“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
If I had a quarter for every time I’ve read/heard of this verse being used as biblical support for the gender binary, I would have a few hours worth of pinball jangling merrily in my pockets. My two humble years of biblical scholarship with a personal focus on gender and gender roles have drawn me back to Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:22-24, and Galatians 3:28 (among many others) over and over again. I know that God created the male and female sexes for a reason, I know what the Bible has to say about gender roles, and I believe that the book is the inspired word of God. I also know that the Bible was recorded by at least 40 authors, across two millennia, containing errors, inconsistencies, and incongruous cultural concepts. This doesn’t detract from the holiness or authority of the message of Scripture, but rather bolsters the idea that God is deeply involved with the messy and disjointed human experience. I also happen to believe that God transcends Scripture, human understanding, and even the gender binary.
Despite my recent departure from most things evangelical, I am still enthusiastically Trinitarian. For most of my life, the Trinity was this grand concept that I was vaguely aware of, but never fully understood. I knew that God was Father, Jesus was Son, and Holy Spirit was the one with the neat byproducts, but wasn’t quite sure how they were interrelated. My lacklustre Bible college career aided greatly in broadening my understanding of trinitarian theology in both the macro, cosmic sense and in relation to my own life. I won’t attempt to dazzle you with my knowledge of the former, but will instead relay my feelings about the latter.
In previous posts, I’ve touched on my experiences as a Christian, non-binary person. Because of closed interpretations of Bible verses like the one previously quoted, I used to believe that the term “*insert LGBTQ label* Christian” was an oxymoron and squashed down my own queerness into the tidy, “biblically” prescribed box marked “lady”. I’d heard repeatedly in discussions and sermons on gender on Sunday mornings and Thursday youth nights that I was made in God’s image. According to my mentors and influences, being made in God’s image means that there are precisely two, clearly defined options and anything that deviates is a slap in God’s face/a rejection of God’s image/unnatural. This is an uncomfortable way to think about God, especially when you consider how diverse a being the Trinity actually is. I think that if God is as big and powerful as we want to believe Him to be, then claiming that male and female are the completion of His image in man is a little bit underwhelming.
We are made in the image of a God who is Three and One. The Father (or Mother, depending on who you’re talking to) who possesses and exceeds the characteristics that define masculinity and femininity. Holy Spirit, who is the prime creative force, the comforter and friend, the intercessor between God and people. And Jesus, the historical and eternal, interacting with humanity as a radical teacher of love and acceptance who gave all of Himself on our behalf. When I look at the Trinity, I don’t see a gender binary that is evident or must be adhered to. Only truth, goodness, grace, and love. The only dichotomy is that of the realm of the divine colliding with the realm of the human. In fact, the more I try to understand God, the less I feel that gender has any relevance in His kingdom. Paul said it himself in Galatians 3:28.
I find great comfort knowing that I am made in the image of this God and that He loves me as I am. It is what propels me to know Him more, to embrace myself, and to make room for others. The world is too diverse and beautiful a place to force each other into boxes. Maybe it wouldn’t kill us to reconsider why we do it in the first place.
Have a listen to this delightful tune. Pretty well sums up my feelings on the topic.