Gender Identity and the Gospel
The cultural redefinition of gender identity and expression is progressing at a breathtaking speed. This redefinition follows our culture’s and government’s rejection of Biblical marriage and biblical sexuality that has unfolded in recent decades. The cultural redefinition of gender identity is a natural consequence of denying God’s plan for human flourishing through his created design for men and women.
For thousands of years’ gender has been viewed as synonymous with biological sex and in exclusively binary terms (i.e., only two options). There were simply no other categories than man or woman. And while gender expression (such as the manner of dress and roles within a society) have varied from culture to culture, we have always seen gender as binary.
The culture says that gender is not determined by biological sex, but rather is based on identity and self-expression. You can now choose your gender based on whatever gender your feelings identify with. Moreover, gender is also considered “fluid” so that whatever gender you identify with today could be different tomorrow. This has led government institutions and companies to allow individuals to select from multiple gender options in their chosen identity. In fact, one large social media company has fifty gender identity options for user profiles in the United States and over seventy options in the United Kingdom.
New frontiers are being crossed every day, with some now identifying with the age they feel rather than their chronological age, with animals or with characters from fantasy movies like vampires. And to be clear, these individuals are not role-playing. They have genuinely adopted these identities as their own and live their lives accordingly.
What is perhaps more shocking is that our schools are allowing children to determine their identity. Now a child who is developmentally unable to think in concrete terms, who is too young to drive, vote or work, can determine what his or her gender identity will be. The government also asserts that the child’s identity may be protected under privacy laws so that parents are prevented from knowing about it.
While some of the above examples may be troubling to us, what really is the big deal? Why should we care about a person’s choice about their identity? Isn’t it really their own personal business? No, it is not. A person’s gender identity affects how others interact with that person because for thousands of years that is how societies have rationally functioned. Men do not interact with women as they do with men nor vice versa. Those who argue for gender fluidity ultimately do not want to be left alone – they want us to validate their choices and want us to conform our behavior accordingly. They want everyone to treat them consistent with their chosen identity, not their biological sex. So, arguments about gender identity are not really about private choices, but whether someone has the right to force another to agree with their choice.
Scripture makes clear that gender is not a by-product of individual choice, but is rather a consequence of divine design. There simply is no biblical evidence of God designing his creation so that a person may choose their own gender identity. Instead, scripture clearly teaches that God has designed human beings as exclusively male or female without the ability to change that. It is fixed in the womb.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13
To force a Christian to recognize gender identity apart from God’s design would cause that Christian to deny God’s truth and embrace a man-made truth. This is why Paul warns us in Romans 1:24-25:
“…God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”
Paul wants us to know that how we, as image bearers, view our bodies, and what we do with them, will either hinder or help our worship. Ultimately, the creator, not the creature, must define what is true in our world.
The remedy for transgender struggles is the same as it for every other aspect of brokenness in our world – the Gospel! Because of all that Jesus has accomplished for us, that we graciously receive through our faith in him, we have a new identity that provides a much richer inheritance than any false identity we may create for ourselves.1
Recognize the Ongoing Reality
We must recognize that, like those on same-sex marriage, biblical views on gender identity will increasingly become the minority position. We can no longer assume that those with whom we discuss gender identity will agree with or even understand a biblical perspective. We must accept that at times the culture will label us as intolerant.
Our Sunday teaching and our family and adult discipleship ministries will continue to teach a biblical perspective of gender identity consistent with this position statement and other doctrinal statements. We will endeavor to present a true picture of biblical manhood and womanhood and not fall into cultural stereotypes promoted by the political right or the left.
Our Heart for the LBGTQ Community
But our disagreement with the concept of gender identity should never lead us to be cruel and unloving toward those who are transgender. A transgendered person’s sin does distort the image of God that they bear, but that sin cannot remove God’s image. James 3:9 reminds us it is a sin to belittle, mock, or disrespect anyone who bears the image of God. And because the transgendered person is an image bearer, we should love them and defend them when others seek to harm them.
The Gospel is the Solution
We must also remember that the culture’s perspective on gender identity results from the Fall of mankind and the tendency that we all have towards idolatry. While transgenderism may shock our sense of what is appropriate, it really is not a new category of sin. We all, at times, look to things within the created realm to find our validation and identity. The person who embraces transgenderism is no more sinful than the workaholic executive who finds his sense of self in his career or the stay-at-home mom who finds her identity in raising the “perfect” family. Once again we must take Jesus’s words to heart and remove the log in our own eye before we criticize others.2
Considerations for Ministry Placement & Facilities
Fellowship will always consider a person’s biological sex at birth to be their assigned gender for purposes of ministry placement (where an equipping opportunity is offered solely to one gender). With respect to usage of restrooms and dressing rooms specifically, guests to our church should use either a restroom that corresponds to their biological sex or family bathrooms (where available). We recognize that some governmental authorities may in the future assert that a church cannot lawfully require this. While we hope that does not come to pass, should it happen, Fellowship would resist such an unprecedented government intrusion as a matter of conscience protected by the religious liberty tenets of the U.S. Constitution.
Engaging the Transgender Community
We must see the transgender community as we would a people group that needs the truth and love of the Gospel. We need for Christian missionaries to go to that community and bring the love of Christ with them. Live among them. Get to know them. Minister to their needs. Teach them the Gospel.