How Christian Teachers Must Engage the Transgender Question (and other controversial issues)
Being a Christian teacher can be pretty confusing at times, can’t it? I’ve seen your questions, read your emails.
What are we supposed to do if a gay student comes out to us? How are we supposed to react to this transgender restroom debate? How can I be true to my faith without crossing the lines of what’s appropriate in a secular school setting?
These are some tough questions.
Let’s face it – the issues facing us are not simple and they’re not easy. But as challenging as the circumstances of these days are, my biggest concern isn’t the circumstances themselves but how we as Christian teachers are responding to them.
We seem to be on such different pages, and many of us are struggling to understand exactly how to see these issues from a Biblical perspective.
I’m worried that we’re dropping the ball. Missing an opportunity. Failing to be the salt and light that God has placed us here to be.
Because, Christian teacher, whether you teach in a public or a private school, God has you exactly where you are for a reason. He has lives for you to touch, policy for you to influence.
We have to figure out the right response to these issues. As teachers, we are literally stewarding the next generation, and we owe it to them to get this right.
I am not claiming to have all the answers. I myself am still trying to sift through all the noise and figure out exactly how God would have us respond. But I strongly believe these actions will get us going in the right direction, and I pray that the conversation will only continue and strengthen from here.
So let’s dig in…
As Christian Teachers, We Must Engage Controversial Issues In This Way:
- We must be known for our love.
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35
If we want to make a difference, we need to first be known as people who genuinely love others. Now we say this all the time when we talk about controversial issues, but what exactly that means is often left open to interpretation.
Some think that loving others means accepting their behavior even when we disagree. Others think it means being kind to everyone or not being rude. But what exactly does the Bible say love is? Let’s take a look….
“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” – I John 3:17
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” – I John 3:18
“If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” – James 2:15-16
Clearly, our love cannot be in word only but must be evidenced by our actions.
When a coworker’s husband is having surgery, we should be the one to bring over dinner for their family. When we notice the secretary could use a boost, we should be the one to drop off her favorite Frappuccino. When a student with a poor family life needs someone to step in, we should be the one they come to for help.
Now of course this isn’t easy, and I’m certainly not saying that we can (or should) do everything every time, but I ask you – are you known for your love? I’m not sure that I am, but I want to be.
I want people to see God’s love shining through me. When they think of me, that’s what I want them to think of.
Imagine how powerful of a testimony that would be. Imagine the doors of opportunity it would open. Imagine how much more respected your opinions would be when you’ve built such a reputation and rapport.
So let’s first become people who are known for their genuine, active love.
Update: Since first writing this post I’ve realized that while love is most important (I Cor. 13:3), our witness is even more powerful when we evidence all the fruit of the spirit. Imagine if we were known not only for our active love but also for our patience, our joy, our peace in the midst of challenges, our self-control. Not only would that type of reputation open doors but that type of character would also ensure that we have the right demeanor and attitude as we walk through them.
So if we’re going to seek to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we must remember that it is just that: the FRUIT (the result) of the Spirit. That means if we want the Spirit to produce His fruit in our lives, we must be close to Him, we must spend time with Him, we must rely on Him, and allow Him to work through us. For it is only through Him that we could ever evidence these qualities.
- Realize that what God has designed is best for everyone.
If we miss this truth, we miss the whole point. And I’m worried too many Christians are doing just that.
Think about God. He knows everything. He is perfectly good. He designed this world, designed us.
If anyone knows the best way to live life, the best way to function as a society, don’t you think it’s God?
Why on earth do we think that we’re somehow smarter than Him? That we’ve somehow evolved past His moral law?
God didn’t give us His commands just for the fun of it. He gave them to us because He they are the best way to live – because they are the foundation to a stable and healthy society.
Think about it, He loves us desperately & wants what is best for us. He knows His commands are the path of life and blessing, so He ask us to follow them. He knows when we reject them or deviate from them, we set ourselves on a dangerous path that leads to sorrow and destruction. So He warns us strongly against the dangers.
You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. – Psalm 119: 68, 98, 104, 160
Here is my biggest concern when I think about contemporary controversies like the homosexual and transgender movements: I am deeply concerned for the next generation of young people.
We (as a society) are teaching the next generation that it’s a great idea to be gay, that it’s wonderful to be lesbian. And now (even more dangerously) that it’s brave and admirable for them to change their gender.
But here’s the problem: It’s not true. It is not a great idea. It is not wonderful. And it is not admirable. The gay lifestyle leads to many problems, many sorrows, and many difficulties (see this article here for details). And encouraging a young person to change their gender will not bring them the peace and happiness they are seeking. It is much more likely to bring them depression, despair, and regret (as demonstrated in this article here).
It’s simply a horrible message for the next generation. A destructive message – and one that’s going to hurt them, not help them.
That’s why we can’t just stand by and shrug off these changes, placating ourselves with statements like “we can’t expect unbelievers to live like believers.”
We cannot and should not expect everyone to believe what we believe or act the way we act, but we absolutely should be concerned about the state of our culture – about what our culture upholds as good and what it decries as evil.
And as teachers, we can and should be concerned about the culture we are shaping for the next generation. Will we go along with what’s expected, encouraging young people towards all kinds of behavior that is bad for them, bad for their families, and bad for our society in general?
Or will we stop and realize the truth – that God loves us, that He knows what He’s talking about, and that His ways truly are best for everyone – whether they know Him personally or not.
- Reject the viewpoint of a sacred / secular split.
Over the past few years I’ve received numerous comments and emails from Christian teachers arguing or asking about the role of faith in the public school system. Some argue that faith has no place in a public classroom, while others seek advice for how to incorporate their beliefs into their day-to-day work.
The same underlying questions come into place LGBT issues. Many Christian teachers are struggling to figure out how their faith should (or should not) impact these situations. In particular, how can we navigate these issues without getting in trouble & without violating our conscience.
But I’ve recently come to realize that there’s a big misconception underlying most of this – and that is the concept of a sacred / secular split. It looks something like this:
Sacred (Faith) – Private
Secular – Public
In other words, many Christians essentially divide their lives and work into two parts. In one part is their faith – it’s very genuine. They love God, they read their Bible, maybe even teach Sunday school or lead a Bible club, and witness when they can. But their faith is for their private life – for their soul. It has little if anything to do with secular issues.
Thus they go to church and worship on Sunday but when speaking with a potentially transgender student on Monday, they don’t see that their faith has anything to do with the latter.
Or, even if they do think the Bible has something to offer, they don’t see it as their place to bring that view into the secular sphere.
But the Biblical view is exactly what the secular sphere needs.
Remember how we said God’s truths are good for everyone? That means there is no sacred / secular split. We might create one in our minds, but it doesn’t actually exist. We are thinking incorrectly.
God has created truths that are universal, that will help those who adhere to them, regardless of whether they are saved or not. His truths plow through all barriers and belong in the public sphere just as much as in the private sphere.
And if you’re thinking “but I’m not allowed to bring up God or the Bible,” you’re missing the best part – These truths are universal. That means they can be defended apart from the Bible. That you can argue His truths from a logical or scientific standpoint without mentioning God once.
We’ll get into specifics in a bit, but for now I just want you to ask yourself if you’ve started to compartmentalize your faith in this way. Do you value your faith on a personal level but bristle at the thought of applying Biblical truth to “secular” issues?
Do you embrace a “separate of church and state” viewpoint, thinking that your views can & should be set aside when you step in the classroom?
If so, it’s time to reject this sacred/secular split and embrace the joyous reality that God’s truths are meant for our whole lives & our whole society.
(For further discussion on this topic, I strongly recommend Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth.)
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-16
- Think Biblically about the issue.
We’ve laid the groundwork for bringing Biblical truth into your public life, but in order to do that we need to understand exactly how God views the subject.
The Bible is the supreme source of truth, and in many cases it is crystal clear. Other times, however, the Bible doesn’t speak directly to an issue and we must apply Biblical truth and a Biblical view of our world to understand the truth of a topic.
For example, the Bible is crystal clear about homosexuality (Romans 1:26-28), but it makes no direct reference to transgender, possibly because were no gender reassignment surgeries in Bible days.
Does that mean that the Bible is silent on the issue? By no means. Instead, we must examine the Scripture as a whole, look at God’s view of gender, and consider this issue from a Biblical worldview – looking through the lens of Scripture. In particular through 3 core events: Creation, the Fall, and Redemption.
It is not the intention of this article to discuss the transgender issue itself in great detail, but I do believe it would be helpful to give an example of what Biblical thinking would look like…. Here are some key points, as borrowed & adapted from this helpful article here which seemed to arrange my jumbled thoughts so concisely.
*God created us & our gender. God created and designed gender as an important part of Creation & an important part of our identity. Our gender is a part of God’s plan & cannot be changed.
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. – Genesis 1:27
Furthermore, God designed each of us in His image, which gives each human being inherent worth. When someone struggles with their self-image, that is because they have not fundamentally internalized this concept – that God Created them, that He designed them, that He loves them, & that He created them for a purpose.
*Satan is the cause of gender confusion. When man sinned, the fall created all sorts of problems. Gender confusion is a very real problem, but it does not come from God having made a mistake. It comes from Satan, who desires to bring confusion & destroy lives. He is a liar and is doing everything He can to deceive those who are struggling with the gender identity God has given them.
He [the devil] is a liar and the father of it. John 8:44b
*Sex surgery does not solve the problem. The gender confusion that Satan brings into people’s lives is not solved by a gender reassignment surgery. The confusion often continues, bringing more despair and regret. Walt Heyer, who underwent and then deeply regretted a sex change, chronicles a growing body of research & the true stories of regret on his website sexchangeregret.com, demonstrating the truth that sex reassignment does not solve the deep underlying problem for those struggling with gender identity.
*Christ is the answer & offers healing. For those who are struggling with their identity, Christ offers hope & healing. In contrast to the failed efforts of sex surgeries, Christ has the power to completely heal and restore. To love unconditionally, shine truth on the lies, and bring the peace that comes from knowing who you truly are in Him.
This is a Biblical view of the issue. This is what Christ offers, and it’s much more powerful than trying to be “tolerant” while ignoring and refusing to help kids with the deep struggles they are facing
- Pray for wisdom and be led by His Spirit.
So we know the truth, and we want to bring it into the world, into our classrooms. How on earth do we do that?
The most important thing is to be led by God’s Spirit. If we strike out on our own, we’re destined to get ourselves in trouble and possibly even do more harm than good. But when we are close to God, listening & following the leading of His Spirit, we can speak & work on His agenda, not our own.
This step simply cannot be skipped. It is vital. It is the key. We absolutely need Him.
- Use the influence God has given us to be a voice for truth
If God’s truth is what’s best for everyone – us, our students, their families, and society at large, then we need to spread those truths within our sphere of influence.
That’s going to look different in every profession, but we teachers have a powerful opportunity to make a difference. We each have a huge influence in our own classrooms and many also have additional influence to help shape school policy.
So let’s get specific. What does this look like for a teacher day to day? Well, it depends where you teach…
If you teach in a Christian school, then you must not only teach the truth but also teach your students this process – how to love others, how to think about these issues from a Biblical worldview, how to pray and seek God’s leading, and how to speak wisely when given an opportunity.
For those in public schools, your task is challenging but vital. You will need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (reference) as you speak
**No one is saying to go up to someone that’s transgender or gay & start telling them they’re wrong. Just as you wouldn’t go up to a family member that’s living with their boyfriend & tell them they’re wrong. It’s simply not our place. However, if someone were to come up to us and ask our advice or help, then we have the responsibility to speak the truth in love – the truth that will actually help them, not the platitudes they want to hear but will lead to sorrow.**
Remember that we are shaping the culture and the views of the next generation, especially as teachers. It is our job to give them a TRUE view of the world, not just the view that seems popular at the time. We must share the truths that will bring them life, peace, and joy, not the dangerous lies that many in our society want them to believe. So weave the truth into your lessons, your discussions, your comments. And remember – you don’t have to mention God or the Bible to logically share them. They stand on their own.
If you find yourself on a board that’s discussing your school policy, don’t shrink from the opportunity. Kindly, boldly, logically, and wisely argue for God’s truth. And use the influence He has given you to be a light in your world.
Please don’t hide your light under a bushel, scared what people might say, thinking your beliefs have no merit here. Your school, your classroom, your students desperately need your light.
If you shine your light and I shine mine, and we all throw out our bushels, maybe we can become a bright beacon that God will use to shine His truth once again into our culture.
- Be ready to pay a price.
I’m afraid we too often make our decisions based on what might happen. If I say something, a parent might complain, my principal might call me out, or I may even lose my job.
These may be real concerns, but I’m wondering if maybe we need to get over them.
Maybe we need to be willing to be criticized, not afraid to be reprimanded.
Maybe we should be willing to lose our job if it really came down to it – if we knew God was leading and we followed Him and “the worst” happened.
Maybe we’ve been way too weak and it’s time to get a backbone.
I think of the early Christians who suffered so much for their faith. They were beaten. They were robbed. They literally died for Christ.
What are we willing to give up? What are we willing to suffer? And lest we think we aren’t called to suffering, we might need to take another look at Scriptures like this one:
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. – I Peter 4:12-16
Now please understand, I’m not telling you to go do something that you absolutely aren’t allowed to do & that will certainly get you fired. But I am saying that we can’t be led by fear.
If you know what you need to say, what would truly be helpful and right in the situation, and you know God is leading you go say it, will you let fear keep you from following Him?
I’m honestly not sure what I’d do, but I hope I’d follow God’s leading. I hope I wouldn’t cower.
And I hope I would argue kindly and logically for the truth and its place in our culture and society.
I understand the fear, believe me. I’m really nervous to hit “Publish” and send this article out into the world. I’m fully aware it could cause problems for me, for my family, for Teach 4 the Heart. I’ve wondered many times if I should just “save it for later.” But sharing the truth is what God has called us to, and this is my platform.
So I’ll share and pray God will use my words. Pray that they will be taken in the Spirit that they are intended. Pray that they will motivate others to be more like Christ in their attitudes, to respond as He would in their conversations. Pray that His truths will plant themselves deep in the hearts of His people and bring forth much fruit in the years to come.
And if the cost comes …. so be it.
I’m lovingly sharing the truths God has given in my sphere of influence.
Will you do the same in yours?
Update: Thank you to all of you who have responded publicly or privately. In considering the various dissenting responses, I’ve found two common thoughts I’d like to briefly address.
- The biggest disagreements stem from the view that people are born gay or transgender – that that is inherently who they are – their identity.
If you aren’t a Christian I can see why you hold this view, but Christians should know better. People are not born gay or transgender (aside from real birth defects which are a separate issue and not at all what we are discussing here). They may struggle with those tendencies but that is not who they are anymore than someone who is born with a tendency towards alcoholism or anger or deceit or fear is destined to always be ruled by them.
If you believe that being gay or transgender is inherent to a person’s identity, let’s follow that thought through to its logical conclusion: That means that God designs and creates people contrary to His best plan, contrary His best design, and contrary to His commands.
The opposing view is much more consistent and logical in relation to Scripture. That God designed each of us according to His best plan – some to marriage, some to singleness, but each in accordance with His design for marriage and sexuality. However, sin and Satan deceive us and bring confusion; they try to keep us from realizing our true identity. But God’s way is still best (He designed us after all), and true freedom and peace is available to all in Christ.
And from a logical perspective, I suggest you check out some of the compelling stories at sexchangeregret.com.
2. Another common disagreement is the statement that Jesus would love and not judge.
Now of course He would love & so should we (I hope I’ve made that abundantly clear). But as for judging, we really need to understand exactly what this means. I wrote a whole article about this so I won’t repeat it here. You can check it out: “What Does ‘Judge Not’ Really Mean?”
But as a crystal example of how Jesus WOULD respond, let’s examine the woman that was caught in adultery. Jesus’ response was, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11) Do you see both parts? He does not condemn her, as in sentence her to judgment. But neither does He leave her to continue in her previous actions. He tells her to stop what she’s been doing & sin no more.
So if you’re asking WWJD, there’s your answer….And while we’re not called to go up to people uninvited & intrude on their lives, this is the response we’d want to model when people do come to us for advice. Don’t condemn (sentence to judgment), but DO encourage them into what is best for their life.