At the creation of the world, standing before the dark and shapeless cloth of his own making, the tailor God, infinite in mind and thought, limitless in scope, exquisite in detail, took up his scissors and began to snip. The potter God handled his clay and set the wheel spinning. The artist God grasped his brush and put it to the canvas. The composer God opened his musical score and put down the first notes.
Every creative act requires boundaries: the frame, the genre, the use, the pattern. Thus, God stretched a line and laid a cornerstone; he commanded the dawn and the morning to their places; he led forth the constellations and arranged the chains of the Pleiades and the cords of Orion. He measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and gave the ocean its shore. He counted the clouds; he named each star, and they sang for joy. All the sons of God shouted. It was a good creation. And when he was satisfied with his extravagant, teeming world, he made two people out of the raw materials of his own creation, clay and rib, into the design of man and woman, each bearing his very image. He formed; he breathed; he fashioned; he created them male and female, and the man and woman were good—behold, they were very good. God, recognizing perfection when he saw it, stayed his hand. It needed no further brush stroke, no more notes, not another seam or spin of the wheel. He was satisfied, and he blessed and sanctified the day marking the finished perfection of it all. He was glad in his creation!
Every Place and Race
Yet we, the clay and the rib, now ask the potter, “Why have you made me thus?” We want to change the notes of the composition and take the seams out of the pattern he formed for the man and fashioned for the woman and shape them into a design of our own making. We want to break out of the frame, to determine our own boundaries—or have none at all. We are not satisfied. The cloth of creation, cut into man and woman, was the medium through which the infinite God chose to display his image. We call this craftsmanship our sexuality: our anatomy, our functions, our physical appearance, even some modes of thinking. As the generations progressed throughout history, there would be countless combinations of hair and eyes, skin, noses, mouths, body shapes, and personalities. But when he snipped out male and female, he put down his scissors. They were the patterns God designed for oneness and for procreation throughout the earth’s generations of every race and in every place. It was God, after all, who conceived the notion that the man needed a “helper suitable for him.” Not one of the animals fulfilled this need; both God and Adam recognized the deficit as God brought each one before Adam. Then God brought the woman. She, alone, was suitable in every way. Did not God himself design her? How could she have been less than exactly right? Adam, for his part, was convinced. In the beginning neither the woman nor the man was embarrassed or ashamed of their sexuality or their differences. When God created the male in his image, he gave him the best of all possible male bodies—indeed, his own son would inhabit such a body. “A body you have prepared for me” is attributed to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:5-7, based on Psalm 40:6). “I have come . . . to do your will, O my God.” The body given to our Lord, snipped out by God at the creation, was the exact body he needed to accomplish God’s will. Though our Lord’s conception and birth were unique, he himself was nevertheless “born of woman,” as Paul succinctly states. Has there ever been any other way in the cycle of the centuries, throughout all the generations? Do we see the pattern here? The language of the Bible conveys this normal process: men “knew” their wives; women “conceived.” Men “fathered”; women “bore” sons or daughters. The generations are unthinkable without this knowing and this conceiving and this fathering and this bearing. Even when God was sorry that he had made humankind and wanted to destroy it, the pattern did not change. Thus, God instructed Noah to take into the ark two of every sort of animal, “male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth” (Genesis 7:2-3). Of the humans, Noah also took on board males and females, husbands and wives. There was no other way to re-populate the earth with animals and people. The concept is hardly arguable. After all, we have anatomy. Like continental drift, all the pieces fit together again if you look carefully at the map. No one seems surprised. We’ve recognized it since we were teenagers, at least. Or, if we’re lucky, our parents taught us the “facts of life.” Have they ceased to be facts?
The early rabbis recognized an enduring and God-designed pattern when they saw it. We have a whole book in the biblical canon devoted to the love story of a man and a woman, complete with vivid and intimate renderings of tender feelings and descriptions of each other’s bodies. It corresponded to the nature of things, then as now. God himself joined man and woman, male and female, at creation. As Moses taught, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” The woman came from the man, as Paul corroborates, and this rejoining of the two opposite sexes in marriage the Bible regards as becoming “one flesh.” Can there be “one flesh” without this correspondence and complementarity? Jesus, who routinely overthrew not only tables in the temple but also hypocritical religious practices, did not tamper with the pattern. “Have you not read,” he counters the Pharisees’ provocative question about divorce, “that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” His summary statement in Matthew 19:6 is loaded with implications: “What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.” Have we not read? We, the created ones, do not have the freedom to separate what God has joined or join what does not fit together. When the disciples try to argue against marriage because of its inherent difficulties, Jesus gives them two options: marriage between a man and a woman or celibacy (Matthew 19:1-12). Jesus not only supported but even himself taught the marriage and family structures and restrictions we see throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
If this pattern fails to satisfy us on this question, we need to keep reading. The apostles give clear and specific instructions, even commands, for marriage and families. All of the instruction passages-and there are many-fall flat if we wantonly set aside their confines to bless same-sex marriage. Paul speaks directly on sexual aberrations in Romans 1, calling them “dishonorable passions.” He writes, “Their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men.” How can we misunderstand his meaning? Yet we know that some will twist this teaching, given humanity’s penchant for going its own way, independent of God’s commands. They may even cite the Bible as they insist we affirm gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (GLBTQ) relationships. But Christians cannot be confused on the issue of sexuality when they take a long look at the patterns God ordained. God’s Word is consistent: see Leviticus 18:22, 24-30; 20:13, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1Timothy 1:10; cf. 2 Peter 2:6-10 with Genesis 19:1-14 and Jude 7. History will culminate with a wedding. “The marriage of the lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7). You and I have been invited to this wedding and to the marriage supper that will follow it. The pattern of marriage is not only evident from the creation of Adam and Eve but sanctified in the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church. When we attempt to alter the pattern, we mar God’s image—in ourselves, our marriages, our singleness, in the body of Christ, in all of humanity.