“Then God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26-28)
I want to point out two things about this passage briefly: First, God created human beings male and female, and second, He created them to rule together. Sex and power go together according to the Bible. It is the image of God in particular that equips people to have dominion, but that dominion is shared in men and women. And clearly, a significant part of that dominion is carried out through being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth.
There are many lies running rampant in our day as in every generation about what it means to be a man or a woman, and about what it means to be married, and about what it means to have authority and power. On the one hand, some Christians speak as though men have authority and women do not. Some Christians are rather embarrassed by all of that and don’t want to speak about authority of any kind at all. Power corrupts we are told again and again, and many Christians buy this line and are suspicious of the idea of power and authority altogether.
On the other hand, the leaders of unbelief propagate significant confusion as well. They frequently claim that there is no intrinsic difference between men and women – it’s all culturally conditioned. If you gave little boys dolls to play with, they’d grow up as women, they claim. And vice versa, if you gave little girls guns and trucks to play with.
With the obvious biological and physiological differences between men and women, feminism has argued that even these differences are merely the result of evolutionary chance and therefore, they are not absolutes. Just as you might want to get braces for crooked teeth, so birth control and abortion have been claimed as triumphs for women, enabling them to be just as powerful as men through the elimination of unwanted children, erasing what they refer to as the “gender gap.”
And meanwhile as they demand that women be treated like men (e.g. be drafted into the military), some men have decided that they’d rather be women and begin hormone therapy in order to “reassign” their gender – as though being a woman merely consists of some hormones or body parts.
All of these various lies are why a marriage between a man and a woman remains one of the most potent opportunities for Christians to tell the truth about the world God has made. There is a shape to a Christian wedding ceremony that proclaims the gospel of Jesus into the chaos and confusion of the world. Fundamentally, when we proclaim the gospel, we are proclaiming good news to the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
But too often our gospel comes out garbled and unclear, and therefore it doesn’t seem very good. Sometimes our gospel sounds like 1950s stereotypes, when it turns out many people were mistreated and dishonored by those stereotypes. Sometimes our gospel sounds like pacifism, as though the Christian message is masochistic and dehumanizing. If you are suffering, Jesus will help you enjoy it, and maybe you’ll get to suffer some more!
But the Bible opens with these wonderful verses about God’s design, about the dignity of being made male and female, about the authority given to men and women to rule over the world together, and about the blessing and power of children and fruitfulness. But all of these things come from the Creator God, and all of these things are received from Him by faith with thanksgiving. He promises authority and power in being male and female and the blessing of the union of one man and one woman. And in Jesus Christ, God is remaking the brokenness of humanity.
In Jesus, God is restoring men to manhood, restoring women to womanhood. In Jesus, God is restoring the glory and authority of men as husbands and fathers, and the glory and authority of women as wives and mothers. Through Jesus, the lies, the lust, the abuse, the grasping, the envy, the rebellion, the bitterness, the rage – all of the poison of sin is put to death. In the cross of Jesus, all the distortions of manhood and womanhood, all the lies of unfruitful marriages – all of it was crucified, in order that by the power of the resurrection, men and women might be washed, cleansed, healed, and restored to the glory they were made for.
One of my favorite pagans these days is a woman name Camille Paglia, a sort of old school feminist and Darwinist, but she is more perceptive and honest than most. She says: “You have to have strong women in order to deal with masculine men. Masculinity is constantly being eroded because it allows women to be weak.” Paglia speaks here better than many Christians.
Egalitarianism wants to blunt the sharp edges of masculinity and strip women of their distinctive glory. In the name of freedom and happiness (and power), modernity wants to steamroll the differences between men and women. But to paraphrase the perceptive, Erich Fromm, writing decades ago: When equality comes to mean sameness, we destroy the very ground of love since love is a kind of union that preserves the unique integrities of each individual. And without love, all authority and power will corrupt and destroy.
So in the face of these sobering circumstances, Ian, my charge to you is to be what God made you to be and what you have acted the part of today: a man. You walked down the isle accompanied by other men. You are dressed in our culture’s distinctive garb of a groom. You have received Christina from her parents, and you are promising to be the manliest man you can be. This masculinity is not defined by the world or by pure instincts. It is defined by the Word of God, and so you must be a man of the Word. You must continue to study Scripture night and day, to find out what it means to be a man and then embrace it and practice it with all of the strength that you can muster with gratitude and joy before the Lord.
Centrally, the Bible calls you to lay your life down for Christina. You are to love her and to lead her, but you are to do this by taking responsibility for her, seeing her needs as your needs and not resenting them. And in light of the power she wields as a Christian woman, your love must seek to empower her gifts. You are being called to rule in this world with this woman beside you. And today, Jesus is proclaiming to the world that you need this woman by your side. She carries within her authority from God to rule with you. So receive her with thanksgiving. Celebrate her power and authority as a woman made in the image of God: your wife, your crown, your glory.
Christina, my charge to you is similar: be what God made you to be and the part you have played today: a woman. You were accompanied down the isle with other women. You are adorned today in the beauty and glory of a bride. You have been escorted by your father, and you have received Ian’s arm. These ought not be read as signs of weakness. They ought to be to be seen as signs of strength and authority. No one speaks for you in this ceremony but you. You are a free Christian woman by the authority of God Himself. By the authority that He has invested in you as a woman made in His image, you are binding yourself to this man today to be his wife and to bear his children. Today you are promising to be the most feminine woman you can be. But this femininity is not defined by Cosmopolitan magazine or the sitcoms or the feminists or traditional family values or what you feel like; true femininity is defined by the Word of God. So you too must study Scripture night and day to find out what it means to be a woman and embrace it and practice it with all the strength you can muster with gratitude and joy before the Lord. Centrally, the Bible calls you to respect your husband and submit to him. Despite the claims of many, this does not mean you are inferior to him; rather, this is the uniquely feminine shaped authority that you wield. This is not manipulation; this is the power of the beauty of a godly woman. A woman whose heart rests in the care of the Lord Jesus Christ, rules with her husband in fearless joy.
Ian and Christina, we live in dark and confusing days, but today you shine the light of the gospel brightly. We charge you in the Name of Jesus, to remember this day and to rise up every day as a man and as a woman created to rule together in all fruitfulness.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.