There have also been some outstanding Christian responses. There are, however, two types of Christian response that are unsatisfactory. One is the “truth trumps everything” response. This perspective sees Jenner’s situation (and all others related to the LGBT community) as sinful, wrong, and to be denounced . . . period. A second response is the “love trumps everything” approach. It seems, however, that love is defined as more than love for and acceptance of the person. Too often the love called for means never dealing with truth and actually accepting, if not actually endorsing, the condition, position, or belief. The unfortunate assumption is that disagreement about the nature of the condition, decision, belief, or action is to reject and hate the person. (By the way, the assumption that disagreement is “hating” or “bigotry” may say more about the person making the assumption than the one disagreeing).
Yes, I have oversimplified and generalized in defining these responses, but, hey, that is what you do in a blog! Anyway, let me see if I can add a bit to the discussion with what I think may be a balanced Biblical response. How should I respond to Bruce/Caitlyn and others in similar situations?
First of all, yes, with love. I don’t have a choice in this. I am commanded by my Lord to love my neighbor as myself (Mk. 12:31), not to mention that I am to love my enemies (Matt.5:44). This love is not necessarily related to emotion. It is a choice and results in action. It is acceptance of the person where they are, but does not have to imply agreement or endorsement of belief or action, or even a belief that they should stay as they are.
Secondly, my response should be one of grief. This is the piece that is too often overlooked. I grieve because Jenner’s situation is not the way things are supposed to be. It is not normal. Hear me out:
I grieve because God’s good creation and every aspect of human life have been affected and infected by sin (Jer.17:9; Rom. 1; 3:23; 7:17-20; 8:20-22).
Consequently, I grieve because things are not the way they are supposed to be. They are not really normal. They are broken. War, poverty, injustice are not normal. Oppression, corruption, and crime are not normal. Divorce, adultery, and marital conflict are not normal. Cancer, mental illness, and alcoholism are not normal. Heterosexual lust, same sex attraction, and gender confusion are not normal. All these human conditions, and many more, fall short of God’s original creation ideal and are manifestations of our brokenness. Sin ruined it all, and our sins continue to mess it up.
I grieve because as humans we too often allow and even encourage these conditions to become normal. Not only do we fall short of God’s intention, but we want to justify and normalize our brokenness. I understand there is a sense in which we must speak of things to some degree as “normal” in order for us to live coherently in the here and now. This is simply our lot; it is reality. And, once again, we approach brokenness with love and compassion. But, theologically we must understand that we are not “just humans” and so we sin. No, we are actually less than human, as humanity was intended, and so we sin. From God’s perspective things as they are, are not normal. Now, there is a lot of debate about what constitutes sin, but whatever one’s conclusion about a specific sin, our human situation, because it is steeped in sin, results in all kinds of sinful situations for every single human and human institution. It is, for example, no sin to be poor and sin may not directly cause a person to be poor. However, poverty is the result of a fallen, sinful, and broken world.
Thirdly, then, all this grief means that I must also respond in truth. I see how things are, how they fall so short of God’s ideal (including my own life), and I am compelled to turn in love and grief to the Scriptures to see how then we should live. See, we are not to live according to this “normal.” To the contrary, because of God’s work of grace in Jesus Christ, Bruce/Caitlyn and I and all people have the opportunity to live as Kingdom citizens in the present, walking in the Spirit, being conformed to the image of Jesus, and thus learning to be more truly human as God intended. Jesus was clear about this: “You have heard it said . . . but I tell you” (Matt. 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). Time and again Jesus pointed out that tradition, culture, and history are inadequate standards for normal humanity. Rather, it was God’s original plan, now perfectly manifested in Him.
Finally, pulling love and grief and truth together, I respond with hope. See, the entire “creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (Rom.8:19) when Jesus returns to consummate his Kingdom and we “shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). That is, we will finally be truly human as Jesus is perfectly human. Our human brokenness, cause by original sin and our own sins, will finally be healed. We will be put back together and once more will be truly normal. We anticipate that day; we look forward to that day; we long for that day.
So whether it is Jenner’ gender confusion, the violence of ISIS, or my own list of sins, they all remind us that the reality we now live in is not God’s original plan nor his ultimate purpose.
How to respond to Mr/Ms Jenner? First of all with love and with compassion for what must have been an incredibly difficult lifelong struggle. That love is accompanied by grief, because Jenner’s situation (and so many of mine) are not what God intended. We are broken. But love and grief cannot preclude truth, the truth that there is hope in Christ to be daily conformed more and more to his image and thus be more and more human. And, these three lead to the hope that one day all this brokenness will be fixed.