How Should the Church deal with Transgender issues?
Many churches are quick to shame and condemn those who struggle publicly with any sin, especially sins that are sexual in nature. This is not a good approach nor has it ever been noticeably effective. The church is to be a place where people who struggle with sin can come to find spiritual encouragement and a community in which they belong. The belonging is not centered around our own fallen state of being, but rather it is centered on the work of Christ on the Cross. Christ died to save sinners. Thus we find in him mercy, grace, forgiveness, love, and calling.
Below are several ways I believe that churches should deal with transgender issues:
- Congregations should be rightly informed on what transgender actually means. It is important for people in the pews to understand this because when a transgender person visits a church, the gender identity struggle will likely be visible. The congregation needs to know how to appropriately welcome these individuals without calling attention to their identity.
- The church needs to make transgender people feel welcome. Many transgender people are suffering as a result of their identity crisis. They are looking for a place to belong, and the church should be such a place.
- The church needs to show empathy and compassion for those with gender identity issues. For many of these individuals, the struggle to identify as a male or female is not a moral choice intended to unravel the traditional values of our society. For many, this issue is not a “choice” at all. It is a state of being as I mentioned in the last post that I believe is a result of living in a fallen world.
- When transgender people visit your church, they need to be able to connect with people and begin a relationship with someone. This relationship does not need to be a project where the church member sets out to fix the transgender person, it just needs to be a relationship that points towards Christ, love, and belonging. It needs to be genuine.
- For anyone in the church, leadership positions need to be given to Christians who are mature in the faith. Positions of leadership should be reserved for individuals who have a contrite heart regarding their sins. Leadership should not be given to someone who is proud of or public about any sin. But all leaders are sinners and as such need humility to recognize their faults, admit to them, and keep going.
- Churches need to affirm that God created male and female and that he intends for their to be clear roles for each gender, but that those roles are distorted and broken because of sin. Even masculine men tend to inappropriately understand what it means to be a man. Even feminine women tend to act in ways that are not appropriate for their roles. All of us in some way have issues regarding our own understanding of what it means to be a man or woman, and more so to be one who walks according to the precepts of the Bible.
For more on transgender issues, I have found the following article in Christianity Today to be very helpful.
After the last post, one reader asked: “How would Christ have approached a person with gender identity issues or now ethnic identity issues? And then, how would He go about helping them through some of these issues?”
To briefly answer I will say that I think Jesus would have approached them in love. He would have listened to their story. He would have compassion on them. He would love them. He would also call them to his standard of righteousness as he always did to others in the Gospels. He ate lunch with Zacchaeus the Tax Collector. After Jesus had dined with him, he proclaimed that he would return all the money he stole from the people. When Jesus meets people where they are at, he always calls them to a higher standard from that point on. The real question here is not how he would approach them, but what standard he would call them to? I think he would affirm their plight, he would mourn that things are not as they should be in an unfallen world, and he would probably heal them. Since we regularly do not have the power to heal people, I would suggest that we strongly recommend people with gender and ethnic identity issues to seek professional counseling. The article I mentioned above talks about how different people need different help depending upon the nature of their gender identity struggle. I think we can leave it in the hands of wise counselors after hearing the nature of the struggles to recommend the best course of help. But I believe that those struggling should seek the help of Christian counselors who have a strong belief in God’s Word and who also use modern medical knowledge to best help their clients.
What implications does this issue have on issues regarding ethnic identity, same sex marriage, and polygamy?
Whether we accept it or not, people have issues regarding personal identity. Whether we agree or not, people live in plural marriages and in same sex unions. So how should churches approach these issues?
The church should welcome anyone into a worship service whether they walk in with a same sex partner, multiple wives, or as a man wearing a dress. We should foster relationships with the visitors, make them feel welcome, and point them to Christ. We should recognize that we are all sinners and that in worship we too need to be continually re-pointed towards Christ. We should love people where they are at, and we should allow the Holy Spirit to work on the rest. To join a church, one needs to profess faith in Christ. After such a profession, the person must be willing to make Christ Lord. This involves turning from our sinful ways, and following the calling God has on our lives. No one who makes Christ Lord ceases to sin altogether. We all make bad choices because we are all easily drawn back into sin. For those with issues concerning identity and sexual attraction, these may be life-long struggles. But that no less makes the person a child of God.
As stated before, I believe those who are attracted to members of the same sex should remain celibate. Those who have gender issues should seek help from a counselor in order to understand their identity, to draw clear lines, and to move towards them. Those who struggle with identity issues concerning ethnicity, should also seek counseling, draw clear lines of identity, and move towards them. Those who have multiple wives must determine how God wants them to move forward. I have written previously about how polygamy is always a negative issue in Scripture, but I would be hard pressed to say that someone in a polygamous relationship should divorce a wife or wives after becoming a Christian, especially if there are children involved. I would however state that I do not believe that Christians should enter into polygamous relationships, nor should ministers perform such marriage ceremonies. Finally, I do not believe that Christian ministers should perform same sex weddings.
What other questions or comments do you have about these issues? Has this been helpful? I want to hear from You!!!