A recent announcement by a high profile leader within the Independent Christian Church/Church of Christ has rocked our brotherhood. Since the late 1970’s this man has been at the forefront of planting new congregations as well as providing spiritual insight & instruction through articles and speaking engagements for many ministers who serve ‘in the trenches’, even as serving as editor for one of the major publications within the Restoration Movement (RM). His announcement of a lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria was made public via social media outlets and his personal blog. Sadly, this admission included the revelation he is choosing to ‘integrate’ male into female, and has already begun to identify himself as a woman, which is truly heartbreaking as it identifies a desire to intentionally rebel against God’s Word.
Scripture condemns a man denying his masculine traits by participating in feminine behavior, mannerisms, or even dressing as a woman.
A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 22:5, NASB’95
Such condemnation is not simply focussed on a woman putting on a pair of slacks, or even a man wearing a Scottish kilt. Condemnation comes when someone desires to present themselves as a gender other than the gender with which they have been created. Modern culture has enabled the concept of an individual identifying a gender based upon how they feel, or think heir gender ought to be. Such is the case with ‘Gender Dysphoria’.
The coming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) includes a revision from the forth edition 1. with the new identification of ‘Gender Dysphoria’ (formerly ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ 2.) as follows:
… people whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with will be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. This diagnosis is a revision of DSM-IV’s criteria for gender identity disorder and is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults. 3.
To be clear, ‘Gender Dysphoria’ encompasses more than simple gender non-conformity as it involves a level of distress for the person which is clinically recognized as significant. The DSM-IV identified the disorder by a different name (Gender Identity Disorder) and justification for the change in DSM-V is offered as follows:
DSM-5 aims to avoid stigma and ensure clinical care for individuals who see and feel themselves to be a different gender than their assigned gender. It replaces the diagnostic name “gender identity disorder”with “gender dysphoria,” as well as makes other important clarifications in the criteria. 4.
Mental illness often carries a social stigma, and public admission of a mental illness or disorder is not often the path chosen due to the potential social impact upon the person. For some, the impact of public admission is so stressful it compounds the distress already being experienced. Living in a fallen world, racked with illnesses of all manner, we must remind ourselves illness is the enemy the patient, is not. Compassion is called for in such circumstances. Unfortunately, many in today’s culture have confused love and compassion with acceptance of a behavior, and grace has been replaced with ‘tolerance’, a buzz word for complete agreement.
How should Christians respond to those who have embraced ‘lifestyle’ choices which are outside the acceptable boundaries of Scripture?
First, we must recognize the Scripture as the only rule for acceptable practices. Nothing has changed in God’s expectations for mankind, nor have moral values ‘evolved’ to become more sophisticated or relevant.
Second, it is important to note these ‘choices’ are nothing new, but have been in the world since the beginning. The Old Testament gives account of cultures given to all manner of immorality and the Apostle Paul, as recorded in the New Testament, also lived in a culture saturated with sexual immorality. His disciples ministered in this same cultural context and Paul wrote letters (now contained in the New Testament) to Christians and congregations from within this culture. Yet, led by the Holy Spirit, he never endorsed or tolerated immorality. In fact, the Apostle was very bold in his writing as he called people from a life of sexual immorality to a life of purity in Christ. He called offenders out by name. He referenced specific and public circumstances of immorality. He even called for Christians to pull away from those calling themselves ‘Christian’ and living in unrepentant immorality. None of this made him popular among men.
Modern American culture seems to be very similar to the 1st century culture of Paul’s day. Open promiscuity is the expectation of even the youngest of students. Couples choose to co-habit rather than commit to marriage. Marriage as ‘traditionally’ known is being assaulted by those who desire not simply to ‘redefine’ but to eradicate. Immodesty is so common it has become a powerful tool for advertising. Pornography and all manner of deviant sexual behavior is not only accepted but actually able to leverage penalty upon those who dare to disagree.
Impact of such cultural changes are also bearing upon the Church, and it is not along strictly generational lines. More and more people, identifying themselves as ‘Christian’, find moral boundaries within Scripture as no longer applicable for modern people. In fact, Scripture has endured many assaults from both within and without the walls of the modern Church.
Finally, Christians must be cautious not to isolate themselves from those involved in embracing immorality. Although Scripture cautions not to embrace evil, living as aliens & strangers in the world, we are also expected to live as ‘salt and light’ in a world which desperately needs Christ. Christians must never condone, nor enable immoral behavior, and Scripture is clear in response to a professing Christian who continues, willingly, in such immoral behavior… such a person is to be shut out from fellowship. (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-13)
Our challenge as Christians in modern culture does not lie in the ambiguity of Scriptural instruction on the matter for such ambiguity does not exist. Modern Christians face the same challenge Paul faced in the 1st century… holding to truth, and expressing the love of Christ to those outside truth. While maintaining the delicate balance of love without acceptance of sin, we must condemn immoral behavior, urging repentance by the individual toward restoration.