Holy Sex: Navigating Transgenderism as Jesus Would
We are continuing in our Holy Sex series, looking at God’s good and beautiful design for our sexuality.
And I have to admit, I am eager to finish this series—as it has been personally challenging to write (with such a diverse group of ages).
So I do plan on finishing this series soon, and then starting a new sermon series on Joy, Happiness, Peace, and Contentment, looking at the book of Philippians. Perhaps we need that series after this series.
but at the same time, I have been encouraged by this series—reminded that God’s design for our sexuality and gender is good. even if it doesn’t always feel good for some of us or people we know.
In addition, I have had more people in our church and community contact me about this series than any other series I have ever preached. And the vast majority is overwhelmingly positive and includes incredibly thoughtful and sensitive questions.
I have also appreciated just how many people in this church have reached out to me and Jamie personally, expressing prayers for us and our family during this series (and for Logan and and Regan). Because we know that we have a real spiritual enemy—the devil and the kingdom of darkness.
so next week—we will take a break and have graduation Sunday where we celebrate our high school seniors—Logan will be preaching.
And then I will spend two more weeks only (I mean it—wrapping up this series), really trying to challenge some deep themes or values behind the culture’s view of sexuality.
Today, we are going to talk about the difficult, challenging, and now ever-present topic of Transgenderism.
It is the T in the LGBTQ+ acrononym.
probably most of us really became aware of the issue at a societal and popular culture level back in 2015 when on the cover of Vanity Fair— Olympic icon Bruce Jenner identified now as a Transwoman Caitlyn Jenner. The title said “Call me Caitlyn.”
and every week, sometimes every day—we hear of a story highlighting the issue or another person or celebrity in our culture talking about it; and more and more of our series and movies we watch include transgender characters—I have noticed that more on the shows that Jamie and I watch.
At one point Facebook had over 70 different gender identity options to identify as...
This is not just a topic that’s out there in culture—but is becoming more personal for some of us. I would guess that this issue affects more people here or online than they might admit because they are fearful to talk about it.
Over the last few years, I have encountered this issue with ever increasing frequency in every day pastoral ministry.
For instance at one of my previous churches, a mom of a 13 year old girl contacted me, asking what to do because her daughter was wanting to identify as a male and wanted her name to be changed to along with male pronouns. The public school this student was a part of was also trying to graciously walk alongside them but also do what the law says (you educators have or will face this more). So what was she to do as a mom? (BTW—I tried to encourage the mom like crazy because she felt tremendous guilt like she had failed as a mom).
Another family in a church I previously served asked what they should do when their high school daughter gets invited to hang out with one of her friends who was a young woman but now identifying as a transgender man? What do you do? (they wanted to be Jesus)
I remember in a previous city I worked in—I would often go to a certain coffeeshop at least once a week for a couple hours to study, and I got to know a person who also went to that coffeeshop regularly—who was born biologically male, yet now dressed an identified as a female and also had some hormonal and surgical procedures to transition. This person was incredibly successful by our world’s standards—a consultant who traveled to help businesses and a former professor, incredible person…what was I to do as a believer and a Christian who loves Jesus and wants to love my neighbor and show Jesus well?
What do we as a church do if a teenager who has biologically female now identifies as male wants to go on a church camp for a week or retreat? What do we do so we respond with love, grace, and truth?
What do you do if you are experiencing some type of gender identity questioning?
What would Jesus do if He were walking this earth today like He did 2,000 years ago?
My goal is not to conquer this issue, but to respond with grace, truth, and compassion.
Let us remind ourselves that we are not talking about issues to be dissected and conquered but people to be loved and shown and told the incredible love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Certainly we dare not ignore this issue;
pretend it doesn’t exist or put our head in the sand.
it’s tempting if you are a Christian to with drawal from the world and insulate yourself from the world.
That is not an option, nor do I believe a faithful one that God is calling us to be as salt and light.
Before I answer that, let me read some Scriptures. (Stand)
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
and then look at what Jesus says:
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.
So—how to navigate Transgenderism.
Do not politicize nor stereotype.
what do I mean?
unfortunately this issue is highly politicized. Transgenderism has been reduced to pronoun wars (which pronoun should people be allowed to use) or bathroom issues or even sports (can a biological male who identifies as a female participate in women’s sports). Which are worth discussing—but they are highly politicized, highly stereotyped, and not the greatest format for promoting discussion and understanding and dialogue; they are super-heated.
If you get most of your info about this issue from CNN or Fox News that’s a problem. If you get it from any major media news outlet or talk radio, that’s a problem.
Remember these are not issues to debate, but involve real people to love who need Jesus Christ. We can sometimes get lost in the headlines, and the culture wars, and the social media posts.
and along with politicizing, sometimes we assume or stereotype people. Christian writer Preston Sprinkle says that if you have met one transgender person, you have met one transgender person.
every person is unique that may experience this diverse reality that needs the love of Jesus.
Know some terms and vocabulary. In other words, do your best to understand what the issues are and how they are defined.
btw—this is always good practice to slow down, not freak out, and figure out and understand what are we talking about here. b/c it’s easy to assume.
and also btw—the terms I about to show can be extremely confusing, but let me give you just a few to help.
Definition of Transgender:
umbrella term — meaning it covers a wide range of experiences
but it mainly describes people who feel an in congruence between their biological sex and their internal gender identity
so a person is born biologically male or female but their internal sense of what their gender is—doesn’t match their biology.
christian writer Preston Spinkle says the key word is umbrella. This term might fit a male who simply doesn’t feel very masculine, and they use transgender to describe that tension.
at the other corner of the umbrella is someone who has severe gender dysphoria and feels like they’ve been born in the wrong body.
so transgender is a big term in our society as a catch all for a variety of people experiencing a lot of things
At the core of these issues involves a core distinction. The difference between biological sex and gender. Biological sex vs. Gender
Biological Sex: biological sex refers to males and females based on our anatomy and what role we play biologically in reproduction and our hormones. Read any biological science textbook and whether you are liberal or conservative—it would talk about this. any ER doctor or surgeon would hopefully agree with this. Almost no one disputes biological sex.
It’s gender that’s the tricky one. What do I mean? one theologian called ‘gender — the wild wild west of debate today.”
Gender: when gender is talked about today in our culture—it’s not talking about biological sex. Instead Preston Sprinkle again says gender since about the 1960’s—is talking about
and cultural aspects of being
male or female
you could say it like this — that gender identity has to do with our own psychological internal sense of self as male or female, both, or neither. (even though our biological sex is male or female our internal gender identity—I feel I am identifying as something else).
and then there are gender roles—that’s the social and cultural expression of being male or female—sometimes we call this masculinity and femininity. and our culture plays a big role—that men in our culture play sports, are more aggressive, don’t cry, excel more in math, and prefer blue to pink.)
and so gender roles, cultural expectations play into that— “I may be a biological male but don’t fit into the cultural expectation or gender role of masculinity.”
and then here’s another in this topic--
“Gender Dysphoria is a psychological term for the distress people feel when their internal sense of self doesn’t match their biological sex.” (used to be called gender identity disorder) it can be used as a general description or as an official psychological diagnosis. ranging from mild to severe.
not everyone who identifies as transgender experiences gender dysphoria, and not everyone who experiences gender dysphoria identifies as transgender.
we also hear the term “transition” in this conversation. this can include 3 different levels:
social transition—where a person dresses or acts with the biological sex they identify with
there’s hormonal transition — where you take high levels of hormone typically produced by the opposite sex — so females transitioning to males would take testosterone and males to females would take estrogen.
and then there is sex reassignment surgery or gender confirmation surgery.
but at the core of the issue—Christian author Preston Sprinkle asks a huge question—that I think most Christians probably could guess the answer to— “if someone experiences incongruence between their biological sex and their internal sense of self (gender identity), which one determines who they are—and why?”
so does their external, biological sexed reality determine it or their internal feelings (probably influenced by cultural expectations, too?)
this takes me to my 3rd response:
Avoid the Yuck response and avoid the Yes response
It’s tempting that if you are a believer in Jesus, and you have been a believer in Jesus for some time—to listen to the cultural conversation, to listen to the definitions and to think about this— “Yuck!” “What is happening? This is gross or disgusting all of this talk. Why is Pastor Rick even talking about this?”
remember these terms describe not just issues, but people. People that God loves. people made in the image of God—remember I read all of us are made in God’s image, even though that image has been distorted and marred by sin.
and as we think about Jesus’ ministry—how do Jesus react and relate and minister to people? well for those who society had pushed aside—we see him ministering to the sexually broken, like the prostitutes. For those who society had cast out, we see him touching the lepers, who were considered unclean. For those whom society hated like tax collectors, we see Jesus going to their house for a meal and calling one of them as his disciples.
Many of us cannot relate but listen to one person describe their gender dysphoria--
Listen to how one person describes gender dysphoria — • “… the-piercing-to-the-heart feeling when you feel like every single person in the room is staring at you. Like your heart is ripped open and they are just picking at the pieces. This may sound pretty harsh to someone who has never experienced gender dysphoria, however for me it happens in some degree almost every time I’m out in public places with people around me. It also happens before I get ready to go out, and this has become such a battle. Fighting just to leave my house and by the time I have fought for hours at a time I’m exhausted and broken.… I feel inadequate, broken, and I just want to disappear.”2
Sprinkle, Preston M.. Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church, and What the Bible Has to Say (pp. 31-32). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.
Matthew 12:20 says this about Jesus’ ministry—
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
a reed is a thin—twig like stick—Jesus is describing his ministry to broken, hurting, rejected people—Even though He is the Lord and kind of the universe He will not break them. Behold the gentleness of Jesus.
Listen to this from a real person named Alan:
Alan grew up as a pastor’s kid but couldn’t wait to leave the church after he graduated high school.5 Ever since he could remember, Alan had an unchosen desire to dress, act, and behave like a woman. He had no one to talk to, no one to guide him.
And seeing the church’s attitude toward LGBTQ people made him feel even more isolated and ashamed. He also grew tired of the hypocrisy in the church: “Despite being a pastor’s kid, I’d become upset at the hypocrisy of Christians saying they were full of grace but not putting it into practice (especially concerning LGBTQ+ issues).” After high school, Alan left the church. But he couldn’t get away from Christians. One day, a Christian friend asked to hear Alan’s story, so Alan told him everything. His desire to be a woman. His sexual attraction to men. His failures in trying to follow his own convictions about sexual ethics. Alan expected to be condemned. To his surprise, he was loved. “Instead of the shaming and condemnation I expected, I was told that despite my past and present desires, God didn’t hate me and I was lovable by others and by God.” These simple words pierced his soul. Alan gave his life to Christ, all because he had the courage to share his story with a friend who received him graciously. “If I never learned about pure, undistilled grace, I would have transitioned to a female and left the church,” Alan said.
The thing that brought me to an acceptance of Biblical masculinity was not a poignantly laid-out exegetical argument against transsexuality nor a fire and brimstone diatribe against homosexuality but a man who gave me the space to speak about my desires openly and let me know he and God loved me nevertheless. Alan’s profound point is worth repeating: “A man who gave me the space to speak about my desires openly and let me know that he and God loved me nevertheless.” It was love, not logic, that changed Alan’s heart. People are rarely argued into the kingdom.
Sprinkle, Preston M.. Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church, and What the Bible Has to Say (pp. 19-21). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.
at the same time we must avoid a “yes” response to all this, too. and the younger you are the more tempting it is to have this response and just affirm everything. and say “good for you for being who you are and your authentic self.” “Don’t judge anything.” b/c we don’t want the judgmental label. but we are still called to make judgments, to know and stand on truth, without being judgmental. to not always trust our feelings and desires—b/c our authentic self is not expressing who we are—but it’s being who Jesus says we are in His Word. We are our most authentic self—when we align ourselves with Jesus’ vision for us as His followers.
I asked earlier “if someone experiences incongruence between their biological sex and their internal sense of self (gender identity), which one determines who they are—and why?”
I do believe the Bible supports that it is our biological, God-given sex that ultimately determines which gender we are because God made us male and female from the very beginning, and it was good.
God made us embodied, biologically sexed creatures.
one writer says it like this— “Our culture says: Your psychology is your sexual identity or gender identity—let your body be conformed to it.” Scripture says, “Your body is your sexual or gender identity—let your mind be conformed to it.”
Scripture is very for our bodies—creation—when Jesus Christ came and had a male body—when He was resurrected with a body—a new body.
takes me to point #4---
4. Always Look to Jesus and His Truth in His Word
Jesus’ Word gives us incredible truths to hang our hats on.
1. There Is the Image of God—all of us are made in the image of God—so all are worthy of respect and dignity and value—people experiencing a transgender reality or gender dysphoria—made in the Image of God
2. And yet there is the fall—because of sin—every part of us is broken at some level. Our bodies. Our minds. Even our hearts and desires. Not all our feelings and desires are good. Sam Alberry says that “Christianity offers a unique understanding for our problems. Sin causes profound alienation — with God, with others, and even ourselves and our own bodies. He says virtually no one has an entirely straightforward relationship with their own body.” so true—I am sure all of us if we were honest today-would change something about our bodies if we could.
because of our understanding of the Fall and sin—we as Christians should be the most compassionate and understanding towards those experiencing gender dysphoria.
and at the same time this gives us a unique understanding--Bible gives us a unique understanding that not everything is as it should be.
3. And then there is the Good news of Gospel of Jesus Christ.
the answer to our body or gender issues is not found by looking in—but by looking out to Jesus Christ.
We can’t fix our sin problem.
We can’t fix any issue we have.
While society offers all sorts of remedies—to this—I don’t think it will give the peace and joy and freedom we crave.
Sam Alberry says: No, the only answer to our experience of brokenness in our bodies is found in the ultimate brokenness of Christ’s body. He experienced the ultimate affliction. His was the body most reviled by others. And the ultimate dysphoria ever experienced was when he “who had no sin” was “made sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). Talk about being in the wrong flesh. Yet he went through all of that for us. He experienced ultimate brokenness so that we would never have to.
When we place our hope in our broken Savior who died for us—we are assured forgiveness, right standing with God, a new relationship with Him.
It may not fix every desire we have—but it guarantees us a hope that one day—God will make right everything that is broken and wrong.
Let’s look to Jesus.
(at the end??)
5. Remember for such a Time as This. Remember the character Esther from the OT. (delay until the end?)
maybe you should read that book this week.
It’s the story of a courageous and young Jewish girl name Esther who in God’s providence becomes the queen. Her people are in exile, captives under the mighty Persian Empire.
One of the king’s high ranking officials—Haman—has it in for the Jews. He wants to exterminate their entire people group.
and Esther’s cousin — Mordecai learns about it—comes to Esther and pleads with her to help because she is the queen—maybe she can influence the Persian king to stop it:
14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
for such a time as this...
it’s easy to look at the times and be unsettled.
this last year has been not just crazy but c-razy… not only with Covid—but politics, conspiracy theories, not to mention extreme polarization and division in our country and world.
it just feels unsettling...
and I recognize that and feel it too
we have an incredible opportunity as the Church.
as we pour out our hearts to God
lean on Him
cry out to Him
as we love one another
we have an incredible opportunity as the church to be his witnesses of grace and truth
to be different in a good way
to have incredible hope and peace b/c of Jesus Christ.
for such a time as this...