Gender Identity and Being Authentically Human

The issue of gender identity, like so many other issues today, has become highly politicized. In discussions, emotions quickly rule what is being said and how it is said. As with other issues, these conversations and debates occur within a climate in which the pursuit of the authentic self is the greatest moral burden.

From the very first chapter of the Bible, we gain an understanding of what it means to be authentically human: to be authentically human is to be made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). When God says, “Let us make mankind in our image” in verse 26, He has already given us much insight into who He is in the preceding 25 verses. He is creative (albeit, the first act of creation is something only God can do); He brings order to chaos through separating, naming, defining, distinguishing vegetation and creatures according to their kinds; He takes delight in what He creates – it is good (both morally and aesthetically); He creates the proper spaces for life to flourish, and therefore is a giver and preserver of life; He works, then rests (though, technically, we don’t see God’s rest until the beginning of chapter 2); etc.

However, as we continue to read this story, we see sin entering the world, which corrupts this image of God in mankind. Mankind remains creative, but now he uses his creativity for idolatry and evil. Furthermore, through sin, mankind gives himself glory for what he creates, while ignoring and sometimes cursing the God who created him. We forget that God spoke everything into existence by the word of His power (see Psalm 33:6,9 and Hebrews 11:3), so that nothing material existed until He spoke it into existence. Rather than bringing order to chaos, our propensity is to reduce what has been ordered back into chaos. In gender identity debates, as well as with marriage debates, proponents of gender fluidity and nontraditional marriages either redefine or, more common today, undefine both gender and marriage. We call what is evil and vile, good and beautiful. Rather than strive to protect life, we redefine what a human is based on geography (for example, in the womb or outside the womb), and we create the conditions to support the violent taking of innocent life. Some people are averse to good, hard work, while others are averse to rest. And all the while people admit they have lost themselves, even as they continue to seek after their “authentic” selves. The last thing they will do is turn back to God, in whose image they were made. Apart from His grace, they cannot (Romans 8:5-8).

In Genesis 1:27, the Lord tells us that we were made in His image as male and female. These are the only two genders the Bible acknowledges, and it is only these genders that were created in His image.

On the one hand, both male and female are made in God’s image. Both genders have intrinsic honor and value before God, and before each other, in that both are made in the image of God. Yes, they are distinct and unique; but neither is less valuable or honored than the other. When the distinction and uniqueness of each gender is minimized, or other genders are created, or it is argued that male can become a female and vice versa, we move further away from authentic humanity.

On the other hand, it is a male and a female coming together in marriage that reflects God’s image (see Genesis 2:24-25). This first marriage in the Garden of Eden is a foreshadowing of the marriage of Christ to His Bride (see Ephesians 5:22-33). When we redefine marriage, we move further away from authentic humanity.

While sin came through the first Adam, corrupting the image of God in him, the second Adam (the Lord Jesus Christ) came to restore this image. He Himself is the perfect image of God (Colossians 1:15). He comes as the Son of God (John 5:16-18). He was born a male, and He remained a male. He did not question His gender. He came to seek a bride, His Church. He brings about recreation. He is the Light of the world that shines into the darkness and is not overcome by the darkness; rather, He overcomes the darkness and delivers people from the kingdom of darkness. He overcomes the chaos of our lives and brings order. He renames people, giving them purpose. He upholds the dignity of men and women, even in a society that often marginalized women. He healed people of diseases and set them free from demonic possession, by simply speaking.

We are called to repent (Acts 17:30-31). Many take this as a negative and as an attack on their pursuit of their authentic selves. Instead, it is a summons to leave behind that which drags us further away from our true identity as those made in God’s image. It is a summons to turn to the One who is the perfect image of God – the most authentic human – in humility, asking Him to restore that image in us as we follow Him in increasing allegiance. Until this happens, those who pursue their authentic selves apart from Him only become more inauthentic, though they may feel as if they are getting closer.