Christians in the early church were known for their love of one another. The same should be said of Christian men today; they should be known by their love. Authentic Christian manhood is found in behaviors that reflect the character of Jesus in ways that “seek to support rather than dominate women, empower rather than control younger men, and mentor and complement rather than compete with other men” (J. O. Balswick 1992, 212).
Coparenting: The Need for Mothering and Fathering Children who live in coparented families have the best of all worlds since they have the presence and involvement of two parents in their lives. Couples who share parenting and household roles experience a high degree of marital happiness, whereas couples who both work but do not share roles at home experience distress. The commitment coparents make to work through
various issues about gender-specific parenting and household roles teaches their children about mutual respect, gender equality, and cooperation. Coparenting not only enhances the marital bond but also sends a clear message to children that the parental bond is strong.
A coparenting model begins with the assumption that parenting responsibility should be shared. That is, parenting obligation resides with both mothers and fathers. While recognizing that the mother may have an initial advantage in emotional connectedness through birthing and nursing, fathers can compensate by making special efforts to bond with children. Part of this ownership of parenting emphasizes that mothers and fathers contribute equally to parenting, and this contribution is based on being a father or mother. In other words, mothers and fathers make unique parenting contributions to the children. Coparenting will happen only if parents intentionally move toward collaborative parenting, in which fathers are open to learning tasks traditionally reserved for mothers and mothers allow fathers to learn “on the job,” resisting the urge to intervene.
Fathers who become involved in the parenting process find that their socio-emotional and relational sides develop. This has a positive effect on sons as well, for when fathers set an example of expressing their feelings, their sons also become more expressive. In contrast to the world of work outside the home, where decisions are expected to be based on the rational rather than the emotional, taking care of children inclines men to consider personal and emotional issues, which will affect their work roles as well.
If we take seriously the evidence suggesting that modern society has become increasingly cold, heartless, and impersonal, then the need for the family to be an intimate, nurturing, and caring environment becomes even more obvious. Parents who do daily battle in this impersonal and heartless society often return battered and bruised to the confines of their self- contained, emotionally isolated nuclear family. At the same time, the cultural move toward modernity—extended families, neighborhood networks, community embeddedness—has largely eroded social supports for family members. That is, these aspects of modern family life are commodities that the family purchases to fulfill the needs of the children. This economic approach undermines the premodern emphasis on communal identity. The result is that the nuclear family is often the sole source for meeting its members’ emotional needs.
Coparenting is the ideal arrangement for parents, children, and society. Having both parents actively engaged in the parenting responsibilities provides same- and opposite-gender modeling for children. They are able to see authentic, caring, and discipling male and female examples as they grow and learn. Children are able to internalize these models and the positive emotional experiences they provide and pass them on to others.
Sharing the parenting responsibilities and privileges allows men and women to engage in their God-ordained roles as mothers and fathers. It brings balance to the home after a long day’s work and school, providing the family with a safe emotional haven in which to recoup. Coparenting challenges and equips men to father in a more emotionally intimate manner and challenges mothers to take on leadership roles in decision-making and discipline. For both women and men, coparenting models for children the self-sacrificial leadership of Jesus Christ.
A Concluding Comment True Christian womanhood and manhood are not mere reflections of traditional definitions of femininity and masculinity. To help achieve the ideal of true manhood and womanhood, cultures can continue to recognize the distinctions between men and women and at the same time encourage individuals to meet their potentials and goals in life through equal opportunities and responsibilities. Scripture proclaims, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). The essential question that we should be asking is at what point our cultural norms prevent both men and women from becoming the fully human persons God intended them to be (Fee 2005). Women and men are both in need of liberation from the gender stereotypes that have hindered growth in personhood. It is important to define gender roles in family life that encourage males and females to flourish and be empowered.
It is important for us to grasp the intentions God had in mind in creating humanity as distinctly male and female (Gen. 1–2). In her essay “Toward Reconciliation: Healing the Schism,” Alice Matthews (2005) credits David Scholer with noting that the biblical text that one chooses for one’s starting point in the study of a doctrine or issue in Scripture becomes the lens through which one looks at all other texts. The difference between the two positions
reflects a difference in hermeneutics—which is determining, through careful exegesis, the original intent of Scripture and applying it to contemporary life. Both positions recognize that culture can bend or alter gender distinctions in ways that the Creator did not intend.
Currently, the Christian community is far from united in its evaluation of the change in gender roles; some Christians say that women should return to their rightful place in the home, while others argue for increased participation by women in all occupations, including the ordained ministry. John Stackhouse (2005) attempts to reconcile these two evangelical positions by suggesting that both sides are wrong—and right! First, egalitarians need to concede that in some of his writing “Paul is maintaining a patriarchal line” (68). Stackhouse goes on to remind his “complementarian friends that the task is to make sense of all that Paul says, including the apparently equalitarian verses, some of which appear in the same passage” (68). He suggests that, for a reason similar to why Paul did not directly write against the practice of slavery (see Philemon), he at times did not directly write against the patriarchal structure of New Testament times. Stackhouse presents two principles in his paradigm: first, “men and women are equal in every way” (35), and second, “some things matter more than others” (38).
Once again, our theology of relationships is pertinent. Men, women, and children benefit from interacting with one another in a cycle of covenant, grace, empowerment, and intimacy. There must be a joint commitment to one another in a covenant of love working toward the goal of equality. This entails a willingness to forgive and be forgiven of the oppression and antagonism that have existed between the sexes. It takes grace to acknowledge and accept differences of opinion in this area. Other elements are mutual serving and empowerment. Finally, men and women will achieve intimacy in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships as they become free to know and be known by one another. This requires communication and a desire to understand the other so that we may cherish and value who we are as brothers and sisters in Christ. As we become fully developed men and women, others will know that we are Christians by our love for one another.
Becoming an Authentic Sexual Self
Becoming an authentic sexual person begins with an understanding of who God created us to be as sexual persons. How we behave sexually certainly influences how we define ourselves as sexual beings and vice versa. However, an understanding of what it means to be created as sexual persons in God’s image involves much more than a simple assent to or an ability to live according to specified behavioral standards.
Sexuality includes such factors as biology, gender, emotions, thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, and values. The word authentic is defined as “real, genuine, believable, and trustworthy” (Balswick and Balswick 2019). We use the term to indicate that sexuality is meant to be a congruent and integral part of a person’s total being. Our sexuality must be a real, genuine, believable, and trustworthy part of ourselves, so that we can embrace what God has created and declared to be “very good.”
Our sexuality is a product of God’s design, but it bears the taint of our fallen nature. In a multitude of ways, this good gift of sex has become perverted and warped in our world. The interplay of societal attitudes and beliefs, cultural structures, and biological factors shapes the inauthentic sexuality inherent in our fallen human condition. In this chapter, we examine some societal and cultural influences on the development of our sexuality. We also present some ideas on how Christians can become more authentic in their sexual personhood and expression.
Societal Attitudes toward Sexuality Human sexuality is profoundly affected by prevailing societal attitudes. The predominant attitude in the United States has changed throughout history. Our
past is often regarded as a time when sexuality was repressed; our modern society, by contrast, attempts to throw off all sexual inhibitions.