As a staff kid at Elnora Bible Institute, I remember attaching myself to certain male students. The young men I looked up to treated everyone with respect. They could spike a volleyball hard and lift weights in the weight room, yet share moving songs and poems at talent night. They were men, and I was in awe.
Children relate differently to the young men and the young women around them. They gravitate to young women for hugs, holds, and band-aids when they’re hurt. But they turn to young men for adventure, to be whirled around in circles and to hear and tell exaggerated stories. Children love young women; they revere young men. It’s ironic that while our culture has worked so hard to erase the distinctions between male and female, kids still recognize the difference.
In this series, we’ve already highlighters the gender confusion of our culture and the need to reclaim and live out our distinct biblical callings as men and women. We’ve shared in-depth, personal descriptions of godly masculinity and femininity. But how does all of this play out in daily life? How do youth in particular embrace the roles God has given them to play as men and women?
Circles of Relationships
Imagine your relationships as a set of circles rippling outward from a core. In the very middle lie your relationships with your family and church, further out are your high school and Bible school friendships, and somewhere at the outer edges are the people you recognize and see once a month through your job. God’s design for manhood and womanhood affects each of these circles of relationships, but in differing amounts. The closer the circle, the more directly it is impacted, and the more potential it has to show the goodness and creativity of God’s design in creating male and female. When it comes to separate sets of instructions for men and women, the Bible speaks clearly concerning our most fundamental levels of relationship: the family and the church. Yet principles for how men and women are to relate in these basic societal structures can be applied more broadly to all of our relationship circles.
Although godly manhood and womanhood have already been defined in previous articles, I’d like to introduce two more descriptions from John Piper in his booklet What’s The Difference:
At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.
At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships1.
These definitions sum it all up. In every relationship, a godly man should ask the question, “How can I best lead, provide and protect?” And a godly woman will ask the question, “How can I affirm, receive and nurture?” For core relationships in the family and in the church, believers should already know the answers to these questions, or at least the principles behind the answers – they’re found in Scripture! Men, shepherd the church and the family. Love your wives. Be gentle with your children. Women, step back from leadership roles in the church. Submit to your husbands. Nurture your children. For broader relationships, the questions require more thought and discernment, and personal applications may differ.
Applications for Youth
Youth should be asking the same questions in their relationships. If you’re single, the answers to those questions will be a little different than if you’re married. You may answer them differently if you’re living with your parents than if you’re on your own. There’s no replacement for pondering how the questions apply to your unique situation, but here’s some ideas to get you started.
Guys, watch out for your sisters; help them figure out how to deal with male attention. Show them new skills that you’re learning. Honor your mom, and learn to identify and verbally appreciate her character traits. Girls, find non-sappy ways to compliment and affirm your brothers as they acquire skills and develop character. Give relationship advice if they want it and help them learn how to build appropriate relationships with girls. Ask your father’s advice on decisions you need to make, and respect his decisions and boundaries even if you disagree.
Guys, take the initiative to lead – even in youth group settings. Learn to guide a decision-making process while seeking input from every member of the group. Volunteer to lead out in times of worship, prayer, and outreach, even if it scares you. Observe how the leaders of your church deal with situations and identify good role models. Girls, encourage the guys to step out by asking for their input and thanking them when they do lead. Refuse to talk about guys in your youth group or leaders in your church in ways that tear them down. Seek advice and support from older women in the church.
Guys, hold the door open for girls! This tradition is a cultural remnant that shows respect and honor for women. Refuse to talk about, look at, or treat women in degrading ways, no matter how they’re dressed. Remember that every woman with whom you interact is created in the image of God, and look out for the well-being of these image-bearers. Girls, allow guys to help you in respectful ways. Don’t call men animals, and treat their ideas seriously. Remember that every man with whom you interact is made in the image of God, and respect that image in them.
Witness to the World
What if every believer lived out God’s design for their sex in each of their relationship circles? What if young Christian men everywhere sought to lead, provide for, and protect the women in their lives? What if young Christian women sought to affirm and nurture the men around them? Our culture has seen so few examples of real men and real women such a display of godly manhood and womanhood will undoubtedly be unsettling and will probably be misunderstood – yet it can ultimately be a powerful, redemptive witness to a broken culture of the goodness and grace of our God.
|Seth Lehman loves God, his bride, and cities, in that order. He and his wife, Heather, live in Bloomington, Indiana, where they frequent the coffee shops, sell at farmers’ markets, and seek to share God’s love with their friends and neighbors. Seth is a graduate student studying mathematics and working as a tutor at Indiana University, and he enjoys gardening, playing piano, and reading in his spare time.
 Piper, John. “What’s the Difference?” Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 1990. Web PDF accessed 13 June 2017. https://document.desiringgod.org/what-s-the-difference-en.pdf?1446648554