A reflection by Lindsey
I’ve been trying to sort through my own questions about faith, sexuality, and gender for nearly two decades. It hasn’t been a smooth or glamorous journey. Along the way, I’ve been amazed by the number of Christians I’ve met who respond to my questions with various short answers to shut down conversation. I’ve lost track of people who have told me things like “There’s no such thing as a gay Christian” or “The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality; it’s holiness.” Like any other culturally contentious conversation, the talking points have shifted over time. Tracking the conversations over the past several months, I’ve observed a Back-to-Genesis approach where conservative Christians say things like, “The scriptural view of human sexuality is that God formed man and woman in His image (Gen 1:27-28) and these two were to become one flesh (Gen 2:23-24).” The quote can fit into a single tweet if one takes out Scriptural citations. I’ve started to see a greater reliance on this particular argument as conservative Christians have started to grapple with questions about transgender people. My goal in writing this post is to provide food for thought that moves respectful conversation forward.
One benefit to looking towards Genesis 1 and 2 is that these chapters describe our relationship with God before sin entered the world. They contain the beginning of our collective story as being God’s beloved creation. We share our status as creation with plants, animals, the stars and moon in the sky, oceans, and the earth itself. It’s important to remember that Genesis 1 and 2 discuss only the beginning; if we want to discuss the ending of our collective story, we’re left to puzzle through many of the obscure pointers found in Revelation or the various teasers scattered throughout the New Testament. The Gospel of John opens by echoing Genesis 1 to establish Christ’s presence and work at creation. We gain new insights into creation when we consider Genesis 1 and 2 as the beginning of our redemption where Christ is the author and perfector of the rest of the story.
Genesis 1 and 2 tell us about the beginning of gender. In Genesis 1, we read humans are created in the image of God as male and female. Genesis 2 provides more context by describing the creation of Adam and Eve. The Genesis account of creation centers on two people, Adam and Eve, to whom God had said, “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.” As much as I do not wish to quibble with the text, it seems abundantly clear to me that two people could never fulfill this call by themselves. These commands are given to all of humanity where we all do our best to conform ourselves to God’s likeness as we do the difficult work set before us. Our God is a triune God and is therefore fundamentally relational and communal. If we are created in God’s image and likeness, then we are fundamentally relational and communal as well. One reason why the world was so good at creation is that no relationships were broken. Adam and Eve had a one-flesh relationship because Eve’s flesh was formed directly from Adam’s. Vulnerability existed without shame; Genesis 2 ends with “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
Our lived experience of what God intended for us changed radically in Genesis 3. As wrongdoing entered into the world, so too did fear, shame, blame, and bloodshed. Relationships between creation, Eve, Adam, and God changed drastically. The relationship between man and woman was not the same: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
These observations matter when we consider what Christ said when quoting these parts of Genesis. In Matthew 19, Jesus says to the Pharisees,
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
When his disciples ask more questions to try to understand, Jesus says,
“Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
It’s worth noting that Jesus is responding to a question about divorce. Jesus quotes Genesis when asked about people who are already married. Christ, who knows God’s creative intent, pulls from Genesis when discussing male and female while going beyond the creation narrative to discuss eunuchs. I believe any person commenting on sex and gender would do well to consider how eunuchs make valuable contributions to the human experience, even as we should acknowledge how eunuchs are not generally discussed in the Scripture. It’s worth mentioning that eunuchs are important figures in the books of Daniel and Acts.
When I think about the beginning of gender, I find it helpful to think about other facets of creation. Creation began as God said, “Let there be light.” On the first day, God divided the light from darkness to create Day and Night. However, night does not lack light. On the fourth day, God created the sun and the moon. Day, night, light, and dark blend together. There is a seamlessness as all of time comes together. On the second day, God divided the waters to create dry land. But the land does not lack water. Not only does rain fall to nourish the plants that grow on the land, but also water collects to forms lakes and rivers. We also know water gathers under the land, making it possible for many people to access freshwater. Without the small proportion of water that is freshwater, life as we know it couldn’t exist. The water cycle gives people a way to conceptualize what is happening as water moves throughout the earth. Every photon and every water molecule serves as a marker for God’s amazing activity during creation.
When we are talking about the mystery of humanity, every person shows us something of the image of God. We can speak of Adam and Eve as prototypes of a sort for male and female, but these two people do not have a monopoly on the category. It would also be difficult to figure out the fullness of God’s intention for us as people simply by looking at the beginning of our collective story. We must consider the mystery of humanity through the words of Christ. Could it be that Christ knew that there would be people who blended male and female such that some would be eunuchs? Do we have space in our theological imagination to see seamlessness as human beings created in the image and likeness of God?
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