Play the Man You Are

Gender identity and gender expression are about God’s glory and about maintaining the God-created distinctions on earth that in turn point to the ultimate distinction between God and his bride.

All around us, mountains of God’s glory carved into the landscape of his world are eroding. Homosexuality and egalitarianism flatten distinctions between husbands and wives. Androgyny and effeminacy flatten vital sex expressions between men and women. But God made us distinctly male and female, and gave Eve to Adam (not vice versa), because he already conspired in his eternal plan to give the church to his Son. Our distinct manhood and womanhood, our marriages, and our human nature itself guide us to properly reflect the most precious reality in the universe: God’s glory shining forth in the good news of his Son.


Much of our modern sexuality pontificates with Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” (Exodus 5:2).

Some teachers can no longer say “boys and girls” in classrooms. In some school districts, young men can go into girls’ locker rooms simply with a note from a parent. Recently, actress Kate Hudson shared her plans to raise her daughter, Rani Rose, with a “genderless approach.” What a sad time to be alive. But not only sad: also dangerous and rebellious.

Into the gender confusion of our day, even razor companies are stepping forward to help groom the next generation into healthy expressions of masculinity. Therefore, Christians, of all people, need to be clear that brutality, passivity, complacency, and effeminacy miss the mark of manhood. Jesus Christ did not domineer, live disinterestedly, or act like a woman — and he is the model of God-honoring masculinity. But the inclusion of effeminacyin that list may prick some sensibilities today.

What’s at Stake?

Some will retort that effeminacy isn’t a problem. Nothing to fight against, nothing to repent of, and nothing that can keep anyone from heaven. The Bible condemns acts of homosexuality, they may acknowledge, but not effeminacy. We need not concern ourselves with separating one’s “gender expression” from his biological sex. We need not tell men they must dress a certain way and not another (Deuteronomy 22:5) or call them to “act like men” (1 Corinthians 16:13) — no such thing exists. I believe this all to be gravely mistaken.

As unclear as the distinctions may feel in any given culture, the word of God is surprisingly plain: those who gladly, consistently indulge in effeminacy as a lifestyle are in eternal danger (1 Corinthians 6:9, as we’ll see below). Love will dive headlong into the all sinful aspects of manhood to kill whatever sin Satan has tucked under the veils of cultural acceptance. And not mainly others’ sin but first and foremost one’s own. Much is at stake. Souls are at stake. We must gird up our loins, ask God for wisdom, take his words seriously, and seek discernment and courage together.

I too have had friends who practice homosexuality. I too have a transgender family member. I too know men who struggle with effeminate behavior. I desire for us all to find forgiveness and wholeness in Jesus. But our anti-masculine culture proudly does not. It robes them in rainbow flags and incentivizes men who suppress their God-given sex. And such teaching should find no quarters in the church. The likes of Clement of Alexandria, Philo, Josephus, Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, and Calvin all spoke against it. And in the name of love, we must too.

How Satan Covers Sins

Satan tries to obscure sins by rendering them nearly impossible to define. He smuggles effeminacy into the church by forbidding any specific definition. In the ancient world, effeminacy entailed a moral frailty (acting cowardly or “womanish” in battle), inordinate love for luxury (rendering men delicate and tender), and the sexual deviancy of acting like a woman in one’s demeanor, speech, and gesture. The Bible addresses each, describing men who “become women” on the battlefield (Jeremiah 50:37Nahum 3:13), go “soft” due to luxury (Matthew 11:7–9), and become sexually deviant (1 Corinthians 6:9). The term effeminacy is not an attack on femininity itself — which is a woman’s glory — but rather on femininity when attached to a male.

But as it pertains to today, Satan whispers confusions into modern ears. If one should give such traits to effeminacy as “lispy sentences, light gestures, soft mannerisms, and flamboyant jokes,” Satan immediately suggests a handful of men who, not having these qualities in the aggregate, have one individually. He lisps, but he isn’t effeminate; he just has a gap in his teeth. He has a softer demeanor, but he isn’t effeminate; he just is introverted and weak in tone. Instead of simply concluding (rightly) that such people aren’t effeminate, we conclude that these traits don’t really characterize effeminacy. We deny the existence of forests by examining each tree individually.

But effeminacy stands as an obvious forest to all honest men and women. The deception became clear to a friend recently when, after he nitpicked each individual trait, I asked plainly, “So you are saying that you cannot tell when a man lives an effeminate lifestyle?” Of course he could.

But how could he know? Was it merely personal preference? Prejudice? Cultural bias? An effeminate sixth sense?

No. He knew, because God has given us three guides: his word, human culture, and a sexual “nature.” God’s word gives us explicit instruction as to what makes a man, husband, father, and son. His word also gives us the clearest picture of mature masculinity: Jesus Christ.

God also gives us a culture to live in, which assigns masculine and feminine to certain amoral things like speech, objects, and behavior. American culture associates pink with women, as it does dresses (contra Scottish culture and William Wallace’s kilt), and expects heterosexual men not to walk down the street holding hands with another man (as heterosexual men often do in other cultures).

Finally, God gives us the compass of nature, or an intrinsic maleness that, weighing Scripture’s edicts and culture’s aesthetics, bids us to maneuver society in such a way as to express masculinity, not femininity. Paul mentions it to the Corinthian church this way: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14). Nature, as John Piper clarifies, “inclines a man to feel repulsed and shameful about wearing culturally defined symbols of womanhood.”

In Corinth, it disgraced a man to wear long hair. Men in the West know not to speak flamboyantly, gesture lightly, or wear lipstick because these exude femininity, not masculinity. But too many of us, out of normalization and compromise, have forgotten how to blush (Jeremiah 6:15). To us, those challenging iniquity are the ones to be ashamed.

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