As Christians we believe that God has created us in His image, and male or female. But what does it mean to be male or female?

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27


When an egg is fertilised by a sperm, the resulting zygote has 46 chromosomes. These are in pairs and one of those pairs (known as the sex chromosomes) determines whether the baby is male or female. A female zygote has XX and a male zygote has XY. These chromosomes determine how the baby develops and what kind of reproductive system they have.

When a baby is born (or at a scan) whether it is a boy or girl is observed by looking at what external genitalia have developed. This was determined at conception by the sex chromosomes.

We see that the obvious difference therefore between men and women is the potential ability to either father children or to carry a child. But of course this does not mean that a woman who is unable to have children, or decides not to, is any less a woman and the same for a man. It is about what our bodies are designed to do.

Our chromosomes do not just affect our physical characteristics but all aspects of our bodies and brains.

Our chromosomes not only affect our physical characteristics but all aspects of our bodies and brains.  Because women are designed with the potential to carry and feed a baby, the body and brain are designed for this amazing role. Because children are vulnerable and mothers are often occupied in caring for them, men are designed to take care of their wives and children, and tend to be physically stronger to undertake this role.


OK, you might say, but surely that should not determine who we are, what we do, how we dress etc. – society often tells us that gender stereotypes are negative and harmful. This has certainly been true in the past when women were often stopped from doing certain things simply because they were female – they weren’t allowed to vote or work in certain professions. Men in the past were often considered superior.

We often hear people talk about female and male traits. For example, female traits are seen as things like sensitivity, gentleness, being caring or being attractive. Male traits may be seen as independence, aggression, strength and competitiveness. We can see that those traits seen as female are very beneficial to caring for a child and so it is not surprising that they are often seen in women, but that doesn’t mean that men cannot have those qualities as well.

The problem comes at two extremes, when a society either exaggerates these traits and makes us think that all men have to look and behave the same and all women have to look and behave the same; or a society attempts to erase all differences between men and women in the name of equality.

Good influences

So where should we get our ideas of what it means to be male or female? Friends, family, the Bible, social media, our culture? We can observe some older and more mature Christian men and women who are examples of godly manhood and womanhood  and we can study some of the men and women mentioned in the Bible. The woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31 is one example, as is the man Boaz in the book of Ruth, who demonstrated godly qualities such as taking responsibility and self-control as he cared for both his workers and his future bride, Ruth. Paul’s letter to Titus explains what is godly behaviour for men and women of all ages (Titus 2:1-6).

Who we are, and whether we are male or female, is rooted in who God created us to be.

We are influenced by those around us, especially during adolescence when we are discovering who we are as individuals. It is therefore vital that we seek good influences and not harmful ones.  Who we are, and whether we are male or female, is rooted in who God created us to be.