Most of you have heard by now about Bruce Jenner, who underwent a transgender surgery and now identifying himself as Caitlyn Jenner. Today I saw a friend post this article about someone who went to church with him and apparently had a fairly personal relationship with him and the family. (http://jcobia.tumblr.com/post/120611530946/i-went-to-church-with-bruce-jenner-and-heres-what). After reading it, I felt compelled to write about this situation.
I understand the struggle some Christians have with this – the desire to show the love of Christ but not knowing how to show it to someone who is gay, lesbian, or in this case transgender. It seems that in our society and even in the church, the only two options we are given are to either completely accept them, their feelings, and also their lifestyle, or complete and outright condemnation in defense of the truth. But the way we should respond is neither of these options. The only way we ought to respond – is with love.
1 Corinthians 13 (often called the love chapter) is generally the go-to passage for what love needs to look like within the context of marriage. But I wish to challenge Christians to think about how this passage would apply to the situation we have before us. Let’s read the passage to refresh our memory.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails… (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
This passage is full of things most people understand can apply to this situation. Love is kind…it does not dishonor others…it is not easily angered, etc. We know that as Christians, we are to treat everyone with the respect and honor due to them for being created in God’s image. However, let me draw the readers attention to something which far fewer people would understand how to apply to this situation. Look at verse 6, which says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”
What exactly do love and truth have to do with one another? Actually, quite a lot. (See Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 1:22-23, 1 John 3:18-19). Love and Truth are inseparable qualities of God. We see this personified in Christ, who loved the world (John 3:16, Romans 5:8-10), yet who’s self-stated purpose in coming into the world was to testify to the truth (John 18:37). In fact he says in John 18:37 that, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Jesus never held back love or the truth from anyone, whether it was a Pharisee or a tax collector or a prostitute. Sometimes when Jesus spoke the truth (especially to the Pharisees), it sometimes comes across in such a way that seems harsh to us. But was he being unloving when he did this? No. And When Jesus showed love (especially to the tax collectors and adulterers), it could come across in such a way that seems untruthful to us because he didn’t issue an immediate correction for their behavior. But was Jesus being untruthful when he did this? No. Jesus’ attitude was perfectly captured in John 8:11 when he said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Jesus joined Truth and Love in two succinct sentences. He didn’t compromise in his attitude towards the person or the sin. Genuine love, the type of love that Christ had, distinguishes between truth and falsehood, good and evil. Paul echoes this in Romans 12:9 when he says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
We as Christians have to be clear on this subject. We have to have compassion and acknowledge the difficult struggles that people in the LGTBQ community live with on a day to day basis. Wrestling with any form of a gender identity issue is taxing on a person’s mind, body, and spirit. Struggles with depression, anxiety, hopelessness, isolation, and self-worth are all too common among those who grapple with such feelings. But, as I also know from personal experience, it is possible to struggle with gender identity issues and still live a faithful Christian life. But I have only been able to do that through knowing and experiencing both the love and the truth of Jesus Christ. And the truth is that the homosexual or transgender actions and lifestyles are sinful and God has made his attitude clear on these subjects (See Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Deuteronomy 22:5). Such actions will only lead a person down a dark, dangerous, and sometimes deadly path because they do not line up with God’s intended purposes for sexuality. However, this should not diminish our kindness or affection in any capacity for people struggling with these temptations or even those who live such lifestyles out in the open. Our God and Father in heaven loves them, and because he loves them, he desires for them to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). By coming to a knowledge of the truth, they may also come to be obedient to his will in order to live a holy and pure life before him (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).
Christians, if we want to love those in the LGTBQ community, we have to both stand for the Truth of God’s Word and offer Grace to those who struggle with or live in that lifestyle . Only then will our love be complete and in line with God’s perfect will.
If you are interested in doing a little more research on transgender studies, here’s two articles I found very insightful and are worth reading.
One is from a psychologist at John’s Hopkins. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120).
One is from a transgender man who switched back to being a man after regretting his choice. (http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/04/14688/)
This is a repost from my old blog. It was originally published on 6/6/15