Something’s gone horribly wrong between men and women.
And we can do something about that.
In the beginning, God created men and women to share a great deal in common, but He also created them differently in both subtle and pronounced ways. We need look no further than our bodies to see this is true, but I think it also extends beyond biology alone.
For the first man and woman, before the fall, these differences were a gift to them both, and I think the greater the difference, the greater the gift they could each be to the other. Where the man was weak, the woman was strong, and where the woman was weak, the man was strong. These contrasting weaknesses and strengths were reason for great joy, and thus, they could stand before each other naked and unashamed.
On the physical level, when Adam saw Eve’s body, able to bear children and nurse them, he could delight in her with humility, awe, and wonder, and he could do so without it diminishing his own physical design. And when Eve saw Adam’s physical strength, she could delight in him with humility, awe, and wonder, without it diminishing in the slightest her own wonderful frame.
Our modern ears may cringe at the simple suggestion that Adam had something Eve didn’t or that Eve possessed something Adam never could. We have difficulty separating the difference between being different and having more or less value. We are so familiar with the curse.
After their sin, Adam and Eve’s differences became contorted into threat. The “naked and unashamed” that revealed their beautiful distinctions, became a “naked and ashamed” exposure.
What was once a beautiful complementarity between them became a competition—for worth, place, dominion. Hearts that once beat, “She’s different than me in wonderful ways,” became hearts that beat, “She’s different than me in dangerous ways.”
Eyes that once looked with honor, love, and desire, now peered with suspicion, lust, and evaluation. What had been dignifying now felt defiling.
And so they covered themselves and hid.
Now fallen, it seemed to them that there is only so much good to go around, that their differing strengths and weaknesses (given by their magnanimous, loving, and infinite Creator!) became a zero-sum game. Each one’s good vied for space against the good of the other.
And this is the place we find ourselves. Only now, we’re well into this story of darkened eyes and threatening differences. We have a long, long history of domination and control, of manipulation and mistrust, of betrayal and dishonor.
We have millennia-worth of experience using our sex’s strengths not for the good of the other’s weaknesses, but against the other’s weaknesses.
Christ, the second Adam comes differently. He comes with all the power and glory of God at His disposal but grasps for none of it (Philippians 2:6). He uses none of it to judge or condemn but to save (John 3:17). He comes not seeking His own blessing, but her (our) blessing. He comes not clamoring for His own elevated place, but to prepare a place for her (see John 14:3). He covers the naked and ashamed with His love and allows Himself to be betrayed, abused, stripped naked, and shamed upon a cross for us—men and women alike.
He is the One who removes the wall of separation between men and women (Galatians 3:28), not by removing our differences, but by redeeming us to accept and honor our differences once again.
Question: How have you experienced being esteemed by the other sex, and what difference has that made in your life? In what ways can you practice esteeming the differences between men and women?