Mar 282021 1 Response

One Thing I Know About the Transgender Debate

There is much I don’t understand about the current debate regarding transgenderism. Last week, the Governor of my home state signed a bill related to the participation of transgendered students and sports. The Bill is just another aspect of an ongoing national and local debate regarding transgenderism and society. It also made me realize how uneducated I am regarding the issue of transgendered people. While I have some automatic assumptions, I’m quick to realize those assumptions are rarely right, thoughtful, or compassionate.

So I’ve been reading. I ask a friend who wrote her dissertation on the topic for some articles. Earlier this year I read a book. And I plan on reading a book that my publisher has on the topic. All of this is because there is much I do not know about the topic.

Yet there is one thing of which I am certain regarding the debate. And this one thing might be the most important thing of all.

What The Pastorate Should Do

I’m a pastor. While the profession has a few downsides, there is one major gift when it comes to important debates…it is a very personal profession. The pastorate puts me into relationships with a wide variety of people. I’m exposed to a plethora of situations that a normal person often does not experience.

At the same time, my calling is to speak Biblical truth. It’s not my job to proclaim my opinion or my thoughts, but to speak Truth. Yet at times, the Bible may not speak explicitly to an issue, but it can be used to discern a Biblical worldview regarding a topic.

The joy of the pastorate is when these two issues are combined. Truth must be spoken, but it must always be spoken in a personal way. It’s should never be told coldly, abusively, or from a position of superiority. Instead, it should be proclaimed–boldly and courageously–but filled with love, humility, and respect.

What Pastors Often Do

While the pastorate should personalize all truth which weakens the human temptation of using the truth to hurt others and instead ensures grace-filled truth-telling, too often that does not happen. In far too many cases, pastors, theologians, and laypeople, coldly proclaim “truth” without any aspect of love or respect. (I put parenthesis about “truth” because in many cases those “truths” are just personal opinions without much Biblical research.)

They do this because they lack diverse relationships. Either they have not intentionally sought out those relationships, have failed to build a meaningful connection with the families (and extended families) of those in the church, or have consistently driven away people who are in the very situations of which these pastors preach.

The result is a careless and cold recounting of truth without any semblance of compassion or grace. It’s a truth-telling that is void of the teachings of Jesus. When we are absent of truth or absent of grace, we are absent of Jesus.

What We All Should Do

The second stated value of our church is Truth. “We will seek to know and live God’s Truth in every circumstance,” is how we say it. This forces us to apply the Bible in every situation and then to proclaim that to ourselves and others. Yet as we make those proclamations, we must do so while being filled with love and compassion.

Truth is the second value of our church; respect is the first. They are in that order as a reminder to us that as we seek the truth, live the truth, and proclaim the truth, we must do so with a deep, abiding respect for others. Respect doesn’t mean we automatically agree with others. Instead, it means we give the personhood of other people a great amount of weight in our minds so that we value them in all that we do. If the truth we proclaim could be hurtful, we do so with great compassion. (See: Four Words That Make Me Feel Respected)

One Thing

This is the one thing I know about the transgender debate–most Christians fail to proclaim the truth with respect. They do so carelessly and callously. They haven’t researched. Haven’t studied. Haven’t considered the personal side of the issue. They simply assume their opinions match the Bible and then arrogantly proclaim those ideas without any concern for others.

The Church should prevent us from doing this. Rather than seeing a label (transgender, or fill in any label), we should see people. We have friends, family, sons, and daughters impacted by these issues. We love them and want what is best for them. Even if we disagree or don’t understand, we would never want to unintentionally inflict harm on others.

Respect, that is the one thing I know about the transgender debate. I know others won’t show respect to those who choose not to automatically agree with whatever society has currently declared to be right or wrong. But that does not excuse a Christian from showing respect even when we don’t receive it. We respect others because of what God has declared about them. When we fail to respect others, we are disrespecting God.

Sadly, as many Christians boldly proclaim what they believe is Christian truth, they do so in a way that does not represent Christ or the Truth.

For me on respect, see my book Fearless Families. Disrespect is often a byproduct of fear.

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