The general understanding of relationships in modern American culture has a decidedly naturalistic flavor to it. We see this dramatically on display in the confused beliefs being asserted regarding gender identity, the attempt to hyphenate marriage, the beliefs about sex which make it nothing more than an animal pleasure, and the low regard people have for other human beings in all areas of life. None of these perverted expressions of relationship come out of a Christian worldview understanding of the nature of humanity. Naturalism, however, sees human beings as nothing more than animal creatures with highly evolved brains. As such, Naturalists consider that relationships can be had with other persons, creatures and things, and that they are based on natural desire and nothing more.
A Christian worldview, however, is based on teachings about humanity which are found in the Bible. Thus, it has an entirely different understanding of human nature. This different understanding brings with it a different interpretation about the nature of relationships.
Based on biblical teachings, human relationships with other people are unique and special. They are interactions where persons self-consciously interact with other self-conscious individuals. This is different than the way relationships are expressed by other living creatures because human beings have a spiritual part which is not present in any other animal. Purely animal relationships are based solely on instinctual factors because non-human animals do not have this spiritual part. Human to human relationships are also different than the relationship a human might have with a pet, as the self-conscious aspect of that interaction can only go one way. Human relationships are unique because humans are unique.
The Origin of Human Relationships
The uniqueness of human relationships lies in the fact that human beings are person’s created in the image of God. We are not persons because we are human. We are persons because God is a person and he created us in his image. By God creating us this way, we have the personhood characteristics of God himself. This does not imply that we are gods or even that we have the personhood characteristics to the same degree God has them. We do have them, though, to a degree that allows us to legitimately be considered persons. These personhood characteristics include such attributes as knowledge, creativity, personality, free will, gender, eternalness, dominion, and self-conscious. All of these are special in that they define personhood, which make us different than all other animal creatures.
Interestingly, one of these characteristics, as it exists in human beings, is particularly unique because of the limitations of our humanity. As a Trinity, God is a single being who exists in three separate persons (three separate centers of consciousness). Thus, God exists as a being who has no counterpart in all of eternity and whose totality cannot even be held within the constraints of the material creation. The particular characteristic which expresses the self-conscious relationship that the members of the Trinity have with one another is gender. All of the aspects of gender exist within the person of God and is the part of his personhood which is responsible for him being a relational person.
The Nature of Human Relationships
Lest the concept of gender be misunderstood, we must define it a little more carefully. In human existence, because we live in a temporal environment which does not allow for the full expression of eternal possibilities, gender is known based on the categories of male and female. That said, the essence of gender is not physical. It has a physical expression in humanity, but the characteristic itself is spiritual.
Because of the limitations of the temporal physical environment we live in, the expression of gender is limited within humanity. We are not Trinitarian creatures like God. We are mortal beings with limits, and a part of the limitation affects how gender can be expressed in an individual.
Gender is the characteristic which causes persons to desire self-conscious relationships with other persons. But since we are individual beings, rather than a single being which contains multiple persons (as is God), each individual human is limited to only a portion of the gender characteristic – either male or female.
Because of the existence within us of this aspect of our personhood, we are naturally drawn to self-conscious relationships with other people. The fact God desires that human beings interact with one another in human relationships is another way that we are made aware of the high value God places on the individual. This should make us ever more determined to value others by our relationships.
The Marriage Relationship
In humanity, the gender characteristic has another unique quality. This is the only personhood attribute that God put in human beings where every individual did not get the whole thing. As mentioned above, the entirety of the gender characteristic is found in God. In human beings, however, he put one part in females and another part in males.
The fact that every human being has this gender characteristic makes self-conscious relationships between persons, in a general sense, a possibility. The fact that human beings only have a portion of it, though, creates a different kind of relationship dynamic between the two sexes. This causes us to be particularly drawn to a relationship with members of the opposite sex. This dynamic provides the platform for the marriage relationship which is completely unique. God created mankind in a way so that the marriage between a man and a woman is able to combine the two aspects of gender found in humans, and put them together in a way that completes them both. This is what is referred to in Scripture as a husband and wife becoming “one flesh” (see Genesis 2:24). To some degree, though not completely, this actually imitates the relationship that exists within the Trinity itself.
The result of this is that marriage between one man and one woman is a special and unique relationship. Attempts to hyphenate marriage as homosexual-marriage, polygamous-marriage, and the like, are counterfeits which do not express the true nature of the gender attribute.
Humanity in Relationship with God
But the most important reason human beings were given the gender attribute is to draw us to a relationship with God. The gender characteristic is the self-conscious relationship attribute and is held by all persons. As God is a person and we were created to be persons, we have the ability to engage a self-conscious relationship with him. In fact, the reason God created mankind in the first place was so this kind of relationship might happen. He put this characteristic within us so that we would have a desire for relationship with him. As God is the actual source of relationship, it is only in a relationship with him that we find the highest level of relational fulfillment. When we invite Christ into our lives, God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, actually enters our bodies and connects his Spirit to ours. There is no more fulfilling relationship than to be connected with God, the very source of our need to exist in relationship.
The fact that we have the gender characteristic at all is a miracle beyond description. The fact that it draws us to self-conscious relationships with other human beings is also a wonder. Beyond that, the special depth of relationship that it provides in marriage creates a level of personal fulfillment that goes beyond any other human relationship.
But even more amazing than all of the others is the fact that it provides us the ability to know a personal relationship with the King of kings and Lord of lords – the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists. As we connect in relationship with him, the very purpose of our existence has the opportunity to be expressed. In this relationship, we find the greatest fulfillment it is possible for us to know. What a tremendous privilege we have!
© 2014 Freddy Davis