How Should We Understand Gender, Marriage and Family?
Allah created both male and female “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27, NET). So aspects of men and women equally reflect part of the Creator's nature. He is strong yet gentle, he defends and he nurtures, he is independent and social. In short, Allah is like both a good father and a good mother.
Furthermore, though the male was created first, and though men are physically stronger and often called to roles of religious, social, and economic leadership, in heaven marriage will disappear. There both men and women will become glorious angel-like beings (Matthew 22:30). For that reason, even here on earth, men and women are to Allah of equal value (Galatians 3:26-29). Isa showed mercy to repentant prostitutes (Luke 7:40-50; John 8:1-11) and even honored one (Matthew 26:13), but he was very harsh toward arrogant religious men (Matthew 23).
Going back again to the beginning, Allah made one man and one woman. That was his intent for marriage and sexual relations. During the years that followed, some believing men like Ibrahim, Yaqub, Dawud, and Samson had more than one woman or wife. But that was not Allah's intent, and such practices invariably involved trouble and sorrow. Isa al-Masih is clear about all this (Matthew 19:3-12).
Being so basic to creation, marriage and family are two of Allah's greatest gifts to us. The marriage bed is a wondrous and honorable thing (Hebrews 13:4), a near inexplicable physical and emotional unity where two become one in body and heart (Matthew 19:5-6). Another result, should Allah be so gracious, is the miraculous advent of children, new lives given to reflect, bless, and be blessed by the ones who brought them into being.
The world, damaged by sin, is not an easy place. For that reason, the great preacher tells how “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Marriage was Allah's plan before mankind fell into sin, and it remains his plan now. Because it is so important, and because we sinful people are so easily tempted to destroy his great gift, to protect us, Allah has much to say about protecting marriage. His design of one man and one woman makes divorce unacceptable except in cases of infidelity (Matthew 5:31-32). Likewise, God forbids adultery and premarital sex (Exodus 20:14; Proverbs 6:32; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 13:4), homosexual relations (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9), and bestiality (Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 18:23; Deuteronomy 27:21). Husbands are admonished to love their wife and not to treat her harshly (Colossians 3:19), while women are reminded to dress modestly in suitable apparel, adorning themselves with good deeds (1 Timothy 2:9).
In conclusion, the tremendous words of Isa's emissary Paul tell us how the wonder of marriage points to still greater wonders.
You husbands, love your wife just as al-Masih loved the community of believers. He gave up his life for her, and having thus washed her clean through his word, he made her pure and holy. (Ephesians 5:25-36)
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