Kevin DeYoung: Why Gender Matters
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Kevin DeYoungA native of Jenison, Michigan, Kevin graduated from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, with a B.A. in Religion. He earned his Master of Divinity degree at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. He is now a Ph.D. candidate in Early Modern History at the University of Leicester in the UK. Before accepting the call to lead Christ Covenant Kevin served as pastor of ...more
In raising kids, what do biblical masculinity and femininity look like? Professor and author Kevin DeYoung explores why gender matters to God.
Kevin DeYoung: Why Gender Matters
Kevin: God does not call us to follow Him as androgynous human beings; and yet, my calling to follow Jesus is always as a calling to follow Him as a man. A woman has a calling to follow Christ as a woman. That’s how He made us. He didn’t have to make us—I mean, He could have made it some other kind of world—but that is the way He wanted to do it. It must be that there is something in there that shows forth the image of God—that shows forth the creativity/the glory of God—and then in marriage, in particular, men and women fulfilling that creation mandate.
This sexual differentiation is God’s idea. Yes, it gets messed up/it gets stereotyped; but if we keep coming back to this: sexual differentiation is God’s idea—it’s good; it’s beautiful—it’s for His glory.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife—
One of the things I would do, every football season, when I was coaching high school football,—
Ann: Are we going to talk about football again?
Dave: Yes, let’s talk about football; let’s talk about Cover 2—no.
When I would do chapel at Rochester Adams, a public high school—so I get there every Thursday night before our team meal, have 50/60 young boys in a classroom—and I get to talk to them about the gospel. It was like, “Wow, what an opportunity.” But every season/early in the season, I would ask the boys: “Let’s talk about what a man is. Who in here can tell me what a man is?” I’d literally ask for feedback.
Ann: What did they say?
Dave: Hardly ever did they give me an answer. They would look at me like, “Uh,” and they stumbled around. You realize: “None of these boys know. Nobody’s really ever defined it.” It was a perfect open door; so I said, “You know what? That’s what we’re going to talk about for the next several weeks; let’s walk through what God designed men to be.”
I think/I would guess it could be a similar question for women.
Ann: I’m thinking back on those days, and the years that you’ve [trained] young men, and now men come up to you and say, “Mr. Wilson, those chapels changed me,”—not just on how to become a man—
Dave: You’re making me feel good right now.
Ann: —but to become a godly man. They didn’t know that God was in that equation.
Dave: Yes, I think the question of what a man and woman is, from the Creator, is the question we all need to know, not only how to answer it, how to live it.
Ann: —especially in this culture.
Dave: We’ve got Kevin DeYoung back in the studio today. If anybody can talk about this topic, Kevin, you’re the guy.
Kevin: Well, that’s a lot of pressure. We’ll try. [Laughter]
Dave: I mean, you’ve written a book called Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction to this very topic. It’s about “in the church,” but it’s also a definition of manhood and womanhood, and a biblical understanding of that, as a pastor/as a father of nine kids. You’ve got boys and girls living in your home.
Obviously, this is a major issue for you as a man. But as a pastor and leader of men and women, where do you start when you say, “Okay; let’s help people understand what God the Creator designed when He uniquely designed male and female differently”?
Kevin: It is such an important question. You see it from the very beginning. We’re so used to the story; we have to step back and think, “Why did God make it this way?” He could have made a whole sea of people, or He could have made a bunch of men/a bunch of women, or He wouldn’t have had to make sex/gender at all; but He did because it shows forth His design—His glory/His beauty—in making male and female from the very beginning.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say there’s probably never been a time in our history, where we’ve been more confused in this country, and all over the Western world, about what manhood and womanhood are; and are they even things? Should we even be talking about those things?
The question I always come back to is a very practical one: “What do we say if one of my boys comes to me and says, ‘Daddy, what does it mean to be a man?’” “…a girl comes to her mom, ‘Mommy, what does it mean for me to grow up and to be a woman?’”
Our world has—well, I was going to say, “They have no answers,”—actually, they have an answer, which is: “That’s nothing/nothing,” or “It’s whatever your expressive individualism tells you.”
But we can’t just fall back on stereotypes: “Well, to be a man you’re going to have a Stetson hat,” [Laughter] “You’re going to go out, and hunt and fish things,” and “To be a woman is going to look a certain way and have a certain way of carrying yourself.”
But there are patterns in Scripture that have to do with how we present ourselves with the bodies God has given to us; the fact that, to be a man is to be the being who can sire children, and to be a woman is to the being that God created to incubate human life. To be a woman is to be something precious that God has made. To be a man and a woman is, first of all, to have those unique biological realities that, when a man and a woman uniquely come together in a one-flesh union, it’s the sort of union from which children can be produced. That’s really important to say, from the outset, so we realize that sex and gender are inextricably linked in God’s eye.
Our world says: “No, sex is just a biology thing you get assigned; and gender is whatever you choose to be.” But God’s Word tells us: “No, those two things inextricably are linked.”
Of course, there are going to be people listening to this, who say: “Yes, I love my daughter; and she loves Jesus. She wears a baseball hat, and she loves to go and play outside with the boys,” and “I’ve got a son, and he’s happy to play house with his sister.” So there are going to be different ways that boys and girls show their masculinity and femininity; we want to be careful not to fall into rigid stereotypes.
Yet, at the same time, there is something in the Bible that’s pointing us in a direction. I’ll just give one example; then let you guys correct me if I’m wrong. But in
1 Thessalonians, Paul uses these two analogies in one chapter. First, he says about himself and his companions/gospel workers that: “We were gentle among you like a nursing mother [1 Thessalonians 2:7].” Paul’s not afraid to use a feminine metaphor for himself; gentleness is not just a mom-thing. But telling—that in his mind, he thinks—“What’s the picture of tender gentleness?”—it’s a mom with an infant.
Later, in the same chapter, he says, “We exhorted you like a father
[1 Thessalonian 2:11].” In his mind, to think of direction, exhortation, discipline is to think of something that is masculine. Again, it’s not that a woman can’t do one and a man can’t do another. But in God’s mind, as He inspired Paul to write that, there is something distinctively feminine and distinctively masculine about those two roles—about what we lean into, and what we’re trying to show with our life, that will show itself—most plainly in marriage—but even, in the rest of life, there’s a way to be a man/to be a woman.
Dave: As you father both sons and daughters—
Kevin: —five boys/four girls, if I counted correctly.
Dave: —which is craziness. I can’t imagine your house.
Ann: This is why we said, “He’s the one who could answer these questions.”
Kevin: No, it is crazy—it is. [Laughter] You should check back in years [ahead]. What is it somebody said?—“I once had no kids and six parenting theories; now I have six kids and no theories”?
Kevin: Yes, that’s us.
Dave: Exactly. As you think about it, they’re different—not just female/male—but they’re different, even as girls and boys. As they’re being raised by you, what are you saying to them about what a man looks like and a woman looks like?
Kevin: My oldest daughter is a strong 14-year-old young woman. She will make her opinions known.
Ann: She’s a leader.
Kevin: Yes, she really is. She has a gaggle of friends around her; and she’s happy to direct the younger siblings what to do or, maybe, even her older siblings what to do. [Laughter] I don’t want to take anything away from her—I’ve had that talk with her—and I said, “You are strong and that’s good. Now how do we use this?” Part of being/growing up into a godly young woman is, most importantly, following Christ—being made in God’s image/wanting to grow in godliness—as all of us do.
But it also means there’s a certain: “What is she striving after?” Part of that is an openness to marriage and to children—many years later/we hope many years later; the boys stay away for now—[Laughter]—but the sort of way that she would want to love and support her husband.
As I see in the Scriptures—this is just generalizing/summarizing a lot of biblical truth—but I put it like this: that the Bible is directed towards women as wanting to pursue a true beauty, and the Bible speaks to men pursuing a true strength. Now where do I get that from? I get that—think about all the places where it’s giving women instruction on what to wear: “Don’t let your adorning be with fancy clothes, and let it be the godly spirit
[1 Peter 3:3-4],”—it’s speaking to something that, generally, women are wired for a sense of beauty.
God doesn’t say, “Shame on you for wanting to be beautiful.” Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel—all of these matriarchs—were all noted for their beauty. That’s good; but what God does is redirect that and say, “I know you want to be beautiful. What does godly beauty look like for a woman? It’s this character…” “It’s this demeanor…”
On the other hand, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16, “…act like men…”; and he says it to the whole church; but he uses that strong language—andrizomai in the Greek—“act like men,” because to have courage and strength is a particularly masculine virtue. Why is it that many men, not all, but many men are wanting to watch different movies?—they’re following sports; they’re competitive. Because they want to show strength; they want to show accomplishment.
God doesn’t say, “Shame on you for wanting that; that’s all bad. How could you like war movies? How could you like sports?” He says, “Okay, let’s take that—your desire—and let Me direct that to a true godly strength.”
That’s sort of where I start with my: “Let’s talk about true beauty,” and “Let’s talk about true strength.”
Ann: Yes, let me go back to that; because I look at that and think, “Yes.” I’m thinking of myself, growing up, thinking, “Yes, I loved that aspect of beauty and the character. But my favorite movie is Gladiator.” [Laughter]
I think some women are thinking: “I want to change the world; I want to set this world on fire for Jesus.” And maybe there’s a young woman, [who’s] thinking, “I’m not looking into marriage right now. Can I do that? Will God bless that? Am I okay if I pursue Jesus and I’m not married or have children?”
Kevin: We certainly serve a Savior who was never married/never had sex. So contrary to what our world says; which is: “Your sexuality is your identity”; we see what true humanity looks like in Christ. Paul famously said that he was committed to serving the Lord with such singular passion that he was going to set aside marriage.
Yes, we want to say to all singles: “You are not second-class citizens.” The church does struggle sometimes to be geared for singles. Sometimes, we do family and couple’s stuff, and kids’ stuff; and we can forget about singles. That’s to our detriment. If Jesus was single, then it is a high calling; yes.
At the same time, most people, at some point, will be married. If they are, as Christians, I believe they should be open, before the Lord, to having children. Children are always seen as a blessing in Scripture. You never find where somebody is having children and: “Oh, my life is over!” even if it’s the ninth one. [Laughter] Yes, they are burdens; but—
Ann: We’re saying it is hard, but—
Kevin: It his hard; but there’s on openness, and a desire and willingness to see it as a blessing.
The Bible is wiser than we think. It gives us prescriptions in some areas—like Ephesians 5/it says, “Wives submit to your husbands and husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church,”—there’s specific commands; but then, there’s certain patterns. That means that the Bible is not going to give us 50 rules to live by. There’s lots more than 50 commands; but it’s not going to tell us: “Here’s exactly what it looks like, and what your next step is.”
To the godly woman, out there, who says, “Yes, I’m open to being married; but I’ve got passions and I’ve got dreams. I’m not waiting around for Mr. Right to come,”—amen; we want men and women, who are passionate to serve Jesus.
Following these patterns and these prescriptions in Scripture does not tell us to give another “P” word—that you have to have a specific personality to do it—you can have a different personality and still embrace this as your expression of godly manhood and womanhood.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Kevin DeYoung on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear more in just a minute, including what to do when a child is confused about his or her own gender; but first, at FamilyLife, we believe God’s design for marriage and family isn’t some silly old-fashioned or fun-killing rule book; but that it’s a good, true, and beautiful design.
If you’re passionate about more people catching that kind of vision for family, would you consider partnering with FamilyLife Today? All this week, with your donation of any amount, we want to send you Kevin DeYoung’s book, Men and Women in the Church. That’s our thanks to you when you give this week at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call with your donation at 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright; now, back to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Kevin DeYoung and how to respond to a child, who’s confused about his or her gender.
Dave: Okay, so talk about this—you mentioned it earlier—gender/sex. We live in a world—and I’m sure there’s some parents listening, [who] say: “My daughter says she’s a boy,” or “My son says he’s a girl,”—what would you say to that parent? How do they walk with their son or daughter through that?
Kevin: One, we need to realize that there is something of a copy-cat effect that sounds pejorative; but I what I mean is—I forget the exact number—but the number of young people identifying at trans-gender has increased something like 2000 percent in the last 10 years. It’s just astronomical; which means it’s not, in most cases, driven by some physiological—when you go through puberty, you’re confused about a lot of things—and our world gives us certain ways that you can be confused. Here’s one that has been very uncommon—not unheard of, but uncommon—which has become much more common.
Any parents out there, the first thing is: “Don’t freak out. You’re surprised; God wasn’t surprised. It’s not the end of the world; it’s not the end of your relationship. It’s not the end of your child’s walk with the Lord.” And this may be something that is a real multi-year-long struggle; or it could be something that is: “Hey, I’m sort of experimenting; and I see that people get attention for this. I’ve got a friend, who does it; and it looks kind of interesting to me.”
You need to be patient and talk through it. When you do all of that good, loving parenting thing, and you get to talk about how the Bible shapes us, you see that, from the very beginning, there is a binary—there is—there’s male and female.
- Now, sometimes, people say, “Well, what about this thing called inter-sex?”—which is a very rare condition. I’m not a medical doctor, but here’s the important distinction: That is a diagnosable medical biological condition.
- Transgender or gender dysphoria is an internal subjective sense of one’s identity, so we’re not talking about something in the chromosomes/something in the biology. We’re talking about a sense.
Presuming you’re talking to the friend or a child, who has this sense of their identity, you want to say, “Well, God gave two genders, male and female; and He gave us these bodies for a reason.” He says one of the most counter-cultural verses in all the Bible, I think, is when Paul says: “Glorify God with your bodies [1 Corinthians 6:20].” Our bodies are not incidental to who we are; we know that because God invented bodies. God came to earth, and took on a human body; so bodies are good, and God gives them to us for a reason.
Last thing—I’m giving you a sermon when you asked a question—[Laughter]—but Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, does this complicated argument about head coverings. Okay, yes; we’re going to go there. There’s some culture at play there because head covering signified certain things about—you are a loose woman or something—which it doesn’t in our day.
But the important point in 1 Corinthians 11, is Paul says it’s a disgrace when a man dresses as a woman or a woman dresses as a man. Why?—because God has made us with a certain design, and it’s His design. It’s a good design, and it’s meant to be lived out for His beauty and His glory.
When we confuse those things—now, we may be confused; and that’s okay. God walks with us, and we need patient people to walk with us when we’re confused—but if we were to embrace that confusion as a good thing, God says, “That’s not a good thing. I didn’t give you your body by accident.” We need to bring it back to a question about God and His Word and whether we trust in Him.
Dave: If you could answer—I’ll give you more than one word—“When a man is flourishing, he is what?” And I’m going to do the same thing with women.
Kevin: When a man is flourishing: he is following hard after Christ; he is laying down his life for other people; and he is finding strength and joy in the Lord.
Dave: Same thing for a woman. When a woman is flourishing?—you’re going to give me three—you’re a preacher—I know how that goes.
Kevin: I am, yes. [Laughter]
When a woman is flourishing: she is following hard after Christ; she is flourishing in an atmosphere/in a circle of protection and blessing; and she is serving others that they might know Jesus better and see Him, reflected in her life and her relationships with others.
Dave: It’s interesting; as you hear that—
Kevin: —there are similarities.
Dave: —there’s so much that comes over. Years ago, at our church, I created this whole man code/definition of what a real man was—taking the word, R-E-A-L, and saying—“We always say, ‘I want to be a real man.’ We don’t know what a real man is.”
I created these four pillars, and I preached it for years. We did men’s retreats; it became this movement: “Yes, I want to be a real man, R-E-A-L.” Initially, I didn’t realize it, but about five or six years later, I’m like, “Every one of those pillars are true about women.” They were different but, also, women were called—because most of them were about walking with Jesus—
Dave: —and showing strength.
I thought, “There’s similarities, but there’s definitely a distinct calling of men/calling of women.” It’s—I guess “unique” is the word—God has designed us to be men and women, and to flourish. When we flourish, and we complement one another, there’s partnership in that; the gospel is seen.
Kevin: Because God made us this way—I keep coming back to that—God does not call us to follow Him as androgynous human beings. Now, I’m more than a man; Dave’s more than a man; Ann’s more than a woman; and yet, my calling to follow Jesus is always as a calling to follow Him as a man. A woman has a calling to follow Christ as a woman; that’s how He made us. He didn’t have to make us—I mean, He could have made it some other kind of world—but that’s the way He wanted to do it. It must be that there is something in there that shows forth the image of God—that shows forth the creativity/the glory of God—and then, in marriage in particular, men and women fulfilling that creation mandate.
This sexual differentiation is God’s idea—yes, it gets messed up; it gets stereotyped—but if we keep coming back to this: sexual differentiation is God’s idea. It’s good; it’s beautiful; it’s for His glory.
Dave: I believe that your son or daughter [who] is watching us—as husbands/wives, mom and dad—they’re learning what a man is or a woman is, not by what we say—
Kevin: That’s right.
Dave: —by how we live. They’re watching dad show what a man is/watching mom show what a woman of God looks like.
Man, that makes me look in the mirror and go, “Am I showing them a godly view of what God decided men and women should be? I hope so.”
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Kevin DeYoung on FamilyLife Today. His book is called Men and Women in the Church. We’ll send you a copy when you give any amount today at FamilyLifeToday.com.
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Tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson will continue their conversation with Kevin DeYoung as they work through the distinct differences between submission and the submission stereotypes. That’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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