Recently, our church hosted an event called “Truth Talks,” covering the issues of gender and sexuality and led by Dan Darling and Josh Wester. Our purpose for the event was to help students and parents navigate these important topics from a biblical, Christ-centered perspective and to provide context for ongoing conversations between parents and children and within our congregation. We believe making disciples of Jesus and loving our neighbors well means helping Christians walk with people who share various views and live diverse lifestyles.
The statements included here are my takeaways from the event. I’m not sure which are direct quotes from Darling and Wester and which are my own summary statements. So let’s concede that the profound ones are theirs and the other ones are mine. I trust they will all be helpful.
- God created humans distinctly male and female by design and for a purpose, and we each, therefore, possess profound dignity and worth. No one’s background or behavior diminishes their value as human beings.
- As Christians, we believe the Bible and yield to its teachings even when those teachings make us uncomfortable. We can expect the Bible to challenge us, but our sensibilities do not lord over the Scriptures. Instead, we submit to the Bible as an act of faith in the God of the Bible.
- Sex is powerful. It’s very good when experienced in the context of biblical marriage between a man and a woman. It’s extremely harmful when experienced in any other context. In the sex act, we give a part of ourselves away. Within a covenant marriage relationship, that is a wonderful thing. Outside of biblical marriage, sex creates pain, insecurity, and brokenness.
- In the Gospels, Jesus affirmed gender distinctions in the marriage relationship as described in the Old Testament account of God’s creation of man and woman. As the Apostle Paul described the nature of Jesus’ relationship with the Church in his letter to the Ephesians, he affirmed the wonder and mystery of biblical marriage between a man and woman. So marriage is not an archaic notion, but an institution established and affirmed throughout Scripture and practiced for thousands of years.
- We cannot claim to follow Jesus and ignore what he said about marriage and sexuality. Whether the issue is an unbiblical divorce, sinful heterosexual behavior, or a homosexual lifestyle, for example, following Jesus necessarily means honoring the commands of Jesus and, by grace, following them in every area of our lives.
- Not every natural desire (e.g., sexual initmacy) should be pursued or fulfilled. We do not determine what glorifies God or even what is best for us. God does that, and he has preserved and given us the Bible to show us the way.
- When we turn to Jesus, place our faith in him, and become a Christian, Jesus saves us from the penalty of sin, but we are still being saved from the power of sin. Sexual temptation, and the struggle with other temptations for that matter, are a natural part of the human experience, generally, and of walking with Jesus, specifically.
- We affirm biblical manhood and womanhood, yet many cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity are not biblical at all. So when boys or girls struggle to fit into those stereotypes, we direct them back to the Bible. We affirm them, their unique bent and interests, and show them that God knit them in their mother’s womb, and that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psa. 139).
- Feeling uncomfortable in the body we were born with is not completely uncommon or unreasonable. We are fallen creatures, marred with a sin nature. Discomfort is part of our story, but it is not beyond Jesus’ redeeming work.
- Children and adolescents will often struggle with their identity. The overwhelming number of children who struggle with gender identity work through it and find peace with themselves as they grow into the late teenage and young adult years. So show patience with them. We love and encourage them. We pour God’s Word into them and show grace and kindness as they learn how God has designed them.
- People who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, as well as those fully involved in a homosexual lifestyle, are people, fellow human beings whom God stamped with his image. They possess dignity, and they are worthy of respect.
- Speaking the truth is not bigoted or unloving. Being bigoted is bigoted, and being unloving is unloving. As Jesus’ followers, we look to Jesus as our example, and Jesus was never a jerk. Faithful Christians treat all people with compassion because loving people is not a compromise. It’s a command.
- People may think a biblical worldview of marriage, gender, and sexuality is weird and freakish. That’s because it is weird and freakish. That’s okay. Many things Christians believe are outside the cultural mainstream. For example, we believe that God in Christ robed himself in flesh and came to earth as a baby born of a virgin named Mary. It was miraculous and outside of the norm, but we believe it. And not only do we believe it, but as odd as it may be, we orient our entire lives around that belief.
- Expect hardship and even rejection for your faithfulness to Jesus and his Word. The opposition of other people does not invalidate sound theology or undermine historic Christianity. Jesus said to expect persecution, and he promised to be with us every step of the way. So believers deny ourselves and stay the course as we invite people to experience new life in Jesus and to follow him with us.
- Many people who have adopted an alternate lifestyle are broken, hurting, and lonely. They, along with others, are skeptical of God and of Christians. They aren’t sure anyone will ever truly love them. So when we show kindness and respect, pray for them, and pursue genuine friendship, we offer them a more complete and compelling picture of the gospel. Loving our neighbors cracks the door open in a way that lets Jesus shine in and allows the Holy Spirit to do his work to redeem and restore.
- No sexual sin or brokenness (heterosexual or homosexual) is beyond God’s willingness or ability to redeem through the person and work of Jesus. So we faithfully show and share the gospel, inviting every person to come to Jesus.
Whether we are baking a cake, playing on a sports team, operating a school, running for public office, serving a church, or telling a story on the big screen, questions around gender and sexuality now dominate many everyday conversations. We care about these questions, we advocate for just laws and policies that protect religious freedom, and we speak the truth in love in the public square.
But followers of Jesus care most about people, not just issues. We do not withhold love for individuals, for example, based on a person’s gender, sexual preference, or sexual history. Instead, we understand that sin mars the image of God in all of us, but it does not make any of us subhuman.
Our theology tells us that God loves people and has provided redemption from sin through his Son Jesus for anyone who turns to him. That Good News not only tells us that God’s grace is greater than all of our sin, but it also gives us freedom to love other people in the same way God has loved us.
So as we pass on the faith to the next generation, we pass on a clear and compelling word from God. We stand firmly rooted on millenia of biblical orthodoxy related to marriage and sexuality. Husbands and wives reflect the beauty of the gospel and the glory of God in marriage. By honoring marriage, we honor the Lord. And by honoring our God-given design, we honor one another. We then live out our faith with confidence by loving our neighbors, whoever they are and whatever choices they have made, trusting Christ in us to bear witness of his own redeeming grace.