The Arrogance of Masculinity and Femininity

It is arrogance in us to call frankness, fairness, and chivalry ‘masculine’ when we see them in a woman; it is arrogance in them to describe a man’s sensitiveness or tact or tenderness as ‘feminine.’ (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.)


When the Son of God entered the world as a baby, grew into boyhood and then became an adult, he did so for all people, women and men both. His is not a life designed merely for men to emulate, but for girls and boys, women and men to see and follow.

Here’s what that looks like.

Traits of Jesus’ Own Life

  • Getting emotional:

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept. (John 11:32-35.)

  • Having courage:

[T]hen he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” …

Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:7-8, 16.)

  • Being submissive:

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:41-42.)

  • Showing leadership:

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:16-18.)

These examples are not exhaustive, but give the picture that Jesus was not bound by expectations of masculinity or femininity – not in his own society and most certainly not by modern Western notions of those cultural constructs. And he said we will do the same and more.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. …

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:12, 25-26.)

We know what it looks like to follow the Holy Spirit who leads us in the way of Jesus. It looks like this:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23.)

Where is the masculine and feminine in that list? A better question is to ask where in that list are the traits meant solely for men and those meant solely for women.

You won’t find that type of delineation in the way God’s people are to live. He calls us to be Christ-like by the power of the Spirit of Christ within us. There are no masculine traits in your life in Christ, just as there are no feminine traits. All traits are of Christ, or they are not worth having at all.

So to say that someone is a Godly man or woman is not to say they are acting in a particularly masculine or feminine manner, but that they happen to be a man or woman who is acting in a Christ-like way led by the Spirit. The manner in which they act might even be identical: getting emotional, having courage, being submissive, showing leadership – each of these are traits of women and men who follow Jesus Christ. There’s nothing masculine or feminine about it.

All About Jesus

It’s all about Jesus and growing into the likeness of him.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18.)

Jesus spoke of the freedom he delivers to his people as well.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.(John 8:36.)

“Free indeed” gives the impression of being utterly, fully and irrevocably free. Jesus spoke of this freedom in the context of slavery to sin and reliance on legalism to claim righteousness., and ultimately to find they were relying on Satan and his ways. (John 8:31-47.)

This is what Paul addressed in his letter to the Galatians as well.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1.)

This freedom from the burden of slavery refers to the crushing burden of living according to the world’s ways as opposed to life in the Spirit of Christ, the life Paul mentions later in Galatians 5 (that is, the fruit of the Spirit quoted above).

Satan would rather you follow rules and the ways of the world rather then live in the freedom of the ways of Jesus.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8.)

Rules about masculinity and femininity are based on human tradition. They change from culture to culture, time to time.

  • Men kissing each other when greeting? Sure, in some parts of the world but not so much in others.
  • Women covering themselves head to toe to conceal all their skin from public view? Again, this is considered a requirement for women in some parts of the world but not in others.
  • And in some regions a wife walks several paces behind her husband to show that she is acting sufficiently feminine while he stays to the front to show he is sufficiently masculine.

What do they all have in common? Not one is found in the Bible as a requirement for women or men.

Remember: ideas of what is masculine and feminine are not biblical but cultural. That means they are human tradition and not of the Holy Spirit, destined to fail because they are not of Christ.

These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:17.)

What are you to do then as a woman or man of God? You are to follow the Spirit who leads both men and women to bear his fruit. Be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. These aren’t masculine or feminine.

These are Jesus.


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13 Responses to The Arrogance of Masculinity and Femininity

  1. Pingback: The Arrogance of Masculinity and Femininity – Tim’s Blog Just One Train Wreck After Another @tim_fall | Talmidimblogging

  2. JYJames says:

    Excellent post, Tim.When our son was on staff at an MSF hospital in a Boko Haram region, they would not venture out of the compound, but invented their own fun nights: salsa to a boom box, pasta competition (whose was best), BBQ, etc. He discovered he was pleased to have been raised in a family without gender-specific tasks: everyone mows the lawn, everyone cooks, etc. Refreshing, and now we have the theology to back this up. Appreciation.

    • Tim says:

      I grew up in the same type of home, JYJ. There was no such thing as women’s work or men’s work. We all learned to cook and mow the lawn and sew buttons on shirts.

      • JYJames says:

        Buttons on shirts. Cool.

      • JYJames says:

        About the arrogance of defined roles: For a time, we were in a church of a global icon of the Christian gender role movement. Never put this together before your post, but arrogance is a major factor. The pastor – stay out of my guy-pulpit; his wife – stay out of my lady-kitchen (and she is obese now in her guarded fenced-in kitchen sadly); their son – stay out of my PK domain, to other kids. The pastor won’t do dishes, the wife’s in stoic silence, the son’s a bully. A misguided unhappy family.

  3. Pingback: In Christ, a wall has been built between men and women? | Enough Light

  4. Thank you for this, Tim. I think it’s so helpful to be reminded that masculine and feminine expectations are culture-based and not a requirement for being a Christian or for looking like Jesus.

  5. Reblogged this on Funhouse and commented:
    My friend TimFall writes another beautiful thought-piece on full humanness.

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