WHAT IS HUMAN?

TWO

Whenever a new baby is born the first question is usually ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ This question arises from the one thing that distinguishes one half of the human race from the other half: we are either male or female. This distinction is embedded in our chromosomes. Neither hormone therapy nor gender reassignment surgery can alter this.

The oneness of the human race, which we saw last week, obviously does not mean sameness. The Bible teaches that there is also a fundamental differentiation: that God created human beings male and female [Genesis 1:27). The unity shared by the male and the female is not the unity of being identical, but a unity in which one complements and completes the other, each enabling the other to live their God-ordained life, each enabling the other to enjoy the divine blessing, and each enabling the other to fulfil the divine command, in a way that one alone, or two of the same, can never do.

This necessary twoness, this differentiation, this distinction, is in focus in Genesis 2:18: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’. Here we learn that:

In the original creation, uncorrupted by sin and degradation, perfection and completeness were impossible for the man in isolation.

To complete the male God created a female, not another male. As ‘a helper suitable for him’ the woman corresponds to the man as his counterpart and complement.  She stands opposite him [face to face with him], not as an identical duplicate, but as a person who complements his person, a person who interfaces with his person. While this complementarity is true physically, it is, more importantly, true at the deeper levels of human life – those aspects of personhood which distinguish us from animals and identify us as created in the image of God: morality, responsibility, communion, communication and love.

The Genesis 2 record teaches both our fundamental oneness – God formed Eve from Adam’s rib [2:21,22] – and our essential distinction, our hetero-sexuality:

Adam felt no connection to any of the animals – no equality or unity with them, no counterpart among them: not one that gave him a sense of completion. But when God brought the woman to him he immediately recognized her as corresponding to himself: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ [2:23].

From the Genesis account it is very evident that the concurrent male/female unity and distinction is God-ordained. Genesis 1 informs us that:

Male and female were created in the image of God – both created to reflect God’s nature, both created spiritual beings, both created responsible to God, both created for communion with God, both created dependent on God [1:27].

Together they were blessed by God.
Together they were commanded to multiply and fill the earth.
Together they were commanded to subdue the earth.
Together they were commanded to rule over the creatures of the earth [1:28].

All of this teaches a shared and equal identity, a shared and equal blessedness and a shared and equal responsibility. Not man by himself. Not woman by herself. Not man and man. But man and woman. The identity, the blessedness and the responsibility are given to and borne by the two, not by the one without the other.

Our contemporary generation seems to struggle quite intensely with this fundamental male/female unity and equality and this fundamental male/female distinction and differentiation. We observe ample and increasing evidence of this struggle:

Discrimination based on gender: we call it chauvinism, feminism or sexism.
The use, misuse and abuse of humans of the opposite gender.
Use of one's gender to manipulate the opposite gender.
Discontentment with one’s gender, and the resultant attempts to camouflage or change one’s gender.
The normalization of homosexual practices and relationships.

All of this is a far cry from the joy that Adam felt with the appearance of Eve: ‘This now …’. And it is also a far cry from the perfect peace felt by that original two:

‘The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame’ [Genesis 2:25].

Each accepted both themselves and the other. No shame, no guilt, no fear, no tension, no destructive self-awareness in the presence of the other. No rejection of one’s gender. No sense of being under threat by the presence other. No discomfort because of the differences. No desire to be what the other is or to outdo or compete with the other.

Two. Distinct, but equal, united and at peace. This is the original perfect human relationship. This is part of the original definition that answers the question 'What is human?'

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013, 2016