“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 ESV)
Love the hurting
We have a saying around Bethel, if we have to err on any side let’s err on the side of love. I personally think this has great application with people struggling not just with gender but same-sex attraction or the brokenness of past gender/sexual sin.
Should we refer to a transgendered individual by their preferred gender pronoun? Personally, I think we should. There is the air war here and the ground war. The air war is the big ideological/theological/cultural/political battle for which Christians must be courageous and stand for truth. We will increasingly be the minority saying, there are two genders. Someday that may get you jailed.
But the person you work with or live next to or meet in church is not a global ideologue. They are simply a person living their life. Not all struggle, but many do. One study says that after a sex change operation an individual is 20 times more likely to commit suicide. Real people are really hurting.
Your relationship with them is not a battleground, it’s a relationship. I would recommend calling them by whatever they would like to be called. Refusing to do so will tell them you reject them at the personal place of their self-identity. Take a deep breath. It will be OK.
The goal is to see all the dysphorias every sinner has redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus died for sins that flow from sexual identity confusion too. If Jesus was willing to bear it on the cross, we should be willing to bear with it too—not normalizing or affirming—but redeeming by the power of God and the gospel. The gospel offers to the gender bending or gender breaking the possibility of being a new creation. A new person. A new primary identity not in gender but in my relationship with Christ.
I’ll give you one example—Rosaria Butterfield. She was a very liberal, feminist, lesbian professor at Syracuse University. She was teaching and promoting that whole ideology. But she happened to live next to a Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) pastor and his family who invited her to dinner, so she would come over for dinner occasionally. They were nice to her and it was a pleasant experience, but they would have their family devotions and she would just sort of sit there and “endure” that, but guess what happened over time? She saw in the way that they were living, and the way that they were loving, and the way that they were relating to each other something that was appealing, and God used their neighborliness and their Christian hospitality to win her to Christ.
And Rosaria Butterfield today is married to a pastor. I mean what could be better than that? She’s written books and speaks all over the country. God is using her in tremendous ways. Out of a lesbian, feminist, university setting and into an identity with Jesus Christ. Oh that we would be that kind of church and that all of us individually in all our places would connect with people going through all kinds of manner of dysphoria and pain and brokenness where we love them, we’re neighborly to them, and we live out our faith before them—which is a better way to live because it’s the way that God ordained. Christian neighboring and Christian hospitality and gospel mission should produce this sort of welcoming.
“When we meet someone who is struggling, we meet ourselves—and we should lovingly point them toward the same truth we’d want them to leverage for our encouragement. That especially includes the truth that making choices against God’s Word won’t bring ultimate joy, peace, or fullness of life” (Todd Wagner).
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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