Transgenderism – Identity Crisis Or Identity Lie?

Who would have suspected, even as short as 15-20 years ago, that the clear separation of the sexes would be questioned. Today, however it is not only questioned but the idea of transgenderism (or transsexualism) is being championed by many as a new normal.

If you haven’t seen on the news or heard about Bruce Jenner, now identifying as Caitlyn Jenner, then you must have been living on the moon.  Interestingly enough, the now Caitlyn (formally Bruce) was reported to be having second thoughts about  the transition from male to female according to author Ian Halperin. He says that the former Olympic decathlete may de-transition in the next few years and come out as Bruce once again. Apparently Caitlyn is still attracted to women and his transition has created problems for the former Olympian to meet the right woman to settle down with.

To be fair, I don’t know if Halperin’s claim is accurate or not, however the facts are that if someone is confused of their gender before hand, who’s to say they wouldn’t be confused after they transition? In many cases the identity crisis they are experiencing doesn’t come as a result of wrong gender, rather it comes as a result of not knowing who they are as an individual in their very being.

BTW… to be clear, I’m not addressing the world of a hermaphrodite, that is a whole other issue, rather I’m speaking to the issue of one clear gender self identifying that they are now, or wish to become, another gender.

I admit that the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism or describes anyone as having transgender feelings, however the Word does say plenty about sexuality. First off, we’re told that God created two (and only two) genders. “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. The current speculation about gender fluidity is foreign to the Bible.

The closest the Bible does come to mentioning transgenderism is in its criticisms of homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32) and transvestitism (Deuteronomy 22:5).  Add to that to the fact that the Greek word translated “homosexuality” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means “effeminate men.” So, while the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism, it does clearly speak to instances of gender “confusion,” and explicitly identifies them as sin.

That may be what a disciple of Jesus believes but that doesn’t stop the argument coming today from the mainstream media that those who disagree with and/or speak out against transgenderism are nothing short of hate criminals at the very worst, or uneducated bigots in the very least. After all, how can you not feel for someone who is ‘trapped’ in a gender that does not match their ‘true’ gender?

So am I bigot or a criminal because of my convictions? Personally, I feel for Caitlyn and for the thousands of others who are struggling with their gender identity. The question I think begs to be asked is just how do we respond to those struggling in this area? For that matter how do we respond to those who are in our families or places of work or friendship circles who may feel they are no longer struggling and seem to be quite happy following their transition?

If gender matters to God then it should certainly matter to me. If God calls something a sin then no matter my feelings about it I must accept it as a sin. However that doesn’t give me licence to be a hater or a bigot.

Our response as Christians should be nothing less than deeply felt compassion while becoming a people who prayerfully begin to reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them. And then to listen carefully with those whom God may place in your life who are transitioning or have transitioned as you build an authentic relationship with these very real people. It’s only then that we are in a good position to speak truth in love. Speaking “In love” means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means to love with action (such as hospitality), not just words as John speaks about, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18.

And I think that love means being slow to speak, especially on social media. If you do choose to speak, work hard to speak with an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Maybe unknown to you, someone you know is struggling with their gender identity and your words could possibly impact them one way or another, so always speak as you would to a friend.

We must lovingly point people to Jesus Christ because it is only through Christ where we discover that our identity is not in our gender, our colour, our jobs, or our societal roles, but rather it is found in being chosen by God for an amazing purpose.

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“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10

When we become a disciple of Jesus Christ we are now forever owned by him and no longer a part of the world, or for that matter ourselves. We’re set apart and now exist for God to make us into his holy people, to share his holy character – which is now our identity. These new identities mean that we now have an active role in the presence of this amazing, holy God. Our life is now about priestly service and so never out of the God’s presence as his royal priesthood, no longer in the neutral zone of life but always in the temple courts. This means then that if we act in an unholy way we are acting out of character and working against our true identities. We are either finding our identities in Christ or we are out of character if we’re not.

We were created to discover our identity through a renewed relationship with Jesus Christ but when we try to find it elsewhere, whether that be in other things, other people, or in what I do or who I am, well then, it never measures up. That’s because all these other measurements are temporary. I may get a face lift but eventually age catches up with me, I may change my gender but I am still the same person deep inside. We simply can’t find eternal satisfaction through the temporary.

Yet people still keep trying, believing the lie from Satan that we don’t need God. Lying is Satan’s primary weapon against the church, and he uses his tactic of deceit effectively to separate people from their heavenly Father and the truth. He tries to convince people that God is not the answer and that our identities are found in any other place rather than in Christ. He is passing on the same identity lie he began in Eden. The lie that we find our identities apart from God. And he continues to do so because his success depends on people believing his lies because quite frankly, the more the world hears these lies the more they believe it and Satan knows this. Adolph Hitler, a man who learned how to lie effectively, once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

But the damage caused by listening to Satan’s lies and by trying to discover our identities without Jesus can be seen in the pain and suffering evident in people’s lives. Just look no farther than the billboards on our streets or the ads on TV. Women driven to fulfill the western world’s ideal of beauty – the dream woman, sometimes to the point of eating disorders that destroy not just the body but also the soul. Women and men, caught up in a never ending cycle of disappointment and heartache day after day because they just don’t measure up to the world’s idea of beauty or satisfaction or identity. It is only when a man & woman, put their hope in God, will they become a deeply settled & strong person who knows who they are.

Out of all the things in this life I don’t know, here’s what I do know. We’re all “trapped” in bodies that we need deliverance from. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” – Romans 7:24. That’s why Jesus came: to deliver not just Caitlyn Jenner but also people like you and me from the hold of sin and failing disordered bodies, in order that we may be given glorious, powerful, confusion-free resurrection bodies.

“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.

I Wonder If Most Of Us Would Have Shouted “Crucify Him” Rather Than “Hosanna”

This past Sunday was celebrated by many millions of Christians worldwide as Palm Sunday, the day in the church year marked as the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. When he did, the common people were ecstatic; their Saviour had come to make right all their wrongs. From their understanding, he’d enter Jerusalem, set Israel free from Rome, sit on his throne and usher in the golden age of the Messiah. It all made sense and the timing couldn’t be better to proclaim himself king and throw off the shackles of Rome.

But the problem for these bright eyed fair weather followers was that a short time later Jesus was standing before Pilate saying, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” – John 18:36

Not what they had expected, not what they had planned for their Israel. And because of this, only a few short days later, another parade of sorts took place – this second one was to crucify their king. And this time instead of shouting Hosanna, they spit on him, mocked him and shouted, “Crucify Him!” Roughly translated as, “You didn’t live up to the hype, Jesus!” “You didn’t fulfill my idea of the Kingdom!”

Why all the hype? 

The Passover was a huge celebration that represented the beginning of the harvest season in Israel, but more importantly it was related to the Exodus from Egypt after 400 years of slavery. The name “Passover” refers to the fact that God “passed over” the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt.

Also it must be remembered that the last time Israel had been independent was a hundred years before, when Judas Maccabeus had led them to victory over the Seleucids and became king. He had adopted the palm branch as a symbol of his victory and put the image of a palm branch on his coins to use them in temple feasts to celebrate their victory.

Palms were signs of victory and of military achievement by the Romans as well. The Romans gave palms to the victors in the Roman games and emperors gave them to their subjects following their military conquests. So when we read that the crowd rushed to get palm branches for this occasion, it wasn’t just because they were convenient. It was hugely symbolic – it was a big deal.

The palm branches are certainly significant, but I think that the cheers of the crowd are noteworthy too.  “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Hosanna in the highest!” -Matthew 21:9 The word “Hosanna” is a Latinized transliteration of a Hebrew phrase that means “save us!” We see it in Psalm 118 as “Save us, we pray, O Lord. O Lord, we pray, give us success!” in verse 25 followed by. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” in verse 26, which interestingly enough, was commonly used in their worship at the temple as well as a popular greeting shared between people on their way to Jerusalem for the festival.

The point is that all of this wasn’t something that was spontaneously made up that day. There was deep meaning behind it and was immensely significant to those who participated in welcoming their King. The crowds obviously believed Jesus was the “King,” the Messiah who had come to establish Israel’s independence from Rome, to liberate them in a very real way as a political hero. It all seemed so perfect and hopeful.

What was the problem? 

The only problem for their victory party was that Jesus isn’t that kind of Messiah, symbolically declaring that fact by riding into town on a donkey. Any history lesson would tell you that a conquering king would have ridden into the city on a warhorse, or in a magnificent chariot, but Jesus rode on the back of a donkey. Why is this so significant? Because of what Zechariah said. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” – Zechariah 9:9

The symbolism wouldn’t have been lost. Jesus knew his scripture, as did the crowds, and he (as they) would have remembered that when Solomon, King David’s son had become king, he rode his dad’s favourite donkey during the inaugural procession into the royal city of Jerusalem. Now here Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem, the city of David as a far greater ‘son of David”.

He accepted the title of “king,” but refused to become the military messiah that the people – even his disciples – wanted and expected. It’s no wonder then that just a week later, when these would-be followers realise Jesus’ goal is not in line with theirs, they stop shouting “Hosanna!” and start shouting “Crucify Him!”

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How should we respond?  

It’s easy for us to criticise those people in the crowd that day. How could they not have recognised Jesus for who he truly was and claimed to be? But based on our track record today, in most of our lives, I’d be afraid that we would be more comfortable in the ‘Crucify him’ crowd than in the ‘Hosanna’ crowd. Think about it for a moment. What do we expect from our Messiah? Is he invited into our lives in order to meet all our expectations as we understand it should be? If our wish list isn’t fulfilled as we think it should, do we get pouty and quit shouting Hosanna and instead join the crowds in rejecting him? We may not call out to have him crucified but do we reject him in other ways? Living for self, pride, disobedience, doubt, etc.

What was hard for the crowds, Jesus’ disciples initially, and even us folks today to understand is that Jesus’ victory parade that day had a much deeper meaning behind it then a temporal militaristic campaign. The fact was that Jesus didn’t come to bring us liberty from earthly enemies or immediate problems, though we may experience some of that from him. Jesus instead came to liberate us from the source and root of our problems: sin, evil, and death itself! This is the triumph behind the triumphal entry!

The question is, how do we respond to Jesus’ entry into our very own lives? Do we choose to follow Jesushim wherever he leads, or do we allow ourselves to be swept along with the masses who shout Hosanna one minute and reject him the next because he wasn’t what was expected?

In the book by C.S. Lewis, ‘The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe, Mrs. Beaver says to Lucy, “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

We may not know where King Jesus may take us, we might not fully understand his purposes in any given time and place of our lives and his kingdom may look way different from what we might think. But if we follow him, he will transform us, we will be changed and he will use us as he has done with any who have committed to follow their king down through the centuries. But is it safe? Of course it isn’t safe but he is the King – and he is good.