Biblical Boundaries: Male and Female

Biblical Boundaries: Male and Female

Biblical Boundaries: Male and Female.

“There is a precise choreography to the moral and spiritual life. Precision matters. Order matters. God created order in the natural universe. We are charged with creating order in the human universe. That means painstaking care in what we say, what we do, and what we must restrain ourselves from doing. Being good, specifically being holy, is not a matter of acting as the spirit moves us. It is a matter of aligning ourselves to the Will that made the world.” (Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, from his commentary on Leviticus).

Creation. So one day God decided to… Wait a minute, this was before there was such a thing as a day. Okay, so way back in time, God… Hold it! Time wasn’t invented yet, so try that again. Here we go. Before the material existence of anything in the universe, actually before there was even a universe, God’s Spirit decided to explore what was outside the divine Trinity. The Three-in-One were perfectly content to be adequate for each other, and have been eternally so, but there was a thought that they would love to create beings with whom they could share their profound love. God was not lonely, because the sacred Three shared a love that would suffice for all eternity. But from deep in the heart of the Three, there was a yearning to spread their love around. If their love for each other brought them this must joy, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could create others to enjoy that same deep gladness? That’s how the Spirit of God found Himself flying every which way, whistling and singing. The Spirit, though, saw nothing but disorder and chaos, void of form or substance, or as one version puts it, “Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, and inky blackness.” (MSG).

The Spirit reported His findings, and they agreed to take on quite the group project… Creating an entire universe out of nothing. As they began to work, the Father said, “Wait, let’s get this organized!” So they all agreed to create order out of disorder, structure from all this chaos. God began to organize creation by demonstrating one of His favorite ideas… Separation. In order for His new reality to be successfully created, He declared in His ultimate wisdom He would have to set boundaries and order a proper structure to things, order with a divine purpose in mind. The first thing God separated was light from darkness, day and night.

Creation’s first light was sparked by God’s divine light that fills His Essence. Light was officially the world’s first creature, life’s first created substance. Light has been explored ever since as perhaps a material with which all things are made. What if the first created light is the first substance that has been imbedded into all of creation ever since? Perhaps God’s command, ‘Let there be Light,’ is in fact a continuous process, with light remaining the inherent material of life in everything created? Maybe Creator God left a vestige of His light in all of creation?

After separating the light from the dark, the day from the night, God decided to separate the water above from the water below with a dome, and He created the dome, called the ‘Sky,’ to exist between those two layers of water. Next on His agenda was some more creative separation, as next He separated the dry land, which He called Earth, from the water He gathered together, calling it the Sea. With this brand new earthland, God joyfully produced a variety of grasses, seeds and seed-bearing plants, separating the seeds and plants so they could produce after its kind and flourish. On this land God produced a mind-boggling variety of vegetation, plants and trees and various kinds of fruit, each producing after its kind.

Looking back on His productive first three days, God was pleased with His good work and declared it “EXCELLENT!” We would expect nothing less from a perfect Creator. But His day of work was not done. God designed an expanse of lights in His Sky to help things stay organized and separated. This amazing array of sky-lights were intended to be used as signs, visual aids, to point to everything from God’s glory and presence, to what direction to navigate. The stars are a way to mark the seasons, and to measure the days and years. And God wanted this beautiful expanse of stars and lights in His Sky to light the earth, along with His two great lights…. The larger light to warm the day and determine life on the earth, and the lesser light to be present in the dark sky of the night. God intended all these lights to separate the light from the darkness. Once again, at the end of the working day, God declared it all to be EXCELLENT!”

The next day found God rolling up his sleeves again and continued His creative genius, making sure there was a beautiful variety of creatures in His nature-world. The Seas soon teemed with all kinds of active water animals, an abundance of wonderful, great sea creatures that would soon fill all the waters. And too the flying creatures filled the Sky above the earth across the face of the heavens and their sky-lights. God made a special point of blessing these water and sky creatures, and He asked them to be fruitful, multiply on the earth and in the seas. Creator God was very pleased with His work this day, and after looking everything over carefully, He once again exclaimed “EXCELLENT!”

God continued His focus on the animal kingdom the next day, inventing all kinds of land animals… the cattle and livestock, the animals that crawled on the ground, and the creatures that were meant to operate best in the wild. God separated these animals according to species of its kind and the habitat that was created just for them. The animal world flourished because of the wise ordering that was established by God Himself in the creation process.

But this creation day wasn’t over yet, by a long shot. The divine Three consulted and decided to make this day the special day in which they could create a very special animal. This special creation was mankind, and what separated mankind from the other animals was that this special being would be designed in God’s own image and likeness. Mankind would thus be the greatest part of all creation, the crown of everything created. Using the Son in the Three as a model, they took some of the dirt from the ground, fashioned it to look like the Son, and blew the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, into this being’s nostrils. This being became a living person, a soul with a body. Right here in the beginning of mankind, God separated once again according to His wisdom, creating two genders, male and female God made them. Each gender, male and female, have been sacred ever since. Man and woman each reflect the image of God and the likeness of the Son, and each of those two genders remain a fundamental part of God’s structured reality. Remember, when creator God reviewed His handiwork at the end of the 6th day, He was so pleased with the final product that He exclaimed, “VERY EXCELLENT!”

The Biblical Principle of Separation. Right from the beginning of the universe, Creator God set up boundaries through separation. These God-made boundaries are intended to remain fixed. The two genders are equal in the eyes of God, a central part of God’s intrinsic order in creation, and so are an aspect of God’s immutable law:  Do not mix what is intended to be separate. Don’t blur the boundaries set by God. Our Creator has an inspired structure in His created reality, a reality that was made to His liking and for His purposes. So where two aspects are distinct, don’t mix together. If what is created to be separate is made somehow into a hybrid, a type of devolution occurs with the reintroduction of chaos and disorder, just like the looks of the world before creation. Biblical scholar Robert Alter once explained that the Hebrew imagination is “horrified” at the prospect of mixing together what is intended by our Creator God to be separated. “An essential part of Biblical Judaism is clear separation and the abhorrence of mixture.” Dr. Alter even went so far as to claim that this principle of separation is so central to Hebrew thought that the Judaic rejection of Christianity is largely due to their worship of a hybrid, the God-man Jesus. God is One, the believing Jews say, unmixed, and not combined with man in any way. God’s singular holiness cannot be mixed in any way with the unholiness of man.

‘I am holy and set apart, and so you are to be holy and set apart,’ says the Lord.” In fact, isn’t it interesting that the Hebrew word “kadosh” is the word used for both “holy” and “separate.” To be holy is to be set apart for God’s purposes, to be distinct from that which is common or profane. Divine separation, whether sacred vs. profane, or clean vs. unclean, is a sacred idea that is woven throughout biblical thought. A saint literally means one who is called to be set apart, to live separately, at least in spirit, from anything unholy unworthy of God, or common. A Jewish saint, a Hasid, could be described as one who follows the Torah as the Word of God, and willingly and wholeheartedly lives within the community of Yahweh… “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation set apart for Me.” (Lev. 19:5-6).

A Christian definition of a saint might look like this: A willing member of the holy priesthood of all believers; someone who is determined to be in the Lord’s sanctification process; a follower of Jesus who is intentionally living into holiness; a disciple of Christ who accepts being assigned by God for a sacred purpose; a person who is set apart for service to God and thus holy; a humble believer who reminds others of God’s presence in the world; an imperfect person who is designated to represent a perfect God; a Christian believer whose behavior is increasingly separate from the sinful and worldly; a Christ-follower who is engaged in the process of being cleansed and purified in order to increase one’s usefulness to God; a believer whose life is marked by growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

The biblical principle of fixed boundaries found in Creation, and in much of the Torah, the Teachings of Moses, are central to the moral grid that God intends for all of us in humanity. Various chapters in the Hebrew Bible, like Leviticus 18-19 and Deuteronomy 22, contain some laws that are not essentially moral, but are more dietary and specific to the era in which they were pronounced. But other passages in chapters like those in the Law are foundational to our moral behavior. Rabbi Jonathon Sacks says that these chapters, among others, are “supreme statements of a universe of divinely created order.”

The separation by God into two distinct genders is certainly relevant to the moral grid laid out for us in Scripture.

Abomination: (Hebrew, “towebah”) = An activity that God considers morally disgusting; a detestable behavior; any action or attitude that is loathed with a passion by God; behavior that God has judged as spiritually abhorrent and unacceptable; something that God hates and finds deeply repugnant; something that is deeply offensive to God’s sensibilities; any action or attitude that God thinks is repulsive, revolting and utterly alien to God’s nature.

“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination… Do not defile yourselves in this way.” (Leviticus 20:13, 18:22-30). “A woman shall not wear any clothing that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to Yahweh your God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5); “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural for the unnatural with each other. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful…” (Romans 1:26-27).

 Sexual activity in Scripture. Leviticus 18 presents us with a list of sexual offenses according to the way God created the world. This chapter outlines what is not Nature’s Way, that which is morally repugnant in the eyes of Creator God. This passage mentions incest, bestiality, and homosexuality in particular. These were specifically mentioned because the land of Canaan, and most of the pagan religions, would consider these sexual activities an aspect of worshipping their gods. Yahweh wanted nothing whatsoever to do with how the pagans worshipped. It was defiling to the human body and outside His plan for human sexuality. It’s interesting that even being a transvestite is considered an abomination. In the New Testament, the Greek word “porneia” is used to include a wide variety of sexual sins, including prostitution, incest, fornication, sexual activity outside marriage (adultery), homosexuality, lesbianism, promiscuity and pedophilia. Any sexual activity outside the boundaries as stated in Genesis 2:24-25 and quoted by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 is considered outside the divine model for sexual activity. All humans are greatly susceptible to these sins, and the blood of Jesus will cleanse any of us from those moral failures.

The definitive word from Jesus“Haven’t you read the Scriptures about creation? The Creator made us male and female from the very beginning, and for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, sticking to her like glue. He will be literally joined with his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Husband and wife will be two persons united into one.” (Mathew 19:4-6).

The Biblical Principle of Separation. As stated earlier, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, God created the world with boundaries. Some things in Creator God’s structure of reality are meant to be separated. When this divine plan is not followed, there is chaos, confusion, and disorder.  The pagan religions embraced the idea of blurring the boundaries established by God. God made an ordered universe, with created things in their proper place in nature. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks maintains in his commentary on Leviticus, “Just as there is a scientific order to nature, so there is a moral order, and it consists of keeping separate the things that are separate, and maintaining the boundaries that respect the integrity of the world God created and seven times pronounced good.” The listing of sexual sins in Leviticus 18 are in this context of separation. There is to be no sexual blurring between male and female, between humans and beasts, nor between blood relatives. That type of sexual activity is simply not how God ordered the universe, and so it is against His sacred plan for humanity. This principle of separation even extends to things like interbreeding different kinds of animals, weaving together wool and linen for clothing garments, planting a field with mixed seeds (Deuteronomy 22). The distinction of the sexes is sacred, a vital aspect of His creative design for humanity.  Jesus makes this point very clear in Matthew 19 (and in Mark 10), when he highlights the fact that God created us male and female from the very beginning. The genders are a part of God’s structure of our reality on earth.

Sexual Union. Let’s consider the spiritual aspect of marital relations. Stretching way back to the beginning of the universe, it looks like Creator God designed a secret plan to have intimate fellowship with all those humans of His, all made in His image. God has desired fellowship with us since the beginning. He instituted marriage for us, male and female, from the very beginning. With that in mind, a man and a woman join into a union of 2-becoming-1 flesh. Hebrew scholars have noted that “flesh” in this Genesis context actually suggests something close to a blood relative. That’s how intimate this marriage was to be. God designed marriage to be pleasurable, fruitful, fulfilling, satisfying. And God wanted the marriage to be a foretaste of the desired union with each of us. God, believe it or not, yearns to be intimate with each of us, and what better illustrates that union than a joyful experience of a marital union at the human level? Marriage is a sign that points to the spiritual unity planned for us inside God. So the intimate, pleasurable and fruitful marriage is actually meant to be a sacramental sign, pointing us to our destiny as believers, a spiritual union with Christ! The physical union signifying the spiritual union, the physical reality of marital relations giving us a vivid picture of the spiritual reality of living within Christ. The sexual act, as wonderful as that is, is not intended to be the end of the story. It is meant to suggest the spiritual relations we could enjoy with God. Marriage reveals the type of relationship God wants with each of us. Physical sex, which pretty much involves every aspect of our being, is a profound part of what it means to be human. Sexual activity in a marriage enables each spouse to give pleasure to the other out of love and devotion. Dare we say that our intimate fellowship with Christ, which also demands our all, is a spiritual version of marital sex?

Distorting the Design. Marriage is God-defined, God-designed, and God-ordained. No human person has the right to redefine marriage, tear apart God’s plan, or remove its sacred foundation. God’s plan from the beginning was to create a home in which a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife in a permanent, faithful relationship. The 2-in-1 union of husband and wife was intended to, among the other obvious joys, provide an exciting reflection of the relationship between God and a believer. So what happens when a society tries to dismantle God’s design? A same-gender relationship, for instance? Or sexual activity outside of a faithful marriage of husband and wife? When that happens, God’s plan is torn asunder and tragically obscures the understanding of God’s desired union with us. If the sacred illustration of God’s purposes for each of us is broken or rejected or distorted, then the true picture of spiritual union with God will become unknowable. There will be no reference point. Without a pure human experience to point to, how could anyone even begin to imagine the type of relationship that Christ wants us to have with Him? It’s no wonder that the downfall of marriage and family spells the downfall of the Christian faith in a society.