Sermon Manuscript . . .
The Confusion of Gender
versus God’s Design for Men and Women
God and the Transgender Debate, a book by Andrew T. Walker which dominated my study, shares this story.
You might remember the moment you first heard that Bruce Jenner didn’t want to be Bruce anymore. It was 2015 when Jenner—an Olympic champion, American hero, and stepfather to the famous Kardashian clan was interviewed by the journalist Diane Sawyer about his experience as a man who had long lived with a deep secret. All his life, though revered as a model of athleticism and masculinity, Bruce Jenner believed he was really a woman. He defined himself as being transgender. If you saw the interview, you’d witness someone deeply hurt, and unable to find peace—someone seeking self-acceptance despite possessing wealth and celebrity.
Fast-forward to a few months later and Bruce Jenner made a surprise appearance on the front cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Wearing lingerie and posing provocatively on a barstool, hands tucked behind back, Jenner copied the hyper-femininity and exaggerated sex appeal that we’re used to seeing on the covers of magazines at the checkout in a grocery store. The cover was an act of self-revelation; for Jenner’s appearance signaled a transition to fully identifying as and living as a woman. “Call Me Caitlyn,” the cover proclaimed. The picture is now world famous.
A super-celebrity and cultural icon, Caitlyn Jenner was born. The message to the world was clear–men can become women if they feel or perceive themselves to be women, and vice versa. The media could not get enough of Jenner’s transformed persona. News quickly came that Jenner would star in a reality TV show, documenting the historic transformation. Jenner’s new twitter account under this new identity broke records in how quickly it gained millions of new followers.
It seems this new status of being transgender has now catapulted to the front of culture at a dizzyingly fast pace. Transgender had been a topic that barely registered on most people’s radars. Suddenly, gender identity has become the most fashionable social justice issue of our day. 2015 now seems like a long time ago. Today, Facebook offers over fifty gender options to its members. Debates about restroom usage overwhelm social media. States like New York are fining citizens who fail to use the preferred pronoun for a transgender citizen. The ACLU this week declared men who get pregnant and give birth are men, and got 17,000 hits.
Turn to Romans 1. We know where this came from–relativism and its post-modern thinking. Whatever you feel is what is true. Radical individualism–everyone gets to write their own script. The sexual revolution–if it feels good, do it. But according to Romans 1, the real cause is the judgment of God. Read Romans 1:18, 24, 26 and 28, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, . . . 24Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, . . . 26For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, . . . 28God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
People in our culture are being judged. Romans 1 tells us God is currently judging sin with sin. People desired unrestricted immorality and God gave them over to it in the 60s. Then they desired homosexuality and God gave them over to it in the 80’s. Then they applauded all sin as good and God gave them over to it now in this century. But because God is judging the sin of humanity, that does not mean we are to be mean. Because the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven is not a call for us to express wrath.
God has called us to proclaim the Gospel. God has called us to share the good news of God’s sacrifice on our behalf for sin. People who experience anguish from their perceived gender identity are not perverts or freaks. For many it is confusion, misdirection, an inability to sort out their feelings. It is not something they can just get over. And no two experiences of gender confusion are completely alike.
Research on those who are gender dysphoric indicates there are degrees of dysphoria, ranging from mild to severe. People who identify as transgender report disproportionately higher rates of mental health problems than the rest of the general population, including depression and thoughts of suicide. For high school, sometimes it’s attention, trendy, controlling–most importantly for believers is to remember that these are real people. They are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. They are people who may have been sitting in the pew behind us in church, or who work at the desk next to us, Monday to Friday, or who are part of our families. They may, of course, be you.
Friends, the Gospel was not intended for the healthy, but the sick. The Gospel of Christ is not for the righteous, but for the unrighteous. But this gender issue is a difficult one–it has happened so fast, it is difficult to keep track of the latest confusion and the latest perversion, let alone how we as Christians are to respond to difficult questions, such as . . .
• Can a man become a woman, or can a woman become a man?
• How and when should children be confronted with the debates about gender?
• What are we to do with a child who is a member of one biological sex, but feels they were born in the wrong body?
• What do we say to someone experiencing these feelings and desires?
• How do we love and help those who are truly living in anguish?
• Even if we have the answers, the problem of gender is fluid–always changing. So what are we to do about it? How do we identify sex and gender and identity?
There are several ways to think about a person’s sex. Sex can refer to biological make-up or composition. Men have XY chromosomes–women have XX chromosomes. There are hormonal and reproductive differences between men and women that result from chromosomal difference. From our bodies down to our cells, the biological sex of those born men and those born women are different. There is a children’s book, God Made Boys and Girls, by Marty Machowski. He explains that all boys and girls are not created the same–gender is not determined by our personality or preferences. The gender confusion of our culture is the result of rejecting God’s truth and His ways.
There are our primary sex characteristics, which refer to the differences in reproductive systems, and secondary sex characteristics, referring to the other general physical differences between adult men and women. Men tend to have broader shoulders and are taller than women. Women tend to have wider hips and are shorter. But the real issue is God’s design, which includes radical external and internal differences. And all of you know where to find God’s design?
Before time, then at creation, God intended to create male and female–two different and unique sexes. God is not confused, He is not ambivalent nor uncertain. Those struggling with transgender are less than 2% of the population. There are some genetic disorders and hormonal disorders in pregnancy that result in misconfigured chromosomes. And there are hermaphrodites or intersex births, with some overlap in male female organs–those are 1 in 2,000.
This is a fallen planet and our bodies have been distorted from sin. Yet the vast majority of births have clear DNA expectations. When formed as a male in your mother’s womb, you were intended to be a male. When formed as a female in your mother’s womb, you were intended to be a female. The Bible is really clear about . . .
#1 God’s BLUEPRINT
Turn to Genesis 1 and 2. The Word of God, Old and New Testaments teach a clear, not fluid, gender identity. Jesus Himself confirms two distinct sexes. God is not unclear about gender identity. What does Jesus teach? God created humanity in his image–we are intentionally made. God created humanity in male and female forms–we are not made interchangeable. God created humanity in such a way that man and woman are created for one another–each made to complement the other. All this was part of God’s “very good” blueprint.
God is the original designer. God had a plan for how He was going to make the world. There was a blueprint He had in mind. And once He built His creation, He stood back and nodded–Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” God’s creation was “very good.”
It was not average and it was not purposeless. God’s act of creating was successful in every part, and it was intentional in every part. Genesis 1 to 2 shows us the God of the Bible does not create by chaos, but according to a purpose and order. God’s purpose is brilliant, whether it is trees or mountains, stars or atoms or babies’ fingers–creation is full of awe-inspiring sights, sounds and smells.
And God’s creative brilliance climaxes with humanity in Genesis 1:26 to 28, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ 27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.'”
The high point of the story of creation is God’s act of making mankind. Genesis paints a picture of a God who, like an artist, finishes a masterpiece with extra care, attention, and precision. Humanity is the high point, because there is something unique about mankind–only humans bear God’s image. “The image of God” is a somewhat mysterious category that theologians have debated for centuries. All agree, though, that to bear God’s image means that there’s a special relationship that only humans have with God.
According to Wayne Grudem, “The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like and represents God.” No one–not the state, philosophy, or any social movement can give humanity more dignity and worth than God can. Our value and worth does not come from ourselves–it is God-given. Do not let this go yet. The truth that man and woman are made in God’s image is the foundation for human dignity. Being made in God’s image is a reality that all humans possess and it gives them an invaluable worth and respect.
There are no exception clauses to this truth. There is no way for someone to be a human and not bear God’s image, even though they may obscure it or mar it. All sin mars God’s image–not just homosexuality and gender confusion, but all sin. Nothing a person can do with their lives or do to their lives can eradicate the image of God. No human authority can take it away.
All humans possess God-given dignity, and possess it equally. President or peasants–both are exactly the same in God’s eyes. Christian or non-Christian–both are made in God’s image. Gay or straight–both possess the same inherent dignity. A person confused about their gender and someone at peace with their gender–both possess the same dignity.
In Nazi Germany, a failure to see the full dignity of Jews led to a Holocaust. At the founding of the US, a failure on the part of most white people to see the full dignity of persons with black skin led to the evils of racism and slavery. For the last fifty years, a failure to see the full dignity of persons who are not yet born has led to millions of legal abortions in the US alone. A transgendered person is made in God’s image, and that means that respect and honor are due to them as people, even though we disagree with their self-perception.
So how do we deal with those who are confused? We turn our focus to God and His Word–He made mankind in His own image. Genesis 2:21 to 24 says God’s blueprint includes making humanity into two halves. “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ 24For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
#2 Gods PLAN for men and women
This is God’s plan–God made people in two sexes, two distinct genders, male and female. In fact, God started with the animals, while Adam was alone. God was intentionally highlighting the need for two distinct, diverse genders–Adam learned. Society sometimes doesn’t help keeping male and female distinct, because of unhelpful stereotypes. People make up ideas around gender that can confuse people, if they do not fit that stereotype.
Being a man, for example, does not entail an automatic love of football and being a woman does not demand an automatic love for cooking (many don’t like to cook). When society attaches stereotypes to gender and sex, it can easily send the signal that anyone who fails to conform to those stereotypes is somehow failing to epitomize manhood or womanhood. Maleness and femaleness are biblical issues. The differences between men and women reflect the creative intention of being made in God’s image. To quote pastor Kevin DeYoung, “Far from being, a mere cultural construct, God depicts the existence of a man and a woman as essential to His creational plan. The two are neither identical nor interchangeable. But when the woman, who was taken out of man, joins again with the man in sexual union, the two become one flesh.
“So-o-o–dividing the human race into two genders, male and female—one or the other, not both, and not one then the other—is not the invention of Victorian prudes or patriarchal oafs. It was God’s idea.”
Men and Women are Equal but Different
To the deepest levels of our being–chromosomes, brains, body shapes, body strengths, and reproductive systems. What our bodies are designed and destined for are different. Our bodies are designed to bear witness to the difference that reflects God’s creative will for humanity. But the differences between men and women makes absolutely no difference to the worth, dignity, and respect each deserve–God made men and women.
A man’s calling to lead and protect is no better, no more virtuous, and no more important than a woman’s design to nurture and mother. In both instances, men and women are called to joyfully submit to the unique callings that God has made for men and women. We can sum up God’s design for men and women in this way–equal and different, intended not interchangeable. God designed the roles of men and women, husband and wife, after his very nature.
God is one and marriage is one. The Father and the Son are fully God but unique, and so each man and woman are unique in their roles. So they are equal and different, intended not interchangeable. First Corinthians 11:3, “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”
God intended marriage for one man and one woman, one husband and one wife–they are unique but they are also one, equal and different, intended not interchangeable. Jesus says in Matthew 19:4, “And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? 6‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’”
God intended husbands to lead, love and link with their wives, and wives were designed to submit to their own husbands in marriage–equal and different, intended not interchangeable. Ephesians 5:22 to 25, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
God designed men to lead their homes and disciple their children. Each are equal and different, intended not interchangeable. Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”
God designed men to be the head of their homes–the word head means to lead, to initiate, to exercise authority. From Genesis to now, God uniquely designed men to play a primary role, complemented by a “helper suitable for him.” This should not generate pride, but rather humble responsibility to fulfill a position that Almighty God has ordained. Similar to the police, men are to protect and serve, yet the authority is clear and must be responded to and lived out. They wield the sword to defend.
The responsibility of headship without authority results in chaos. Men have authority and must not give it up to anyone, including their wives. Cultural stereotyping has distorted how we think this should look.
■ As Aslan said, men should be like Christ, “Not safe, but good.”
■ Biblically mature masculinity includes the bounty of the Fruit of the Spirit–but that does not take away our God-designed nature. A mature man’s kindness, self-control, and compassion undergird the benefit of his strength, courage, determination, drive, etc. Our manliness does not eclipse our godliness, it enhances it. Men are to be known for a gentle strength, which is a paradox in this world–but will be found in a godly man. Abraham Lincoln was known as Velvet Steel. But do not confuse selfless service with passivity.
Satan will manipulate service and attack us. Whether schooling, free time, parenting–it is wrong, men, to capitulate our wisdom or leadership under the smoke screen of service. If anything, our families, and specifically the Church, desperately need our biblical discernment and initiatory leadership. While a man’s leadership skill, style, and giftedness can and will vary amongst men–our headship position does not (not could be, should be, or would be). If married, you are the head of your home (wife and kids). This is the design of God–man (nor woman) can change that.
Man is the head of the marriage and the home. While it is possible, and at times likely, that his actions, words and intentions are not indicative of this God-given role, it is not a democracy. What men need is a constituency (wife and kids) that encourage, submit to, and applaud their covering by desiring his pursuit of godliness and his biblical leadership. Anything men do to abdicate, transfer, or defer that position to their wife and/or family is sinful. It is a rejection of God’s ordination of married men–a denial or rejection of God’s created design and order is rebellion.
What is often described as humility is actually firm rebellion. Even if men are in fear or think it is “for their best”, it’s still sin. Too often, good men have confused preference and deference. Preference is biblical and maintains responsibility. It is properly understanding, in wisdom, the dynamic of humble selflessness. Deference, in the context of headship, is selfish and irresponsible. When men do not lead, this sin causes confusion and is in direct contradiction to God, who is the God of order. His design begets peace, but our rebellion, rejection or self-protection causes chaos (disorder). When we don’t follow God’s design, it leads to disorder.
And wives are to submit, follow, and be a helper to their husbands. First Timothy 2 tells us women will be saved in childbearing–1 Timothy 2:15, “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” Why? Not that they have to have kids to be saved, but they will undo the shame of the fall by discipling the next generation. Their input to the world is found primarily in rearing a generation of those who will honor God. This is not tradition, it is truth.
#3 Gods BENEFITS
First You should first seek to LIVE these truths
C.S. Lewis said, “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” Men need to step up and accept responsibility, show courage, initiate biblical direction, learn and live the Word. And women need to grow to be the helpers God designed. The only way people will understand God’s design is for them to see it and hear it from us as believers. Put His design on display.
Second You should seek to LOVE those who are confused
We must be gracious and patient to redirect the desires of those who are confused. When they feel confused over what gender they are, help them to understand biblical fact over feeling. Graciously tell them God’s truth, God’s design. A biblical response to those struggling with transgender and those that support them is to see them as our neighbors, and to love them–because they are our neighbors.
This is easier said than done–even if you’re determined to reject the unloving. From the Bible to the Beatles, we’re told that, “All you need is love”–but what does it actually mean to love someone? I may want to be loving toward all people, regardless of their race, background, or gender identity–but how do I do that ? True love promotes respect and empathy, it shares the truth and shows compassion. God is the judge and God will judge–but you share the Gospel and demonstrate love.
Third You should seek to LEAD others to embracing God’s Design
Don’t make excuses, don’t be embarrassed, don’t apologize–God’s Word is true and God’s design is perfect. It is the only plan which leads to blessing and order. If they change their external gender, God can change them back through repentance. If they have mutilated themselves through surgery or other means, they can still repent and then go through life as a mutilated man or woman. If there is true repentance, they will return to the gender they were born–Acts 26:20b, “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” Repentance bears fruit–Matthew 3:8, “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
And when someone repents of disobeying God’s born design of gender, they will repent and return to the gender they were born with. Call people to repentance and manifest a confidence in God’s design.
Fourth You should seek to LABOR with others to uphold God’s Design
One of the greatest tests for any church and Christian is to have a transgender person show up to a Sunday worship or a church event and actually have them be treated correctly and cared for. As a Christian, will you love them, show compassion to them, speak truth to them, and care for them as made in the image of God? Marred, yes–but nevertheless made in God’s image.
Let’s be the church that is full of grace and truth. Always speak the truth, but do so in grace. Always be gracious, but speak truth. Pray the Lord would make us into the compassionate, listening, convictional, steadfast, unashamed, gracious community of Christians He desires us to be. Let’s pray.