GENDER: CENTRAL IN SIN’S IMPACT Trinity
Romans 1:18-32 6.5.18
Last Tuesday on the ABC Radio National breakfast program, a doctor was speaking with Fran Kelly about gender differences between male and female athletes. She interjected “But we have an understanding now that gender is not binary”, meaning, there are many genders, and you can take your pick.
Had he been given the opportunity, the doctor should have said “Fran, don’t be silly. Looking at the facts we know gender is binary. Yes, in about 1 in 5,000 births there are chromosomal and physical issues that make it murky, but for 99.7% of us it’s as clear as day:
· All the 37 trillion cells in our bodies, are either male or female.
· We have reproductive organs that say ‘male’ or ‘female’.
· We have brains which are the most gender distinct organ in our bodies after our reproductive organs.
· We have different physical shapes, hormonal differences, emotional reactions and a hundred other differences.
Fran, our bodies do not lie. Any physical scientist can tell you that there are only two genders, and that they are different.” Being proudly a lesbian, and having already thereby declared gender to be personally irrelevant for her, it makes sense for Fran Kelly to bend gender wherever she chooses.
The story as it is told in Romans 1 shows that there is more to it than that. It starts way back at the beginning, with God who made everything beautiful, including man being made as male and female, uniquely to fit together with one another.
We were not there, but we look at stars and planets all in perfect orbits, breath-taking exquisite sunsets and microscopic insects with all their parts that work so perfectly, and we know in our heart of hearts that there is someone or something behind all of this, who is bigger than us and more wonderful than us.
“What can be known about God is plain to us, because God has shown it to us … “his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (vv 19.20)
What do we do with this knowledge? Seek this God whoever he is? No. We resist it. We suppress it (v18).
Once we take God out, we have to put something or someone else in. We have to swap the Creator for something created. God calls it an “exchange” inverse 23. So we set up an idol.
What is an idol? Just an alternative god? No, an idol is something we think will give us life, but which cannot. If I get that job, that boyfriend, that house, then I’ll feel alive. If I can express myself in the most exciting sexual way, then I’ll soar. Whether it be homosexually, bisexually, transsexually, or by filling my eyes with pornography. Anything that feels good.
So many promises of life. But do they deliver?
We know that the rate of attempted and actual suicide among those who believe that they are transgender, is about eight times what it is for the general population. For those who have surgically transitioned from male to female or from female to male, it is nineteen times greater.
One of the highest profile people who has transitioned in the US is Aydian Dowling, a woman now outwardly changed to look like a bulked up very masculine appearing male. In one YouTube clip Dowling is asked “Are You Finished Transitioning?” The answer? It is “The Never Ending Transition”, with weekly doses of testosterone for the rest of one’s life, with its yet unknown side effects, to keep the real person from bouncing back.
Body and sexual idols promise life. But they can’t deliver, because pursuing those means:
· “dishonouring their bodies among themselves” (v24)?
· “exchanging natural relations for those that are contrary to nature” (v26)– living in a way that is contrary to what our bodies tell us?
· suppressing the truth (v18), by fighting against it.
The area of sexual sin is a happy-hunting ground for self-righteous people. Those people are so much worse than we are. We may be bad, but they are evil.
We are all in this story however. What is also dishonouring to our bodies and contrary to the way we are made are covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, gossip, slander, insolence, pride (vv29-31). Seeking life in ungodly schemes, more possessions, paybacks and self-promotion. More than that, when you are entertained by other people dishonouring their bodies, or doing what is contrary to the way in which they have been made … so that you “give approval” (v32) to what they do, are you not as guilty?
Thursday week, May 17, is the “International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia” or IDAHOBIT for short. It is a day for “A worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities” … a day for students, workers and neighbours to be “Out, Loud and Proud”, the publicity says. And a day for pushing back against all the haters. That’s you, if you think there are only two genders and they are fixed, and that they are created heterosexually.
We are not going to wear that label.
A girl with an eating disorder, now weighing 40 kg, says she feels so fat that she needs medical help. Which doctor loves her? The one who puts her on a weight-loss diet, and books her in for liposuction? Or the one who tries to find out what has caused this girl to think in a way that does not line up with what’s real, and to help her thoughts and feelings come into line with reality?
An 18 year-old boy believes he is a woman in a man’s body. Which doctor loves him most? The one who gives him cross-sex hormones and cuts out perfectly healthy organs, and turns him into a feminised man … or the one who tries to help him work out how his thinking got so skewed, and to live with the real him?
How do parents love their nine9 year-old son who says he is really a boy? By putting him in a dress and giving him a girl’s name? By taking him to a quack doctor who will give him puberty blockers at age ten, cross-sex hormones at sixteen and gender reassignment surgery at eighteen, or even younger.
Better still to find out why he thinks that, taking the lead from the body God gave him, and helping him enjoy it? Not telling him stupid things like “real boys don’t cry” or “real boys play rugby”. Not by downplaying his gentleness and sensitivity to others, but helping him to love the way God has made him. If they do that, are they being haters? Or are they loving him as he really is?
I don’t have to tell you that we are called to love the people we know who are caught up in a gender-bent culture. How do you think we will show ourselves to be lovers, and not haters?
May I suggest four responses for us all in this gender-free world of ours … working from the simplest through to the most important.
1. Avoid the stereotypes
God built some standard gender differences into us, and into our world. He gave us different bodies, with not only reproductive differences, but a thousand others as well. He made us so that we fit together sexually across the genders, not within them. He made it so that there are gender specific roles in family and in church.
It doesn’t necessarily follow that all girls play with dolls and all boys play rugby. It doesn’t follow that all women are better cooks than men, or that all men can fix things around the house. It’s just not true that only men make great leaders, or that only women are sensitive souls.
These are stereotypes, and if we make these part of the way God in fact made us to be, we make it really hard for kids who don’t fit the stereotypes – and adults, for that matter.
Just because gender is being blurred in our culture, let’s not rush to make the differences between the genders more rigid than God has made them to be.
2. Live by facts and not feelings
The teenage girl with gender dysphoria (the sense of having the “wrong” body), the 20 year-old man with same-sex attraction, the woman who loves pornographic stuff on the internet, the any age man who craves sexual arousal from a woman who is not his wife, are all living with very strong feelings. If those feelings are expressed in action, they will all lead to death. Your death, or someone else’s.
What shall we do with those feelings? As a start, and only a start, surround them with truth and tie them to facts.
Facts like we have considered last Sunday and today. Truth such as we read last week in Genesis 1 and today in Romans 1. Facts that lead us to life, and the answer to our deepest longings, and shape our actions. I can tell you this: Do not follow your heart.
One man wrote “I’ve been living with my spouse for almost fifteen years. In those years, I’ve never been with anyone but the mother of my son. That’s not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact I am in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates – Anderson p165)
I could have written that. So could you. If that’s where we are, friends, then we need to be clearer than we have ever been as to what God says. That is partly why we have spoken so plainly in these two sermons.
Will you commit to living with the truth of the body God gave you … and with the truth of his holy, life-giving will for you?
The publicity for the May 17 gender-bending day says “It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are”. It sure does. But not in the way they mean. Will you pray for hard-headed courage in practice to be male or female made in the image of God?
3. be a community of love
A young woman on YouTube lived with her fairly unstable mother who killed herself when her daughter was just twenty because she looked so much like her mother, she decided to transition to become a man, so that she wouldn’t have to relive her mother’s life.
What if some gracious people had embraced her earlier, and welcomed her into their home, or into their church, and showed her value as she was, as someone made in the image of God?
Rosaria Butterfield was a lesbian activist who wrote off Christians as haters but her Christian neighbours opened their home to her – “We eat every night about 6 – just drop by whenever you like.” She did. She watched and learned, and was loved and after two years of fighting with herself (they didn’t fight her) she came to Jesus.
The gender-bending people in your street, your factory, your class, or family, are not your enemy. They have been taken captive by the enemy. Are our lips pursed and fists up? Or are our arms open?
4. Don’t make too big a deal of gender
Sound strange, given what we’ve been seeing in the Word of God? Gender is a big deal. But not the biggest.
The most significant thing about you is not that you are male or female, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, trans-sexual or any other sexual. It is not that you’ve a clean slate when it comes to your past, or a very messy one. None of that, none of it, defines who you are.
Your identity in the first place is that you are the personal creation of a personal God – made in his image. Pre-eminently, it is that you are a new creation in Jesus – loved and so highly regarded by him.
In 2016, 49 people were killed by a shooter in an Orlando gay club. It wasn’t the gay-hate crime it was portrayed as being. The shooter had planned to shoot up a Disney Park, but couldn’t get inside, so went to the nearest night club he could find.
One man there that night was Luis Luiz. He says “I should have been number 50. Going through old pictures of that night, I remember my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV. My struggles were real! The enemy had its grip. Now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Jesus Christ … now I live in relationship with Christ, being in love with him and sharing his love. I know who I am and I am not defined with who the enemy says I used to be – but by who Jesus Christ says I am.”
Does his gender define him? His sin? His same-sex attraction which for all I know may still be part of him? Or is the best thing about him that he belongs to Jesus? Loved and secure. So that Jesus has got him … and Jesus gets him.
Imagine being safe in a Jesus who knows all your history, all your longings, and who draw near to put his arms around you and to meet those longings deeply. Now that defines you! Nothing else comes even close.