focus is and maintain that difference in focus. If we donít follow the pattern God established at creation, we end up with confusion of vocational roles and tremendous frustration. Following Godís design leads to fulfillment!
The principle of respecting the created differences between man and woman and seeking unity also has implications on SELF-WORTH. Women, you were designed by God. It wasnít until AFTER woman was made that God pronounced man GOOD. God made men and women differently, so the difference is good. Donít try to minimize the differences! God made sure the differences were obvious. It was obvious before Adam and Eve used clothes, and, according to Godís laws, the difference should continue to be obvious -- men shouldnít wear womenís clothes and women shouldnít wear menís clothes (Deut. 22:5). Letís respect the differences.
God made women. She is the perfect counterpart to man. No other creature could even come close. Mankind is lucky to have you, women!
We should also respect the differences and seek unity in our marriages. God made the sexes male and female and He ordained marriage, so there is nothing dirty or degrading about it. Marriage is a great thing! In the marriage relationship, woman was made to be the helper to the man (v.18), and man was given leadership over her (3:15, cf. I Cor. 11, Eph. 5). Wives, respect that difference, and submit to your husbands. Bend your energies toward being the best helper you can be! Only then will both you and your husband be happy in your marriage.
Man and woman were designed to be UNIFIED in marriage. They must leave Father and Mother and whatever else might come between them and stick together Ė cling to each other and never let go Ė both physically and mentally. This doesnít just happen; this clinging together and becoming one takes constant work. But it is a command from God right here in Gen. 2, and we dare not disobey it, or weíll be having to deal with the heartbreaking issues of divorce ourselves! Let us respect the differences and strive for unity!
God made the sexes. If we donít believe this and apply it in our jobs, personal lives, and marriages, we will end up with all the problems I mentioned at the beginning: divorce, homosexuality, uselessness, frustration, fighting, and abuse. But if we believe Godís word here in Genesis that He made woman to be the perfect counterpart to man, and if we apply it to our lives, we can respect the differences between the sexes and find unity and real fulfillment! This is impossible without the Holy Spirit working in our lives. We canít conjure up obedience to God on our own strength. It is only by Godís grace that we can obey Him at all, so let us pray for God give us the grace to believe and obey His word!
Lord God, thank you for creating us male and female. Thank you for your great concern for man in making woman. Thank you for the differences you made in her. Thank you for laying out a pattern here in your word of the relationship between man and woman. Please give us the faith to believe your word and the grace to obey it. Please help us to respect and enjoy the differences you made in men and women. Father, please also give us unity in our marriages. Please protect us and give us diligence to guard against anything that would break our unity. In Jesusí name we pray, Amen.