This article is part 2 of 2 in the series Approaching Transgenderism

 

Ensure to read Part One before reading the below, as this continues from there.

Transgenderism – the challenge for Christians

So it is for this reason we need to engage this issue more thoroughly and thoughtfully than we have done so previously. This redefinition of the social fabric is something which is far more than a theoretical narrative but rather is something which will have wide-reaching ramifications for Christians, and specifically for those of us in ministry as we seek to shepherd our congregations. How are Christians to respond to not only transgenderism but to the gender deconstruction which is underpinning this shift?

That is evidently the question, and it’s a question that I’ve heard differing answers to. Perhaps for me, the most worrying has been the suggestion that we, Christians, should let go of binary differences as they are inconsequential to the message of the Gospel. Gender differences, this argument has gone, are not proscribed within scripture, so by not insisting on the differences stringently than we do not necessarily need to be up in arms about this moral shift.

I disagree.[1]I think it is perhaps helpful to emphasise that my theological framework as a ‘complementarian’ does inform the way I approach this. I do see distinctions of gender and sex within scripture, starting from the creation of Adam and Eve “as male and female” (Genesis 5:2). I also see scripture as teaching that males and females hold somewhat different roles, in specific areas, which are equal in the sight of the Lord and complementary in nature. That said, it is not my intention on giving a robust defence of complementarianism here, this is not the right place for it. Rather, I want to note that this understanding helps illuminate my thoughts when I approach the concepts of transgenderism and gender deconstruction.

In a time where society is beginning to argue that gender is a social construction, Christians need to reaffirm that gender and the differences between them are, rather, creation constructs. They form part of a structure that God created, in his manifold wisdom, in order for us prosper – through the serving, honouring and worshipping of Him. I would actually go further to argue that this intrinsic duality, or twoness, of gender is actually imperative to the understanding of the Gospel. For when we approach scripture, both old and new, it is evident that God refers to this gender distinctiveness metaphorically to describe the covenantal relationship between Himself (or Christ) as groom and the ‘other’, engaged in the covenant, as bride. (I.e. Yahweh and Israel in Isaiah 54:5, Hosea 2:7, and Joel 1:8 c.f. Ezekiel 16:8-14; Christ and the church in Ephesians 5:25-33, Mark 2:19-20, 2 Corinthians 11:2, and Revelation 19:7-9) Thus, we can see that gender distinctiveness is something that God uses to represent the bringing together of “opposites” – which is effectively the crux of the Christian message.[2]This is also illuminative to the traditional understanding of marriage, as it shows that for Christians, marriage, through this bringing together of “opposites” is a type and shadow of our eternal marriage, as members of the church, with Christ. As it is through the efforts of Christ, a true human who knew no sin, on the cross, that sinful man is brought into reconciliation with God. For it is through the covenantal marriage between Christ and the church, whereby His righteousness is imputed upon its members, and that we, who believe, are reconciled to God. This utilisation of binary gender then shows that it is through the bringing together of opposites (creator-creature; Christ-sinner) that one prospers. To simply dismiss this binary distinction that is embedded throughout the pages of the Bible is to underscore that God’s creational order is no either longer relevant or necessary. Any attempt to utilise Galatians 3:28 to this effect is just a poor hermeneutic which fails to take into consideration the overarching motifs of scripture.

Yet, if we are to reaffirm this duality of gender, with all of its connotations, then how do we witness and walk with those who struggle with transgenderism? By first understanding that we are all broken. The implications of original sin is that all of God’s good creation has been tainted by it, including us and our bodies. As such, we need to understand that we are not in our optimal state and that all of us, as a result of sin, fall far short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It is only through Jesus that we are redeemed and reconciled to God, not through any merit or action of our own (John 3:16 cf. Ephesians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 1:28-30).

We are all broken. Whether physically, mentally, or spiritually. This is why we need to approach this topic in complete and utter humility, knowing that we are just as broken as those who are struggling with the issue. It would be entirely disingenuous to think we are better, and this is why we need to be very careful and wary that we are not seduced into constructing a façade. That we have everything ‘down pat’ and that we are ‘above and beyond’ the capacity to sin. Instead, we need to remember that as our lives are no longer our own and have been purchased at a high price, that we need to reflect a life which has been affected by God’s grace, with a desire to demonstrate that grace to others. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 cf. Colossians 3:12-15; 1 Peter 2:12).

 

Walking with a transgendered individual

When walking with a transgendered individual, we need to approach the issue is a way which is redemptive. As in — how can we walk with this individual with the focus of helping them become reconciled to God? This means encouraging and helping them understand what it means to be a Christian as you would with any other individual that you would share the Gospel. Notice the emphasis on any other, because as I mentioned earlier (and I cannot stress this enough) transgendered people are just like us. We need to love them the same as we would love any other, we should walk with them as we we would any other, and we cannot, we must not, let ourselves think that these individuals are not worth it or beyond saving — thinking either of these or letting our own ‘personal’ sensibilities drive our attitude is completely and utterly ungodly.

Instead, approaching this redemptively means, broadly speaking, being able to share with them God’s word about who they are before a Holy and Sovereign God, what Jesus has achieved, and the necessity of repentance and faith. As we walk with them, and lovingly point them towards the actions achieved at Calvary, we need to fervently pray for the regeneration within them by God’s Spirit. And if, by the grace of God, this person does really want to give their life to God, we need to help them truly understand the impact of sin, which is the absolute rejection of God through the rebellion against Him as Lord and Creator.

It means helping them understand that God didn’t create sex or gender as malleable, but as ‘male’ and ‘female’. It means showing them that by following the individualistic philosophy of ‘we are whatever we want to be’, we are logically elevating ourselves as the God of our lives. It means demonstrating to them how we have spurred God in His own creation. By the guiding of these individual through such things, we must also point out what their identity is in Christ, and firmly help them understand, as Joshua Bovis states in his article, “Half Truths and Untruths“, that becoming a Christian requires nothing short of coming to Christ as you are and letting His truth transform you as you follow Him. This means helping them establish that their identity is not who they envisage themselves to be, but rather helping them assume a Christocentric identity with the idea that they are a ‘new creation’, a child of God, created in His image, to glorify Him (Ephesians 4:21-24 cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17).

This will mean that we will want to help reclaim their God-given identity, and this will mean that we will likely call them by their original name and identify them by their birth sex. Whilst this is not necessarily going to change the fact that this individual feels distressed regarding their gender identity, it will be our job to walk with them, to care for them, and to fundamentality demonstrate to them that peace does not come through anything we do but rather through what God has done, and who we are in Him. We need to help them to see that we are all living in bodies which have been tainted by the physical consequence of sin, as we all bear imperfections, conditions, and ailments. And in a fallen world, peace will never be fully felt nor seen here due to the constant discord that surrounds us, but it can be found in Christ and the hope we have through Him; knowing that all who believe will eventually have better, renewed, bodies; free from the discord they face here on earth.

Ultimately, walking with the individual will require the assistance of the Christian community, and all members should endeavour to help the individual feel included and accepted. As leaders particularly, we need to ensure that the Church steps up to the plate on this issue, and that they are willing to walk with the individual, to spur them on, to carry their burdens, and to help pick them up if the individual does stumble. Knowing and remembering that they are a fellow co-heir, a fellow imago dei, and exactly like ourselves in having to wrestle the sinfulness of our flesh, and the love and desire we having in following Christ.

 

Personal Reflections

I write this article as someone who has had to think and work through biblical response to this issue. Whilst the above may sound theoretical, it is not — Christians need to confront these issues as they will become increasingly visible in our culture as the social agenda of gender deconstruction advances.

My own experience with this issue is personal and was the motivating factor for why I have had to thoroughly think through this issue. Well over two years ago, my father revealed to me that he was undergoing treatment to help him transition to a female, which is what he ‘identified’ himself as. Due to being a Christian, I was one of the last individuals he informed. His fear: I would want to have nothing to do with him.

My response at that time was my that whilst I disagreed with his choice, it would not negate my love towards him, specifically as the individual that God, in his infinite wisdom, predestined to be my father. Through our conversations since, I have maintained this conviction and I am greatly relieved that neither he nor I have bought into the fictitious concept that love must be a positive affirmation of choice. It is not, and he understands that I love him despite my position on the issue.

Whilst, I would not hold up my own personal choice here as the only right path for Christians to take, I would certainly encourage Christians to think through the issue on how we can balance the truths of scripture with the love that we exhorted to display. It’s a complicated issue and there are no simple answers. Yet, just because there’s no easy answers, doesn’t mean that we should bypass the issue at hand. We need to remember that they are broken individuals like the rest of us, and are suffering the physical ramifications of sin. They are not any different, and they most certainly require the same love and respect that we would give anybody else. Love them as you would want to be loved, and point them to the cross as you would anybody else.

References   [ + ]

1.I think it is perhaps helpful to emphasise that my theological framework as a ‘complementarian’ does inform the way I approach this. I do see distinctions of gender and sex within scripture, starting from the creation of Adam and Eve “as male and female” (Genesis 5:2). I also see scripture as teaching that males and females hold somewhat different roles, in specific areas, which are equal in the sight of the Lord and complementary in nature. That said, it is not my intention on giving a robust defence of complementarianism here, this is not the right place for it. Rather, I want to note that this understanding helps illuminate my thoughts when I approach the concepts of transgenderism and gender deconstruction.
2.This is also illuminative to the traditional understanding of marriage, as it shows that for Christians, marriage, through this bringing together of “opposites” is a type and shadow of our eternal marriage, as members of the church, with Christ.