There was a day when those who created a profile on Facebook had to specify whether they were male or female. Now there are 51 gender options, listed alphabetically from "Agender" (someone who does not identify with any gender) to "Two-spirit" (people who have both masculine and feminine characteristics). Other designations include "Androgynous," "Gender Questioning," and "Pangender."
Some are reacting positively. One advocate claims that, in a world dominated by binaries (Democrat or Republican, Left or Right), Facebook is acknowledging the complexity of the real world. Others are less impressed. One critic noted: "What if you identify as a pine cone or a chicken or a weed whacker? Facebook doesn't offer those options."
There are a number of theological approaches to this issue. Some believe that God created each of us with our sexual orientation, whatever we understand it to be. "God made me this way" is their typical refrain. Others, myself included, believe that God's intention for us was to live as male or female.
Genesis 1 states that "God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (v. 27). Jesus affirmed that "he who created them from the beginning made them male and female" (Matthew 19:4). Some think that non-biblical sexual identities are the product of unfortunate circumstances, family experience, and so on. Others view them as a result of the Fall, a genetic and/or environmental reality that is outside God's best will for us.
Whatever you believe on this subject, how you express your beliefs is critical. A recent study determined that 3.5 percent of adults in the U.S. identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. These percentages equate to approximately nine million LGBT Americans, a population larger than New Jersey or Virginia. According to the study, 0.3 percent of Americans are transgender, equating to 700,000 people, a population larger than Boston or Seattle. How do you suppose they feel about the way "straight" Christians often relate to them?
For instance, how would you react if someone claimed that your sexual orientation made you a bad person? If a preacher told you that you have to become gay to join his church? I'm not endorsing homosexuality, but trying to make a point: would such an approach, no matter how well intentioned, draw you to his faith? Of course we must speak the truth, but we must do so in love (Ephesians 4:15). And we want to adopt strategies that are most likely to be effective with those we seek to serve.
So here's a suggestion: ask God to give you his heart for those whose sexual orientation is different from yours. Ask him to open doors to genuine relationship with them. Earn the right to share his word. Remain friends, however they respond. And remember that while you may not be tempted as they are, they may not be tempted as you are.
I need, everyday, "grace that is greater than all our sins." Do you?
Publication date: February 24, 2014