I recently read a book called A Sword Between the Sexes?: C.S. Lewis and the Gender Debates and was struck by one of Lewis’ more egalitarian quotations. In a letter to Dorothy Sayers, he said, “I don’t like either the ultra masculine or the ultra feminine myself. I prefer people.”
What then is the substance of people’s common humanity?
We are image-bearers of God, an identity that gives us the capability to have relationship with God because in some mysterious way we are somehow like God already. For me, this has always been the evidence for why Christianity is inherently feminist: there is utmost equality between the sexes as they carry forth the good purposes of God in the world. But do we each carry the same and complete image? Or do we need the mosaic of the Christian body in order to see the image in its fullness as we each bring our facets to bear?
We have clouded our images by sin, so although we were created as holy people we are limited in our understanding, capability, and desire to the good to which we were called. Is this, though, what makes us human? And how then are we to understand Jesus becoming fully human? Was he also limited, cloudy, and finite within the nature of his humanity?
We are being restored in our images, through the work of Christ and the sanctification of the Spirit. We are not completely lost or helpless but need to constantly be reminded of our humanity, much as Paul did at the start of every letter by calling his audience “Saints.” Saints! Live up to your calling.
Picking back up on Lewis, the final thoughts I’m left with are these: if God is neither male or female, how do we understand that part of our image that seems not to find direct relationship with God? If Christ was neither wholly masculine or feminine, must we too strive to be gender ambiguous in becoming fully human, putting aside either being ultra-masculine or ultra-feminine? And if in the baptism of the Spirit we are neither male and female, are our gender/sex identities wholly inconsequential to what it means to be people?