Recently, Stars and Stripes and NBC have been reporting on a transgender student at Ramstein Middle School. There are at least two transgender students that I know of and some reports have said there are as many as four in the Kaiserslautern Military Community here in Germany. We, at Trinity Reformed Church, have students and teachers at two schools with transgender students. Therefore, a pastoral word on this matter seems to be in order.
This is not intended to be a whole-Bible teaching on transgenderism. But my goal herein is to begin a conversation and issue a call to action. Let’s establish a few biblical principles which will function as a foundation for teachers, students, and parents of students at schools where there are transgender students.
Our God is the Creator of gender.
As a starting point, we must acknowledge what God says about gender in Genesis 1:26-27, 31:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (emphases mine).
Whatever else may be said about this subject, God created two distinct genders—male and female—in His image and blessed them by calling them “very good”. Both masculinity and femininity are reflections of God’s nature and neither is inherently more God-like, nor is one gender better than the other. Two equal, but different genders must come together to make what God describes as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6). Since God created two distinctive and equally good genders, we must agree with what God has done by affirming the goodness of the gender he has given to each one of us.
Is gender fixed or fluid?
Some people believe human gender exists on a continuum and the expression of gender is up to an individual’s feelings and choices. Those who accept and live this philosophy are called Gender-Fluid. A gender-fluid person may be born as a biological male, but wake up one day feeling like a female, the next day like a male, and on the third day as neither. Transgenderism is based on gender-fluidity (I’m referring to gender-fluidity as a philosophy, because there is very little hard science involved the study of it). However, what, if anything, does the Bible say about the transgender person?
Transgenderism is condemned. Effeminate is a word found in some translations of the Bible. It is used to describe male prostitutes in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 23:17, 1 Kings 22:46) and men living as women in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The Greek word translated “effeminate” means “soft and delicate” and is listed separately from homosexuality which means the words are not synonymous. The effeminate were men who had rejected their masculinity to live softly and delicately as a female. In the strongest terms possible, God says, “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Likewise, women dressing and behaving as men is described as an “abomination to the LORD your God” in Deuteronomy 22:5.
Gender is eternally fixed.
Jesus was born as, lived as, and identified himself as a male (Luke 1:31-33, Acts 2:36). After Jesus rose from the dead, he was identifiably male. In the garden, Mary Magdalene called Jesus “sir” and “Rabboni” which are male titles (John 20:11-18). On the mountain of transfiguration, Peter, James, and John beheld Jesus with Moses and Elijah—three glorified men (Matthew 17:1-8). As he was being stoned, Stephen saw the God-man “Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-60). Jesus was God incarnate—a Jewish male—before, during, and after His death, burial, and resurrection. When we see him in glory, he will still be male (1 John 3:2, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49). In John’s vision of the Church Triumphant gathered around the throne, he saw “elders” and “people from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:8-10). People in heaven will have distinctive gender and ethnicity because they will bear the gloriously redeemed image of God—both male and female.
God created two distinct, eternal genders, they are both good, and they should not be confused or re-defined.
How should we respond to those who identify as transgender people?
Tell them the good news about Jesus! The account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch is not a perfect or direct correlation with the transgender person. However, consider the similarities. The eunuch had been sexually mutilated. Most likely, as a child, he was sold by his parents and emasculated so that he could serve around the women of the royal harem in Ethiopia. As such his gender was not fully-realized or celebrated as something God-given and good. His masculinity, to some degree, was stolen from him. He would never have a wife or children nor a son to inherit his name. He was married to his profession. We are told he had gone up to Jerusalem to worship, but he would not have been allowed to enter the assembly because of being a eunuch (Deuteronomy 23:1). Consider, however, the passage he was reading aloud from Isaiah as he travelled along the road to Gaza: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth” (Isaiah 53:7-8). In a sense, the eunuch’s life had been taken away from him also, but the Holy Spirit directed Philip to come along side him to “tell him the good news about Jesus”—the one who gives life. A man who was so profoundly hurt by his parents and who could have no family was adopted into the family of God.
Philip, in order to share the Gospel with the eunuch, would have had to set aside any racial, national, religious, and even gender-related biases. Had Philip looked through the eyes of his culture, he would have seen an educated, wealthy, sexual deviant, not necessarily the image of God. But the Holy Spirit gave him better eyes and a willing heart.
How do you see transgender people?
Let’s not be political, but prevailing!
As the news has developed over the last week, shockwaves have been felt throughout our community. Some of us have been deeply offended by the inclusive stance the Department of Defense Schools has taken (e.g. transgender kids are not being made to use separate bathrooms). Has any one of us not rolled our eyes while mumbling “political correctness”? But instead of protesting or writing our congressman, what if we went in a different direction? Instead of being afraid of a few transgender kids, retreating from them and hunkering down safely with our conservative Christian community, what if we advanced and moved into their territory for Christ? Jesus said “the gates of hell would not prevail against” His Church. Our children don’t have to be afraid of transgender students and neither do we. We have the truth and the power.
One of my sons has a transgender student in his class, so this is not an academic exercise for our family. We have encouraged our son to befriend the transgender student, sit with her at lunch, listen to her without arguing, protect her if necessary, be a true friend, and pray for opportunities to talk about Jesus with her.
Do you remember the social difficulties of middle and high school? Do you remember the cruelty visited upon the girl who was unlike her popular and pretty peers? What about the bullying of the boy who was awkward, small, or not particularly athletic. Were you ever laughed at, shamed, or ostracized? Whatever your experience of school was, can you imagine how rife for rejection and ridicule a transgender student is?
Let’s be clear, we can not condone transgenderism or gender-fluid beliefs, but let’s also confess that we worship the God who created us male and female and is alone able to redeem His image within us. His son died to save the transgender person as much as anyone else. Could it be that God sent us to Germany, for such a time as this?
Jesus commanded us to catch fish, not clean them. Cleaning them is His job. When we try to clean before we catch, we accomplish neither. Maybe that’s why fisherman say “I caught a whole mess of fish.” Let’s go catch our mess!