Yesterday we recorded a conversation that we’re planning to share with you sometime next week. I’ve had so many of these stimulating and helpful conversations over the years that we decided that it might be helpful to others if we’d let you eavesdrop from time to time. My conversation partners are a group of guys who all have an affinity for one another thanks to what we do and how what we do brings us together several times a year. . . something that’s cemented our bond to each other over the course of many years. This little band of guys who love each other includes Duffy Robbins, Marv Penner, Rich Van Pelt, Chap Clark, and Doug Fields. Yesterday, Chap and Duffy joined me to record an episode of our “Youth Culture Matters” podcast. Sparked by recent talk and controversy over transgender bathrooms, we thought out loud with each other about how to best respond Christianly and how we would encourage youth workers to do the same. I’m looking forward to the episode’s release in a few days.
Towards the end of the podcast, Jason Soucinek (who hosted and moderated our discussion), asked us each to pass on to listeners what we thought were crucial basic-level issues that must be addressed by youth workers and churches as we frame our response to transgenderism. Since I was asked to respond last I had the joy of listening to my friends Duffy and Chap offer their ideas. All three of us mentioned the core issue of identity, which is so foundational and basic to just about any issue we need to address individually and corporately in our lives. Ultimately, it’s about helping everyone find, understand, and live out their identity in Christ as primary. I love how Chap’s recent emphasis on our adoption by and in Christ helps us see this in all of its grandeur and glory.
Beyond that I quickly offered three arenas where I believe emphasis must be laid in our teaching and living. . . from the time we are born right on through until the time we die. I’ll pass them on to you here quickly. . .
First, there is our understanding of the Scriptures not as a pastiche of rules, regulations, and ideas, but as a meta-narrative that explains and speaks to all of life. I don’t think that anything in my own spiritual formation as has spoken to me more deeply than seeing the Biblical story unfold in the four chapters of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Have you looked carefully at David Arms’ rendering of this in the painting at the top of this blog page? He calls it “God’s Story.” It makes sense of everything. And when we talk about transgenderism (or anything for that matter!) it’s helpful to understand 1) God’s created intent for all that He made and what it means for all Creation to flourish, 2) How the Fall has broken and corrupted everything in creation, including our sense of gender, sexuality, and identity, 3) What it means to be a redeemed person living in union with Christ, to the glory of God, and following Jesus by seeking and promoting Shalom, and 4) What our lives, identities, gender, and sexuality will look like when we experience that longed for day when our groaning will cease and all things will be restored to its original glory and unbroken intent. When I process any issue through this framework I believe I am on the path to seeing things as they should be seen.
Second, there is the issue of integration. We live and are encouraged to live dis-jointed lives where we keep our faith separate from certain nooks and crannies of our being and doing. Our faith is not primarily about personal salvation. It’s about coming to Jesus and following Jesus. . . in every square inch of our being and doing. This includes our identity, gender, and sexuality. . . everything! Consequently, my life should reflect a “Thy will” rather than “my will” focus and bent.
Finally, there’s the maintenance of that delicate balance between truth and love. In the church, we have historically leaned to the one side or the other based on our theological leaning. A balance is required. I love these words from John Stott: “Our love grows soft if it is not strengthened by truth, and our truth grows hard if it is not softened by love.” Balance.
I hope you’ll find our conversation and thoughts helpful. We’re in process on this, and it’s a joy to work these things out in the company of believing friends.
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