Following the call
Snowman. Garbage man. Manhole cover. Mankind. I remember when these words used to be innocent. They were nouns, nothing more.
Fast-forward to today. The words still have their same meaning. There are no strange connotations. Yet, overnight it seems, the simple presence of “man” has made them a political statement.
Opinions are strong: There’s no right for our language to put men over women. Defaulting to the masculine diminishes the importance of women, insinuating prejudice every time they are used. Men and women are equal, so we need to be gender-neutral when we speak.
But when was the last time we consulted the Scriptures on this?
As Christians, the Word of God should be our foundation. If we claim to follow God, then our doctrines, habits and even opinions should be subject to what He has revealed to us about Himself and His views. These include current controversial issues regarding gender.
It may not be a popular opinion.
Though we would like to believe that societal roles created the language with which we now speak, the fact is that referring to everything in a masculine way didn’t come about through men dominating themselves over women.
Genesis 1:26 quotes God: “Let Us make man in Our image…let them have dominion…” In Hebrew, the masculine “adam,” man or mankind, is used. (The feminine form, “adamah,” means ground.) What?! God referred to a group of mixed company (man and woman) in the masculine form!
This isn’t a singular usage of a male term indicating both genders, or referring to both genders from a masculine point of view. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17). “Only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham “ (Gal. 3:7).
It can be found all over the Bible, and it’s not unique to English and Hebrew.
Many languages reflect a distinction between male and female. In most of these, default falls to the masculine side. Take Spanish, for example. Niña + niño = niños. Nosotras + nosotros = nosotros. Groups of mixed gender default to the male term.
Before we get upset, we need to remember that this has to do with the distinction God made at the Beginning. “Male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). We were made to be different. We were made to take different roles. Our physiques bear constant witness to this.
So does the order that God set up at the Fall.
“To the woman He said:…your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). As Scripture later indicates in Ephesians 5, this does not mean a harsh dominion. It is supposed to reflect the relationship of Christ and the Church.
The point, however, isn't diminished. God set the husband over the wife.
Though we try to reason away things in the Bible that we don’t like, we need to remember that we’re not God. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:9).
God knows what's best. He created us differently. He set an order. The Flood, Babel and 4,000 years haven’t reduced the testimony persisting in language and social structure around the world.
What if we stop trying to erase what God has ordained and instead learn to trust Him in it and rejoice in our differences?
Ginger Hany is a senior studying biomedical science