Loving Our Neighbors, Telling the Truth about Identity and Gender
There is no “silver bullet” when it comes to navigating tough conversations or helping those struggling with gender dysphoria. At the same time, to avoid the topic is to not help people at all, which is simply not an option for followers of Christ.
John StonestreetKasey Leander
The questions we receive more than all others have to do with how best to respond to friends, family members, and neighbors who struggle with gender dysphoria. The rational case for humans as either male or female is strong, as are arguments from history, biology, law, and theology. However, arguments that would’ve been considered obvious not that long ago often seem to go nowhere with someone desperately reaching for answers or affirmation.
The number of Americans who report personally knowing someone who struggles with gender dysphoria now approaches 50%. Thus, Christians should be prepared, as best as we can, for these scenarios which we are now more likely to encounter than not. When unprepared, too many Christians simply go quiet, and in the process, go along with transgender ideology—not because they believe it but because rocking the boat seems too risky. Rather than truly loving our neighbors, something admittedly difficult, we instead choose the easier path of not offending and only affirming. We then name that path “love,” but it’s neither loving nor true.
The story of Holy Scripture, in each of its four chapters, contextualizes what is true about every person, including the created reality of sexual distinction. First, that God created and values our bodies, which are made male and female for His purposes. Second, the Fall, while validating the pain and discomfort that many people feel within their own bodies, dispels the idea that what we feel should be accepted as true. In fact, it may be false, confused, and harmful. Third, that Christ is making all things new through His life, obedience, death, and resurrection, all of which came by God Himself taking on a human body. Fourth, one day the pain of dysphoria will be fully healed when our faith becomes sight.
The topic of transgenderism requires, first and foremost, theological clarity. Children must hear, over and over, God’s design for sexuality and the body articulated. If they haven’t heard it, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn how many struggle in silence.
It is important to understand that there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to navigating tough conversations, changing someone else’s mind, or helping those struggling with gender dysphoria. At the same time, to avoid the topic is to not help people at all, which is simply not an option for followers of Christ. Right now, we need better thinking on this set of issues, as well as mutual support (especially for parents), lots of prayer, and to share as many stories of wisdom as we can find.
For example, I recently learned of a pastor’s experience when a couple brought their daughter to Sunday School with a note that requested the church respect her identity as “non-binary.” The child was only 5 years old at the time, but the parents explained that she identified as a boy and asked the church to comply.
An easier path would have been to simply accommodate the request or ask the family not to return. Instead, the church chose the more difficult way of truth and love. First, the children’s ministry team expressed welcome to the family, saying, “We want your child here, and we want her to learn about Jesus.” However, because of biblical standards of identity and sexuality, they’d be unable to allow their daughter to use an opposite-gender restroom and could not commit to her preferred pronouns. They would, however, use her preferred name. The parents agreed, even signing their daughter up for VBS that summer.
“This little girl needs to hear about Jesus,” the pastor said later, “but to do that, we can’t just live in the moment. We need an eye to the future to ask, ‘OK, Lord, where does this path lead us?’ We don’t want to do anything where we have to course correct.”
James calls followers of Christ to be, “gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Silence might be easier, and we may not always agree with everything a church or leader does when navigating our culture’s most difficult issues. However, we must take the posture of engaging the issues—not avoiding them—and especially of engaging people with truth and love as Christ did.
Focus on the Family has compiled a list of resources on gender identity and transgender ideology, and the Restored Hope Network also has compiled a helpful list of books, articles, and other resources. And remember, God promises wisdom to those who ask for it. Let’s ask for it.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Kasey Leander. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to colsoncenter.org.
Note: If you have examples of Christians walking through transgender issues faithfully, we’d love to hear about them. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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