LGBT Issues in a Postmodern, Post-Christian World
Discussing sexual orientation and gender identity today
From my earliest memory, I felt like a boy trapped inside a female body. My parents thought I was just a tomboy and that I’d grow out of it, as most girls do. But for me, this wasn’t a passing phase; it was an obsession. Somehow I felt incomplete in my own body.
At age 9, I heard there was such a thing as a sex change operation, and I decided that was the answer. As soon as I was old enough and had enough money, I would change my name to David, get a sex change, and live happily ever after — or so I thought.
In junior high, I was envious of the boys around me as their voices changed and they developed into everything I longed to be. Around the same time, I discovered I was exclusively attracted to girls. I didn’t choose that. I didn’t want that. Yet I felt helpless to change it. I soon fell into a deep depression.
I couldn’t tell anyone what was happening. Very few were talking about these issues in the 1980s. I figured attraction to girls seemed reasonable if I truly were a boy trapped inside a female body. That just made me a straight male. I decided I needed to hold out and get the sex change operation, and my whole world would finally make sense.
In late junior high, I started thinking through how I would tell my family. I was afraid of what my parents, grandparents and neighbors would think. I decided I had two options. I could run away, have the operation, and never see my family again, or I could forego the operation and keep my family, even if it consigned me to a life of suicidal despair and loneliness. I chose the latter because my family was all I had. I never felt like I fit in, so I didn’t have close friends, and I did not want to live the rest of my life alone.
I decided to do whatever was necessary to pass as a girl so no one would guess my deep, dark secret. I grew my hair out and tried dating boys in high school, hoping experimenting sexually with them would awaken dormant sexual desires. However, no matter how much I experimented with boys, it only made me more intensely jealous. I wanted to be the man with the woman, not the woman with the man.
My junior year in high school, I experienced a genuine conversion to Christ. I thought all my struggles would go away, but they didn’t. I learned quickly the Church didn’t talk about deviant sexual matters, so I needed to keep the secret to myself. I loved Jesus and wanted to follow Him. I just didn’t know what to do about my forbidden desires.
I lived a double life until my senior year in college, when I finally confessed my issues to my campus pastor. I thought he’d kick me out of the group and chastise me.
Instead, my pastor said, “Thank you for sharing that with me. I know that took a lot of courage, and I want you to know this doesn’t change our opinion of you. We love you, we see the hand of God on your life, and we are going to get you the help you need.”
Had my campus pastor responded any other way, I might not be here today.
That conversation 26 years ago was the first step in an 11-year journey of transformation. The process was intensely painful and messy, and I wanted to give up multiple times. As difficult as it was, I wouldn’t trade that journey for anything because that’s where I got to know Jesus and His unwavering love for me.
As Jesus walked with me in the middle of my mess, He healed deep wounds in my heart that contributed to the erroneous belief that it’s better to be a man than a woman. Jesus met the deep thirst in my heart for feminine love, which was at the root of my same-sex attractions.
Rather than being a sexual issue, my attraction to women developed as the result of an emotional-relational deficit of loving female relationships. Over time, the desire for such loving relationships became sexualized. In addition to direct encounters with the Lord to fill my thirst for love, God used healthy relationships with women in the body of Christ to heal my heart.
Today, I am content in my female body, and I am no longer attracted to women. Had I grown up in today’s gay-affirming world, the outcome might have been different.
Though I was not a Christian when I first experienced same-sex attraction, I had an intuitive sense those desires were wrong. Thankfully, the conviction of God combined with societal norms kept me from mutilating my body to match the disordered desires of my heart.
In contrast, today’s teens constantly hear that disordered sexual desires are natural and should not only be accepted but celebrated. Sadly, this has put Christian leaders on the defensive, not knowing how to address sexuality and gender identity.
Despite my background, addressing LGBT issues in a postmodern, post-Christian culture is challenging. I believe there are four keys to discussing sexuality and gender identity with this generation:
- Start with relationship.
- Approach sexuality from a holistic perspective.
- Address the false constructs of sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Share stories of transformation.
As a Chi Alpha campus missionary, I am immersed in a post-Christian culture that rejects absolute truth and presumes Christians are hypocrites. It’s not a safe place to talk about biblical sexuality.
To gain a hearing, I need to present the truth in a way nonbelievers can receive it. Instead of making truth claims my starting point, I begin by investing in relationships and building trust.
Authentic relationship cuts against the stereotype that Christians are hypocritical and untrustworthy. When unbelievers experience the love of Christ in the context of relationship, it creates a safe place to discuss deeper issues like sexuality. It’s imperative to connect with the heart before you connect with the head.
This generation isn’t interested in knowing the “rules” of biblical sexuality. They’ve grown up in a diverse culture that affirms LGBT ideology and presumes people are born gay or trans. From their perspective, it feels cruel to tell someone they can’t act upon their seemingly inborn desires. In their minds, love is love, and consensual sex doesn’t hurt anyone.
They don’t want to know homosexual practice is wrong; they want to know why. If God is good, why would He create someone gay or trans and tell them it’s a sin to act upon their natural inclinations? A holistic approach to sexuality addresses that.
As tempting as it is to start the discussion with biblical proof texts on homosexual practice, those only address the “rules” of sexuality without explaining the why behind them. To answer the why, start with the Person of God, His character and nature, and His purpose for sexuality as it relates to the gospel.
I begin by explaining God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — three distinct persons yet one God — in a divine community of holy love. Everything God does is motivated by love, and the purpose of the gospel is to invite us into an eternal relationship with Him. This makes a relationship with God the starting point, rather than impersonal rules.
God didn’t create sex with rules in mind; God created sex as an expression of His character and nature and the kind of relationship He wants to have with us.
I narrow the discussion to three aspects of God: 1) He is a creative being who created the universe and rules lovingly over all; 2) He is a relational being who desires a love relationship with us; 3) He is three distinct persons yet one unified God. In other words, God exists as unity in diversity.
I go on to explain God made us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). We are procreative beings. Just as God created us and rules over the universe, He calls us to multiply and rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28). We are relational beings designed to live in community, not isolation (Genesis 2:18). We exist as unity in diversity — unified in our humanity yet diverse in our sexuality as male human beings and female human beings reflecting God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
Human marriage is merely a shadow of the ultimate marriage between Christ and His Bride, the Church, which is the culmination of the gospel. The same aforementioned characteristics are present in our relationship with Jesus. When we come to Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus desires an intimate relationship with His Bride (1 Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 5:32). We are unified with Jesus in our humanity, yet distinct from Him in that He is God, and we are not.
God’s design for sex and marriage reflect His character and nature and His ultimate desire to be united with His Bride. God did not create sexuality as a list of rules to follow but rather as an expression of who He is and how He wants to relate to us. That resonates with a generation who values relationship over rules.
Because God designed sexuality to reflect His character and the kind of relationship He wants to have with us, He forbids any sexual act not reflecting that reality. For the sake of explanation, I find it easier to start with unity in diversity, then move on to relationality, and then procreativity.
First, God prohibits any sexual practice that does not reflect unity in diversity. Thus, divorce falls outside of God’s intended design because it cuts against unity. God prohibits homosexual practice because it does not include diversity: two males or two females image unity in sameness, not unity in diversity. That is precisely why homosexual practice is forbidden. It does not reflect God’s character and nature, nor does it reflect the ultimate marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church.
Secondly, God prohibits any sexual practice not reflecting His relational love. For this reason, the only acceptable sexual relationship is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, reflecting God’s eternal covenant with us. That is why Scripture forbids adultery, where there is no covenant.
Scripture forbids any sexual act that does not have the capacity for procreation. A homosexual union cannot fulfill the creation mandate to multiply, paralleling the gospel mandate to make spiritual disciples who reproduce and fill the earth with Christ followers. This is not to say those who cannot procreate — infertile couples, older couples, and unmarried singles — do not reflect the gospel.
Because we live in a fallen world, some couples face infertility. However, that does not fall into the same category as a same-sex union, wherein procreation is fundamentally impossible. An infertile couple may seek out a fertility doctor to explore medical possibilities for conception, while a same-sex couple cannot conceive life together under any circumstance. A heterosexual couple who do not or cannot procreate still align with God’s design, as they represent the kind of relationship having the capacity for procreation.
While married couples reflect God’s exclusive, covenantal love, it would be inappropriate for an unmarried person to form an exclusive covenant with any one individual. Rather, they are called to experience platonic relationships with everyone, reflecting God’s all-inclusive love.
Thus, we all have the capacity to image God’s love to the world around us, but the only acceptable form of sexual union consists of one man and one woman in a lifelong marriage that images unity in diversity, covenant relationship, and the potential for procreation. While there may be people who choose to be “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom” (Matthew 19:12), that doesn’t change God’s design for sexuality any more than a single person, like myself, who has not married yet.
A holistic perspective helps the unbeliever understand that everything about our sexuality is designed to point to the character and nature of God and the good news of the gospel.
It is not about following a list of rules; it’s about imaging our relational, triune Creator. Within that paradigm, there’s no such thing as sexual orientation or gender identity — but only male and female created in God’s image. However, to communicate effectively with today’s generation, we must address the false constructs of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Scripture never speaks of sexual orientation or gender identity because, in God’s design, biological sex serves as the determiner of sexuality.
God designed biological males to identify as male, present as male, and feel attracted to women. He designed biological females to identify as female, present as female, and feel attracted to men. If any of those are out of alignment, that’s not an indicator of an alternative sexuality that must be celebrated; it’s an indicator that areas of the soul (mind, will and emotions) are out of alignment with God’s creational design (body).
To insist that one’s soul need not align with one’s body is a form of Gnosticism, a false belief that seeks to divorce the soul from the body.
My own transformation process involved healing wounds in my soul so that my inner being came into alignment with my God-given body. It required putting off the old self and the lies I believed that gave rise to deceitful desires, being made new in the attitude of my mind, and stepping into who God created me to be (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Instead of conforming to the pattern of this world — including the false constructs of sexual orientation and gender identity — I experienced transformation by renewing my mind to align with the Word and God’s design for my sexuality. It may sound simple, but the process took years, as our sexuality is deeply intertwined with our past experiences and heart beliefs.
Stories of Transformation
One of the most powerful ways to reach this feelings-oriented, subjective-minded generation is through narratives. In addition to sharing the grand narrative of how our sexuality reflects God’s character and nature, share stories of how formerly gay-identified or trans-identified people have experienced transformation.
Scripture teaches we overcome the enemy by the word of our testimony and the blood of Christ (Revelation 12:11). Two quality documentaries I recommend are Pure Passion Media’s Such Were Some of You, which traces the stories from dozens of formerly gay men and women, and TranZformed, which shares the stories of 15 ex-transgender individuals who have been transformed by Jesus. Both are free on YouTube.
I wouldn’t force those documentaries upon people who embrace LGBT ideology. However, if you know someone who is sincerely questioning his or her sexuality and looking for answers, it can be encouraging to hear from others who have walked that road and experienced transformation through Jesus Christ.
Discussing sexuality and gender identity with today’s generation may be a daunting task, but it is also an invitation to think about God’s genius design for sex through the holistic lens of the gospel. God didn’t create sex with rules in mind; God created sex as an expression of His character and nature and the kind of relationship He wants to have with us.
Our sexuality points toward the glorious mystery of the gospel, culminating in the union between Christ and His Bride, the Church. To help this generation understand that reality, start with relationship, approach sexuality from a holistic perspective, address the false constructs of sexual orientation and gender identity, and share stories of transformation.
When we keep Jesus and the gospel at the center of our conversation, we can offer clarity and hope to a generation that desperately needs it.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2020 edition of Influence magazine.