Different By Design

Made In God’s Image


A tremendous toll is being taken on young men and women who do not know what it means to be a man or a woman. Confusion over the meaning of sexual personhood today is epidemic. The consequence of this confusion is not a free and happy harmony among gender-free person relationships on the basis of abstract competencies as the world promises. The consequence rather is more divorce, more homosexuality, more sexual abuse, more promiscuity, more social awkwardness, and more emotional distress and suicide that come with the loss of God-given identity.

There is confusion for an entire generation today. So many young men and women do not know who they are. They have never been taught what a man or woman is. Families are such a mess, in such disfunction, or nonexistent that many do not have a role model for being a man or woman today. Young men and women lack a road map for their lives.

This confusion has reached strongly into the area of sexuality. Our society is training people to think wrongly about gender and sexuality. Our society says that there is no essential difference between men and women. You can change your gender if you want and it is fine. You can be attracted to whomever comes most naturally to you — boys can like boys, girls can like girls. You have no responsibilities or calling that comes with being a man or a woman. But the gospel not only saves us, but it remakes us and helps us understand who we truly are and what we are called to be for God’s glory and our joy.

The Confusion

I want to help you get a sense of this confusion that is happening in the world today. A radical, fast moving current has been struck against the standard definitions of men and women, which we have especially seen in the few years. But let me share some examples of the gender confusion that is occurring right now.

On Facebook, you have three options for gender in your profile: male, female, and custom. By choosing custom, you can write in your gender, supposedly if you are not male or female.

You may have noticed that we have a new pronoun in the English language. No longer do we simply have “he” and “she.” We also have “ze.” “Ze” refers to someone who does not fit the gender binary.

I was watching the new Muppet show a couple weeks ago and one of the characters said, “Gender is fluid.”

Bruce Jenner received an award and media praise for courage because he decided to change his God given gender from man to woman.

An airport has this as its bathroom depiction: man, woman, baby, and then another image that appears to be half man and half woman (the image has half a dress on it).

Consider the change that has been made a Holyoke College admissions last year. Holyoke College has historically been an all-women college, created for back when the Ivy League colleges were men only. What is below is copied from Holyoke College’s website regarding admissions:

“Mount Holyoke College welcomes applications for our undergraduate program from any qualified student who is female or identifies as a woman. As a pioneer in higher education, Mount Holyoke remains committed to its historic mission of providing access to excellence for academically talented women regardless of socioeconomic background. The College values each student’s development, both academically and personally, and recognizes that self-identity may change over time.”

“Mount Holyoke remains committed to its historic mission as a women’s college. Yet, concepts of what it means to be a woman are not static. Traditional binaries around who counts as a man or woman are being challenged by those whose gender identity does not conform to their biology. Those bringing forth these challenges recognize that such categorization is not independent of political and social ideologies. Just as early feminists argued that the reduction of women to their biological functions was a foundation for women’s oppression, we must acknowledge that gender identity is not reducible to the body. Instead, we must look at identity in terms of the external context in which the individual is situated.”

“Mount Holyoke College’s policy on the admission of transgender students states that it welcomes applications for its undergraduate program from any qualified student who is female or identifies as a woman. Can you clarify “who is female or identifies as a woman”?

The following academically qualified students can apply for admission consideration:

Biologically born female; identifies as a woman

Biologically born female; identifies as a man

Biologically born female; identifies as other/they/ze

Biologically born female; does not identify as either woman or man

Biologically born male; identifies as woman

Biologically born male; identifies as other/they/ze and when “other/they” identity includes woman

Biologically born with both male and female anatomy (Intersex); identifies as a woman

The following academically qualified students cannot apply for admission consideration:

Biologically born male; identifies as man”

“5. If a transwoman decides, during her four years as a Mount Holyoke student, to change her mind and chooses a male gender identity, will she need to withdraw from the College? What about biologically female students who come to identify themselves as male?

No. Once students are admitted, the College supports them regardless of their sex or gender identity, which is consistent with our current practice.”

I bring all of this up, not so that we will mock this or roll our eyes at this, but to recognize the growing confusion that is happening today regarding gender and gender roles. The goal of this short lesson series is to bring clarity to the confusion that is happening in our culture today. We need to not only examine and teach what the scriptures say about men and women, but also win people over to vision of men and women that God intended by showing that following God’s way is a deeply satisfying grace of God. We are seeing that it is good for us to commit to God’s good design.

Ignoring The Evidence

There are two things that are fascinating about this shift in our culture. Of course, it is amazing that people refuse to turn to the handbook given to the created by the Creator about their identity and purpose. The place we need to go to learn about who we are and what it means to be a man or a woman is to the God who created us. We will consider the scriptures on this in just a moment for this is truly all that matters. But it is also of interest to consider that our culture has even rejected scientific and psychological studies on this.

For example, the cover of Time Magazine on January 20, 1992 read, “Why are men and women different? It isn’t just upbringing. New studies show they are born that way.” What a breakthrough idea that men and women are born different! Our culture has tried very hard over that last few decades and particularly these last few years to erase our differences. Culture has tried to make men to be more like women, and women to be more like men. But all we need to do is simply look at a man and look at a woman to observe a staggering amount of differences.

These kinds of studies have been going on for years and the conclusions are that men and women are born different. Paul McHugh, the chief psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and is not a Christian and is clearly extremely intelligent since he is the chief psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said this:

“Transgenderism is a ‘mental disorder’ that merits treatment, that sex change is ‘biologically impossible,’ and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.”

“Transgender surgery is not the solution for people who suffer a “disorder of ‘assumption’” – the notion that their maleness or femaleness is different than what nature assigned to them biologically.

He also reported on a new study showing that the suicide rate among transgendered people who had reassignment surgery is 20 times higher than the suicide rate among non-transgender people. Dr. McHugh further noted studies from Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic of children who had expressed transgender feelings but for whom, over time, 70%-80% “spontaneously lost those feelings.”

“While the Obama administration, Hollywood, and major media such as Time magazine promote transgenderism as normal,” said Dr. McHugh, “these policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention.”

“The pro-transgender advocates do not want to know,” said McHugh, “that studies show between 70% and 80% of children who express transgender feelings ‘spontaneously lose those feelings’ over time. Also, for those who had sexual reassignment surgery, most said they were ‘satisfied’ with the operation ‘but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery.’”

“And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs,” said Dr. McHugh.

The former Johns Hopkins chief of psychiatry also warned against enabling or encouraging certain subgroups of the transgendered, such as young people “susceptible to suggestion from ‘everything is normal’ sex education,” and the schools’ “diversity counselors” who, like “cult leaders,” may “encourage these young people to distance themselves from their families and offer advice on rebutting arguments against having transgender surgery.”

Dr. McHugh also reported that there are “misguided doctors” who, working with very young children who seem to imitate the opposite sex, will administer “puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous – even though the drugs stunt the children’s growth and risk causing sterility.”

Such action comes “close to child abuse,” said Dr. McHugh, given that close to 80% of those kids will “abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated…”

“’Sex change’ is biologically impossible,” said McHugh. “People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”

In short, our culture is choosing to ignore what psychiatrists and psychologists are learning through studies. We will recklessly disregard the truth in order to continue to destroy what it means to be a man or a woman.

What The Creator Says

But what really matters is what our Creator taught. Genesis 1:27 makes clear:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 ESV)

Males and Females

The word translated “man” does not mean males, but humans (cf. NRSV, NIV, NET, NLT). All people, male and female, were created in the image of God. Notice that there are not other options. There is not a third choice. God made males and God made females. Psychologists have learned what God decreed from the beginning. Gender change is biologically impossible. In future lessons we will discuss what it means to be a man or woman according to the scriptures. But for now, let us accept what God says that you were made to be a man or made to be woman. This is what we must accept.

In the Image of God

But it is the rest of the sentence that changes everything. “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NRSV). You were made in the image of God. What does it mean that we were made in the image of God?

(1) We are different than animals. In Genesis 1:24-25 we see that all the living creatures have been created. Yet, God is doing something different when he creates humans. Humans will be made in the image of God. The animals are not. Therefore, animals are not equal to humans. We intrinsically know this, though we seem to be forgetting this truth lately. If I am having financial trouble and I need to cut back on expenses, no one is going to say that I should get rid of my wife to save money. We will get rid of the fish or dog. Even though my spouse costs more and my children cost more, we recognize that there is a difference in human life versus animal life. We must never lose sight of this. Animals are not equal to humans. Humans are not animals.

(2) We have an identity. Who we are is defined by the fact that God made us. We are not defined by our desires. We are not defined by gender. We are not defined by sexuality. This is the problem with our culture right now: everyone is trying to understand who they are through their desires, gender, or sexuality. This is a false identity that will lead to disappointment. Our identity is in the Lord who created us and we must seek our value and purpose in him.

(3) We have a purpose. You and I are made in the image of God. There has been a lot of discussion about what this means. But we can understand that we are made in the image of God by taking a very simplistic point of view. I am sure there is much more to the idea that we are made in the image of God. But at minimum we can understand this: an image represents what it is made after, drawing attention to whom the image reflects. For example, what is the purpose of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.? If you have been to that memorial, you will see an enormous statue of Lincoln inside the memorial. What is the purpose of this image of Lincoln? The image itself is not important. The image is to draw people’s attention to Lincoln, the person for whom the image was made. In the same way, we are made in the image of God. This means we have a purpose to draw attention to the Lord who made us in his image. Ancient Near Eastern kings placed images of themselves in the far off provinces of their kingdom, which told everyone that the land was part of his kingdom. We are images placed in God’s kingdom, serving the same purpose while we live on this earth. You are not the point. I am not the point. I want to be the point. We want to be the point on the job. We want to be the point in our marriage. We want to be the point in our homes. But none of us are the point. God is the point and he is why we are here! Until we understand this, we will continue to suffer identity confusion.


This is the point that the scriptures draw for us. We are here so that we show God to the world around us. Listen to the apostle Paul as to why we are to put on a new self and have life transformation for the Lord:

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:8–10 ESV)

This is the basis of our study in this series. We are different by design. We are made in the image of God. With this knowledge we can cut through the confusion about who we are and why have been put here on this earth by God. We are not to transform ourselves into what we think we should be but into what God has called us to be.

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