How Christians Should Speak to Kids and Culture on the Gender Issue

Given the media’s choice to largely ignore the story, you may have missed the details about a recent court case in Dallas centered on the custody of a seven-year-old boy. The mother of the boy said that he should be identified as a girl, claiming he made that decision himself at the age of three because he liked Disney princesses and so-called “girl toys.” She saught sole custody to “transition” the boy against the father’s wishes, and administer hormone treatments as the child neared puberty. She also wanted a court order to forbid the father from calling his son “son,” speaking his name, or referring to him as a “he.” The father said that the boy still wanted to be a boy while in his custody (in fact, the mother’s own paid “experts” testified that he “does not identify with only one gender”). He also accused the mother of contributing to his son’s perceived confusion by telling him that “monsters only eat boys.” 

Thankfully, after a jury recommended 11-1 to confirm the mother as sole custodian, the judge has intervened by ruling that joint custody will be maintained. The judge’s ruling will at least temporarily slow down the likelihood of the boy soon beginning harmful hormone therapies which would have suppressed his natural development. It is, however, easy to imagine a different judge deciding the opposite, perhaps in a state without the governor and other top politicians speaking out against it.

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: cases like this will come up again, and the judges sometimes will decide differently, in ways that will harm children and set dangerous precedents for others. So, if you “identify” as a Christian and as a mature adult, how should you respond?

For starters, if you have kids yourself, be a parent. It is your job to be the adult. Children will be childish, by definition. They think like children (1 Corinthians 13:11). They are not reliably knowledgeable, reasonable, or wise. They lack life experience, a firm grasp of reality, and the ability to make decisions of ultimate importance. In fact, they are legally not allowed to make any major decisions on their own, and any such agreements they try to enter into are not binding. 

You are to teach them and guide them through this early stage of life. You will often, quite literally, save them from themselves. If a kid wants to put on a cape and jump off the roof because they say they are a superhero, you don’t affirm them in that decision no matter how passionately they believe they can fly. You can try to reason with them by explaining the facts of what the consequences might be. But if they don’t listen to reason (and they often won’t), you don’t just throw up your hands and let them experience those consequences. You protect them because you love them. You are the parent and parents are there to protect, not enable.

The progressive “experts” of the day say the loving thing to do is to embrace a child’s self-proclaimed “gender identity” (a new term), and give them drugs to block puberty (and likely make them permanently infertile) so they can later more easily “transition” by surgically removing healthy organs. Considering that 80 to 95 percent of kids with gender dysphoria end up identifying by their true birth/genetic gender after puberty, helping kids prevent puberty in order to change genders seems like an especially twisted form of lifelong abuse. 

In addition to being a parent to those in your own family, you need to speak up for what is universally right for all members of the human family, and especially those who have no powerful voice of their own (Proverbs 31:8-9). A key strategy of those who seek to redefine truth or promote progressive postmodern ideologies is to try to bully those who disagree with them into silence. That’s why we have a “cancel culture,” the advancement of the idea that “words are violence,” and countless other efforts to curtail free speech and civil discourse both online and off. A loud and vocal few can sound like a majority when the majority is too afraid to speak up. The resulting “spiral of silence” leaves multitudes afraid to acknowledge the “emperor has no clothes” even in the face of his obvious nakedness. 

Speak up now, lest we are soon in a world where courts do say that it’s illegal to call your son a “son,” and judges decide for you how to raise your kids. By speaking with conviction now, you can at least take comfort in knowing it wasn’t your silence that made the abuse possible. 

Finally, above all, you should love people in word and deed. Every single one of us has areas where our natural tendency is to stray from God’s design for our lives. All of us have “gone astray”; each of us has areas where we have “turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6). None of us is without need of admonishment, encouragement, and help. When we meet someone who is struggling, we meet ourselves, and we should lovingly point them towards the same truth we want them to use for our encouragement. That especially includes the Truth that making choices which go against God’s desires will not bring ultimate joy, peace or fullness of life. 

To speak is to love. Love without truth is not loving, and truth spoken without love will not be heard.

The greatest Truth we must continually share is that even when we do make foolish or rebellious choices, God still loves us. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He made provision for our sin, so that we don’t have to remain a slave to its consequences in this life or the life to come. His love waits for all who seek it. Let’s make sure we daily speak of God’s love and model its effects, so that we may make it known to every human who has lost their God-given identity as a son or daughter made in His image. 

Todd Wagner is the senior pastor at Watermark Community Church. He is the author of the book Come and See and has a weekly podcast, Real Truth Real Quick, on life, leadership and the world we live in.

What the Church Gets Wrong About the LGBTQ Conversation

The following is a version of an editorial that first appeared in the Dallas Morning News.

In many ways, the Church has failed the LGBTQ community. Last week in St. Louis, we saw the latest example of this as the Methodist church remained divided over issues related to LGBTQ inclusion and corresponding discussion about same-sex marriage. Confusion and vitriol remain high, and God calls His people to bring clarity and compassion in times like these.

Historically, the Church has done a poor job of engaging in this conversation. It either speaks with hypocritical judgmentalism and condemnation or with a perverted view of compassion by embracing behavior that compromises human flourishing. Often, kindness and truth are abandoned, and civil discourse happens only after we taste the disastrous results of talking at one another instead of humbly listening to one another.

As has been said, the double trouble of the fool is always an open mouth and a closed mind.

While there are many I could list, here are four things I believe the Church gets wrong about the LGBTQ conversation:

  • Making LGBTQ behavior separate and more significant than other sins
  • Supporting the use of reparative therapy or gay conversion therapy
  • Staying silent in the face of sin
  • Affirming an LGBTQ lifestyle as compatible with Scripture

Simply put, God does not put a hierarchy on sin. God looks on heterosexual immorality, materialism, gossip, drunkenness, pride, or the idolatry of work with just as much sadness as He does same-sex sexual activity (Note: I did not say same-sex attraction/temptation). God intends for His Church to be salt and light. This means the Church must, among other things, work to prevent societal and moral decay. It must be a beacon of truth and grace amidst the darkening of conscience that occurs when we drift away from God’s plan for His people. However, the Church cannot fall into the trap of highlighting particular sins to the exclusion of others. If your church is willing to denounce LGBTQ behavior but says nothing of “no-fault divorce,” racism, or greed, then your church is failing to communicate God’s truth to the world. We cannot pick and choose which of God’s commandments to care about. “Churches” like Westboro Baptist are destructive to the cause of Christ and should be admonished for it.

Sadly, too many churches implore LGBTQ individuals to attend reparative therapy (or gay conversion therapy). Conversion therapy is defined as a psychological treatment designed to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual/bisexual to heterosexual. Conversion therapy, therefore, is biblically unnecessary, unhelpful, and harmful. It is worth clarifying since it has been incorrectly reported as such that this has never been endorsed or practiced at Watermark.

God’s Word does not call us to change a person’s sin struggle, but it does call us to proclaim God’s forgiveness for sin and to equip His people to struggle well against sin. We do not believe you can “pray the gay away.” We do not believe that Christians should strive to change anyone’s sexual orientation, but rather reorient a person’s affections for God through a proper understanding of the gospel. The goal is not that we would be free from certain forms of temptation, but rather that our hearts would increasingly love what God loves and choose His goodness above our own desires.

Temptation, in all forms, is a human condition – but it is not a terminal or self-defining one. The goal isn’t heterosexuality – there are a myriad of ways heterosexuality practices are sinful. The goal is holy sexuality.

When it is at its best, the Church enters into the LGBTQ conversation because it loves LGBTQ people. But it is never loving to stay silent in the face of sin. This is why refusing to address the LGBTQ conversation is just as unbiblical as addressing it poorly. The Lord asks His Church to stand firm in its convictions and beliefs. He is the source of truth and the way to life. It is a privileged job to call others to it. If there is an affront to truth and the biblical way of life, the Church must speak up. If we remain silent, we cannot say we truly love others. This means we communicate what the Scriptures say even if it makes us unpopular or misunderstood. Jesus was despised and ultimately killed for His faithfulness to the Father. We are okay with being criticized for ours.

The Church cannot change what the Bible says based on preference, political opinion, or the changing times. We fail in any conversation when we forget that the Bible is God’s Word and stands the test of time and culture. God’s people must stand with Him and do the same. In order to understand why the Bible does not affirm living an active LGBTQ lifestyle, we must look at what the Bible affirms:

God-ordained marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4-9; Ephesians 5:31-33). Those who accept and live within God’s design for sex, biological gender, and marriage experience the blessing of His good design (Psalm 1:1-3; 128:1-4), and decisions to change, alter, or modify God’s will in marriage, sex, or gender are part of man’s brokenness and lead to despair (Romans 1:21-22; James 1:14-16).

We must hold fast to what the Bible says is true. Truth stands the test of time and culture, and God’s people stand with Him in every time and in every culture.

These are just a few of the ways the Church often fails to communicate clearly and compassionately about this topic. Thankfully, Jesus Christ offers everyone forgiveness and new life. He loves you and died on a cross for sinners like us. God is far more concerned with your heart than your behavior, but a heart that is transformed by His gospel leads to a transformed life. If you have felt betrayed or hurt by the Church’s response to the LGBTQ community, we invite you to come and see. Come visit us any day of the week. We would love to talk with you, not at you.

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Todd Wagner is the Senior Pastor at Watermark Community Church and the author of Come and See. Follow him on social media @wordsfromwags or email him at pastoraloffice@watermark.org.

Other Resources:

RTRQ: Can You Be a Gay Christian?

RTRQ: Is God Anti-Gay?

RTRQ: Should Christians Support Gay Conversion Therapy?