How to Navigate Gender Identity as a Christian Teacher

How to Navigate Gender Identity as a Christian Teacher

How to Navigate Gender Identity as a Christian Teacher Part 1

As Christians, we know God created gender, but what exactly does that mean for modern-day questions of gender identity? Join us in this conversation with Jonathan Holmes to discover what the Bible has to say about gender identity and how it differs from a secular understanding of gender.

read the transcript:

[Linda] Hi, I'm here today with Jonathan Holmes, who is the pastor of counseling at Parkside Church and the executive director of Fieldstone Counseling. Thank you so much for being here.

[Jonathan] Thank you for having me.

[Linda] We're going to talk about the question of gender identity, what the Bible has to say about it and what we are to do with that. Before we get into it though, can you share just a little bit about your background and experience?

[Jonathan] Well, I've been here at Parkside Church for about 12 years and I started off as our pastor of counseling. At that point, we were just at this campus and then we had a campus down in Akron and Canton-Parkside Church Green. Over time, we've continued to expand and my role here has changed and adapted over time where I lead our counseling ministries, but others have more direct on the ground, hands-on contact with our lay counselors and just with people who need care and help.

And then, about two years ago, we launched Fieldstone Counseling, which is a counseling center that grew out of Parkside churches. We really desired to see unbelieving people become committed followers of Christ. And we felt that counseling was a wonderful avenue to help people who needed true hope, needed a biblical hope. And so, since about 2017, that's been a larger portion of my job.

[Linda] It's been so cool to see it growing. And I've heard so many stories from people that it's been helpful for, so that's amazing.

[Jonathan] Thank you, that's encouraging. That's very encouraging.

[Linda] So we're going to break up our talk into a couple of different sections. We're going to talk first about just understanding this issue and then we're going to talk about how to think Biblically, and then we'll dive into practical at the end.

[Jonathan] Wonderful.

A SECULAR PERSPECTIVE

[Linda] So let's start with just understanding the issue from a secular perspective. What does the world at large think about this issue? And you have a full seminar that you did that we're going to make available to people if they would like to go deeper, but in that, you talked about some various terms around gender identity, which is really helpful to us because we really do need to understand where people are coming from. It helps us better relate, better empathize. We don't have time to go into all of them, but I thought maybe we could talk about a few of them. Can you share how our society uses the terms biological sex and gender and what's the difference?

[Jonathan] Great question. And to that point, I think understanding the terms and terminology is helpful so that we're all talking about the same thing and just understand where we're coming from. A biological sex is talking about what your gender is as it relates to your chromosomes. How are you actually physically formed in X X or XY [chromosomes], genitalia, reproductive organs. That's what biological sex is.

Then the next term that you mentioned was gender. Gender is the social or psychological or cultural manifestations of biological sex, of masculinity or femininity. So that in culture, there are certain ways that maleness and femaleness are expressed. Gender identity is how that femaleness or that masculinity is expressed in terms of how you view yourself. Do you view yourself as male or female? Historically, I would say probably for a very large portion of history, gender identity was tied to biological sex.

So if you were born a boy, then the way that you identified was as a boy. If you were born a girl, then you identified as a girl or your gender identity was a girl. And I think recently that connection really has broken where biological sex and gender identity are not connected. So someone might be born male but might identify as a female even though they're biological sex is male.

And for people who are on that spectrum and who want to make that transition away from their biological sex, that would be the word transgender or the term transgender, which is a little bit of a broad umbrella term to describe that population.

[Linda] Okay, so you're saying that biological sex is fixed, but our society has recently begun to view gender as not necessarily the same as your biological sex? They're two kind of two different things is the new philosophy.

[Jonathan] Exactly, they’re not tied together. I would say, for most of us, those three things of biological sex, gender, and gender identity all line up. And sometimes in culture or in news articles or in media, you might hear the term cisgender and cisgender is describing someone whose biological sex, gender and gender identity all line up together. So again, for a large majority of people, they would be considered cisgender because all three of those things lined up.

For transgender individuals, they don't. Their biological sex and their gender identity are not corresponding to one another.

WHAT IS GENDER DYSPHORIA?

[Linda] Okay. So this is really helpful in defining these terms. One other one, what is gender dysphoria?

[Jonathan] Yeah, it's a great question. Gender dysphoria is the experience of a dissonance of dysphoria between one's biological sex and how one identifies. So somebody who's born male with male anatomy, male chromosomes, but who identifies as female, and it's that tension that a person feels, that is gender dysphoria.

The actual way that it's described in the DSM-5 is that it's a marked season of distress lasting up to six months. So it's not just like somebody wakes up and it's like, "Oh, I feel like I'm a girl today," when they're biologically born male. But it's someone who actually has a marked season or state of distress that lasts for a significant chunk of time.

[Linda] Okay. Someone's struggling with gender dysphoria. They're just wrestling with the question.

[Jonathan] Exactly. They're wrestling with the question in a really consistent way over a period of time. It's not just like on one day you wake up and you're like, "Oh, I feel a little off today. I feel like more male or more female," and then the next day you're not. It's marked by a season of distress.

BEYOND THE LABELS

[Linda] Okay. Well that's really helpful. Just understanding what these terms mean when they come up. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of getting to know a transgender student or colleague at our school and their stories? How does that play in? 

[Jonathan] I think that understanding people's stories and understanding who they are is so important before we ever start using labels or terms. You and I wouldn't want that to happen to us if we were in conversation. There might be a lot of things that people might label us with, but at the end of the day, we want people to get to know Linda or people to get to know Jonathan.

And so one of the things that we aim to do is we aim to learn more about the actual person in front of us, asking them questions about who they are, what they enjoy, what are their interests, what are their likes, their dislikes. And I think that a lot of times in conversations like that, it actually can humanize the individual instead of them just being a conglomerate of what we've known about transgender people from the media or maybe even a stereotype of what we think transgender people are. We actually can get to know that they're human beings made in the image of God.

[Linda] And if we ever want to help, you're right, we have to know them. We can't just be applying artificial rules in this situation. That makes a lot of sense.

[Jonathan] Absolutely.

EXPERTS URGE CAUTION

[Linda] In your seminar, you shared a little bit about some of the concerns that the experts are having, so in our society, it does seem like there's some disagreement. Can you share a little bit about what the American College of Pediatrics is saying about gender dysphoria in young children? I think they actually do have some concerns. Is that true?

[Jonathan] They do. They do have concerns. So one of the concerns is that for most children, gender or some sense of gender identity (so understanding how you identify tied to your biological sex) develops anywhere between ages two and six or seven. There's a little bit of a spectrum. And the concern now is that children as young as two or three or four are maybe at times expressing that their gender identity is different than their biological sex.

And I think because of the culture and the dynamic that we're in right now, parents, many of them well-meaning parents, kind of hop on that. They hear that and they think, “Oh, maybe you've got gender dysphoria or maybe you are transgender or you're trapped in the wrong body.” And what can happen is they can begin really putting that child on a particular track towards changing their actual gender, their biological sex. They do this through hormone therapy, maybe through clothing, changing their name, pronouns, etc., at a really, really early age.

You and I both have kids. Our kids are fairly fickle at times. One day they like hot dogs, the next day they want mac and cheese. All that to say kids aren't always the best arbiters of their own desires and what's going on inside. And so some of the concern is, are we intervening too early? Are we intervening too early in making decisions that are going to have lifelong implications for their health and their emotional well-being, when a lot of those problems would probably resolve themselves over time as the child grows up and matures.

And one of those organizations that is raising some concerns about that is the American College of Pediatricians. I would definitely say they’re a minority voice within the larger medical community, but they're saying, "Hey, we're doing these medical interventions, maybe even doing some gender reconstructive surgeries on children and teens at really early ages when we don't really know the full implications of what we're doing. And we would probably urge a little bit of caution in that."

In addition to that, if that is the medical side, there has also been some natural observation that there's a little bit of trendiness attached with this topic as well. And so in a school setting, maybe in middle school or late elementary, there's an opportunity where a lot of people are talking about it and it's not necessarily a way to get attention, but that it definitely brings a little bit of attention. And so sometimes I think some of the phenomena that we see, especially among teens or young adolescents, I think might be attributed to that. And there have been several psychologists and therapists who have observed that and noted that.

[Linda] Yeah, I think it's really helpful for us as teachers to understand. We’re going to talk about the Biblical aspect here in a minute, but hopefully we can link to some of these articles and resources because especially in public schools, if you're speaking into people's lives, there are some secular arguments that can be made for caution, for slowing down a little bit.

RESOURCES: Harvest USA and SexChangeRegret.com

[Jonathan] There are, and Linda, I'm so glad you said that because I think sometimes Christians might feel like they're a little bit of a voice in the wilderness. We're over here saying, "Hey, there's some concerns with how this squares up against Biblical teaching," but even non-Christians in the therapeutic community, in education, in pediatrics, etc., are also raising some concerns too. They are saying, "Listen, I think that we need to slow the process down a little bit. Let's see if some of these issues resolve themselves over time or just as the child matures." And some of those voices sometimes don't get amplified or heard in the media, but there is a group of people who I do think share some of our concerns.

WHAT DOES THE CREATOR SAY?

[Linda] Great. Thank you so much for sharing that. That's really helpful. So that's just a small bit and you go into it way more in your seminar. We're going to have that available if people want to dive into that a little bit more. But for now, let's move on and talk a little bit about thinking Biblically about this issue. And we know that it's helpful when you're trying to look at a topic from a Biblical worldview to take it to the framework of Creation, The Fall, Redemption, Glory. Let's walk through that.

[Jonathan] Yeah. I always start off with a little story. I have four girls, they love Disney movies and we watched The Little Mermaid quite a bit. And early on in the movie, Ariel has collected all these little things  from human beings. She found these forks and kept them as treasures. And she asked the seagull,, "Hey, what are these? What are these forks?" And you remember the seagull says, "Oh, they're called dingle hoppers and they're used to brush your hair."

And so her entire upbringing, she really thinks that forks are to brush your hair. And we know how the movie goes. After she's become human, she's at dinner with Prince Eric and she sees the fork at the dinner table and starts to brush her hair with it. Everybody's like, “What are you doing? That's so odd.”

And the meaning behind that story is that if we want to know what that fork's design is for, we have to ask the person who created it, right? You might say, "Well, I think forks make great brushes," but probably the person who invented a fork is saying it might be a good hairbrush, but that's not what I made it for. That's not what I designed it for."

So when we talk about gender, we have to start with Scripture. We have to start with the person who actually created and designed, not only Creation, but also human beings themselves. And I think sometimes we forget about that or it becomes so familiar to us that we kind of brush past Genesis one and two, and we don't think about the implications as it relates to our gender.

GENDER IS A GOOD GIFT 

But one of the things that we talked about in that first movement of the story of creation is that God is not just creating a complementary between male and female. Really the entire movement of Creation is that He is creating a complementary between land and sea, between the waters above and the waters below, and between things that remain in the sea and animals on land. And so it makes sense that male and female actually aren't that different from the actual rhythm of Creation. That there's something about difference, that there's something about having a binary of something that's very different from something over here that actually testifies to God's glory.

And I think about the intelligence of His design. And so when God creates Adam, He doesn't just create another Adam, right? There's something different about Eve, not just in the fact that she's a woman, but in the fact that she's actually different than him at a very biological level. And that the union of those two things is actually a signpost to God's glory.

And so when you think about gender, I tell people gender is a gift. Gender is a good thing. Gender is not something that we have to be embarrassed about or that we have to be ashamed of. It's actually a way that God designed and created and gifted to us to display His glory, which I think is a really wonderful thing to think about.

THE FALL BRINGS SHAME

You move a little bit closer onto the story of Genesis three and you realize that one of the very first things that happens with Adam and Eve as a result of their sinful decisions is there's deep shame about their bodies, right? Genesis two is they're standing before each other naked and unashamed. In Genesis three, they are naked and ashamed and they're going out shopping for fig leaves to put together a little bit of an outfit. There's the sense where I can't really fully disclose who I am. There's something embarrassing about my body.

And so it makes sense to us that one of the ways that The Fall affects us is that we have a disordered and a distorted view of our what? Our bodies. And so as you kind of trace that and move it forward into our current time period, it makes a little bit of sense why some people might struggle with gender dysphoria. You and I might not have ever had some of those feelings of dysphoria where we've ever wondered whether or not our gender identity is the same as our biological sex.

But for those people who do genuinely struggle with that, actually I think the Bible provides a framework to understand that problem-

[Linda] Why it's happening.

[Jonathan] Why it's happening, right? They're not freaks, they're not weird. Something's not going off that's really unusual. It's just, I think it's a practical manifestation that we live in a broken world with broken people with broken bodies. So that's Creation and the Fall. So you're shuttling forward and you're asking the question, not only the existential question of what can heal this relationship that's been broken between God and man, but also, then what do we do with our bodies? How do we actually address that issue?

THE GOSPEL BRINGS HOPE

And so when Christ comes on the scene in the Gospels and we see him, John 1:14 says that he comes in flesh and he makes his dwelling with us. He doesn't come just as a spirit being, he doesn't kind of phone redemption from on high, he actually comes as a baby, as a biologically born male and he comes and he lives life as a biologically born male. And again, that's something that we maybe just cross over too quickly because we can overemphasize may be his deity in Christ.

But there's a striking humanity that we see in the Gospel of John  in that first chapter that's really instructive to the question of what do we do with our bodies? And I think what Christ teaches us in his incarnation is the priority of the body, that the body's important and that there's actually a plan for the body. Is it good? Is it just a tomb? Is it just a shell that keeps the good parts of us kind of hemmed in? When Jesus comes, we see that a part of giving himself for us includes not only the redemption of our souls, but the redemption of our bodies as well.

And I think the resurrection shows us that, in vivid detail. So all of that to say, I think when you get to the third part of the story, our Scriptures and Jesus really help hone in and show us just how important both body and soul are in the broad story of redemption.

[Linda] Right, so we're saying  in Creation, God designed gender. It's part of his Creation design. It's not just a social construct.

[Jonathan] And it's not an afterthought.

[Linda] Yeah, it was purposeful. But The Fall messed with that.

[Jonathan] Yes.

[Linda] And so that's why we have these questions. These are genuine questions some people have, they're not made up. There's real brokenness, but Jesus came and the Redemption offered is both spiritual and for the body and he took human form so the body does have value.

[Jonathan] Yeah. The body does have value.

OUR BODIES ARE FOR GOD'S GLORY

[Linda] And then the last piece would be the consummation of the future glory, right? What does that teach us?

[Jonathan] Yeah. You trace that story-line- Creation, Fall, redemption, consummation- and the good news about Scripture is that it does tell us how things are going to end. It doesn't leave us hanging. You don't have to wait a few years for that last part of the novel to come out. And consummation is actually really instructive because it tells us what's really important, what's really going to last. What it tells us is that we are going to be both body and soul worshiping God forever as physically embodied beings.

I remember growing up in Sunday school, I think I thought heaven was just us kind of floating, like with angel wings on clouds playing harps. That's definitely not a vision that we see from Revelation. What we see in Revelation is, I think, normal life situated around the perfect worship of God. And so in Revelation seven you see people from every tribe, every tongue, and every nation singing, which is going to take a body, worshiping God.

And I think that's instructive for us because it says that there is an importance and a priority with both body and soul. And Paul actually picks that thought up in first Corinthians chapter six, where he's saying, “Hey, your body is a temple of the Holy spirit.” Now in ancient near Eastern times, and especially in that first century context for Paul, that would've been pretty radical because there was a dominant philosophy that was pretty pervasive in Paul's time called Gnosticism, which basically said the body is really not that great.

It's kind of a tomb that keeps the best parts of you, i.e., your heart or your soul, kind of in case. But the body's really not that great. You're just you're going to go back to ashes and kind of sink into the ground. And Gnosticism really devalued the body. And so for Paul to say, nope, your body's actually important and what you do with your body is important. There's actually a way that you conduct yourself that actually brings honor and glory to God with your body. That might have been pretty radical in first century Rome.

And so that line in first Corinthians six where he says, "Therefore, glorify God with your body." He doesn't say, "Therefore glorify God with your soul." He says with your body, and that's great news for you and I that even as broken individuals in the process of being redeemed, that the way that we use our bodies actually can glorify God. In first Corinthians 10:31 he says, "Whether therefore you eat or drink, to all the glory of God."

Something as simple as how we eat and drink as physically embodied beings can bring glory to God. So those two last components of the story, both redemption and consummation I think tell us, listen, the body is important and there's a future plan for it and your body actually has a purpose. It's to glorify God, not to just do whatever you want it to. And that's one of the dangers I think that we get into with the current situation as it relates to gender dysphoria and gender identity. The body becomes more about us and when we feel-

[Linda] What makes me happy.

[Jonathan] Exactly, what makes you feel really you or what makes you feel good and conforming your body to it rather than conforming your body to the image of God and what he desires for you.

[Linda] Right, it's just like radically different way of looking at it.

[Jonathan] Yes, it's a radically different way. It really reorients your gaze and so for people who maybe don't come from a background of faith or from a Biblical background, you can understand how difficult or how foreign that sounds. We don't want anybody telling us that you don't get to do whatever you want to with your body. You own your own body is what culture would teach us. And Scripture would say, “No, you were bought with a price and so glorify God with your body.”

[Linda] I think it's so important for us as Christians to understand that, to have that in our minds and we'll get into the practical later. But when we're having conversations with students or administrators or colleagues, we understand that they might not get that. If they're not a Christian, they're not going to get that. But we can understand that the design, whether they realize it or not, that's what was intended.

[Jonathan] Right, it is a design. And I think to some degree, a little bit of that desire is hardwired into us. That we realized that there's gotta be something outside of us that we're living for. And I think that provides a little bit of the breakdown that we see now to live only for ourselves. For a lot of people, actually at the end of the day, it isn't that fulfilling.

You realize, “Man, I think I'm actually built for something more than just me being happy.” And I think that if educators and people that are in positions of influence in schools and whatnot can maybe tap into that and just access that and recognize that. It's a helpful bridge-builder itself.

TRADITIONAL V. MODERN IDENTITY

[Linda] Yeah, that's great. So you talk in your seminar about some different ways that secular society has found identity. Can you talk a little bit about that and the difference between traditional identity and modern identity?

[Jonathan] Right, you really can't have a conversation about gender identity without first talking about identity and understanding how all of us come to a sense of who we are and why we're here. And I'd probably say up until maybe the 15th, 16th century, the way that identity was formed was what was called traditional identity.

You were born into a family and you did whatever your family did. You were born into a family of farmers, well then guess what? You're going to be a farmer. If you wanted to go off and be a baker, you could, but that's probably going to be pretty frowned on. You just do whatever your family, your clan, your tribe does. And the goal in traditional identity is you want to get the honor or the approval of someone outside of you, namely your parents or even really somebody in a position of power. Like you want the clan to approve of you. You want your tribe or a king to approve of you.

You begin to see a little bit of a shift in that where modern identity comes onto the scene right around the 15th, 16th century where they actually don't have the authority to be able to tell you who you are. You get to say who you are. And so modern identity became very self-made of “Listen, I say who I am and what I get to do”. And now an outside authority is not telling me or approving of me, but I get to. I get to say, “This is who I am. I approve of it.” And now a little bit of a reversal happens. I now come to a society and say, “Now you have to approve of me”, not vice versa.

And so for many of us, maybe our parents' generation or our grandparents' generation grew up with more of a sense of traditional identity, of the highest goal is honor. You want to do something that brings your family honor and maybe younger generations, Gen Z, Millennials, are definitely growing up in a generation where modern identity is much more prevalent.

But there are some significant drawbacks to modern identity, though, that once you begin to press into it, you begin to realize it's not the most stable form.

[Linda] Like what?

[Jonathan] One of the things about modern identity is that it's not really a tenable way to build out a sense of who you are because sooner or later you're going to run into some problems. So for example, if I said, "You know what? My identity is I'm a kleptomaniac. I just love to steal things and that just really makes me happy. That gives me a sense of true, just a real rush of pleasure and happiness."

Let's say I come over to your house and I steal something, one of your belongings. You'd say, "You can't do that." But in a modern identity you have no authority to be able to tell me that I'm wrong or that what I am doing is not right because I'm telling you, "Listen, this is who I am. You have to affirm that, you have to approve of that."

It's a little bit of a silly example, but you see where that breaks down over time, right? If you get to be whoever you want and I get to be whoever I want, what happens when those two things come up into tension with one another? And so what you realize is that in traditional identity where the highest good is honor or approval, modern identity of the highest good would be happiness. You get to be whoever you are- that's not really realistic. There are going to be times when you really aren't that happy with who you are.

And if you're the sole person responsible for that, it creates a feedback loop that at the end of the day is just as not sustainable.

WHICH IS RIGHT?

[Linda] Yeah. So is the answer then traditional identity?

[Jonathan] Right, yeah. It's a good question because some of your listeners or some of your audience might think, “Well, yeah, modern identity is bad.” But traditional identity has some problems with it, too. And so we're not looking for traditional identity or even a modern identity, but we're looking for a Gospel identity.

We're looking for someone even better than our parents. We're looking for somebody even better than a king or a tribe or a clan, who actually knows who we are, who knows what our purpose is, and gives us a new sense of who we are that's stable and that's consistent. And that's not affected by the changing times of our culture or even our feelings. The beauty and the benefit of a gospel identity is that we get an identity that is received and not achieved.

[Jonathan] A well-known pastor and author, Tim Keller, says often in his seminars that gospel identity is received and not achieved. In both traditional and modern identity, there's some type of thing that you need to do or accomplish or achieve to get a sense of who you are. In Gospel identity, God says, “No, this is who you are. Now go live like it.” And that brings a huge sense of freedom. It brings a huge sense of just being fully loved and fully known and then acting and living out of that identity, that stable sense of who you are.

WHAT GOSPEL IDENTITY LOOKS LIKE

[Linda] I know this is a whole topic in itself, but can you share just a little bit about what that Gospel identity looks like?

[Jonathan] Right, what does that Gospel identity look like? It's a good question. A lot of books can tell about living a Gospel-centered life or having the Gospel as the focus. Here's one way that we could maybe articulate or tease that out is: What would it look like everyday to wake up with a sense of knowing that you are fully known and fully loved by God. What would that look like?

Let's say in an interaction with a coworker that you're afraid of or fearful of. Maybe they're hostile or harsh or you just don't get along with him. Having a Gospel identity allows you to move towards that person without fear of what they're going to think about you because they're not the arbiter of who you are. Are you a good person? Are you likable person? You already have a stable identity that's received from God himself.

So it allows you to move towards people who aren't like you, who are difficult for you, with a sense of freedom and love. That might be one way that that type of Gospel identity gets roped out.

[Linda] That's super helpful. You don't need that approval because you think, “I know who I am, I know how God sees me and that's what's most important.” That's awesome. Can we try to apply this for another scenario? Let's say we have a Christian who struggled with gender dysphoria. Okay, so they are Christian, they do believe, they believe in God, they have accepted Christ and they're struggling with this. What would it look like? What would it look like for them to think about their gender dysphoria, and their struggle with this, through the lens of Gospel identity?

[Jonathan] Such a good question, and to that point, Linda, I think there are a large number of people like that in our churches, in our Christian schools, and in our neighborhoods. Teenagers, adolescents, adults who hold to a Biblical and Scriptural teaching on God, humanity, etc. But who are internally sensing some type of gender dysphoria. There is a level of discomfort or dissonance with their biological sex and how they identify. And so how do we understand that?

Dr. Juli Slattery, who's written a lot on sexuality in general, has a term that I really like. She calls it sexual discipleship. She says, our culture does a lot of sexual discipleship but not in a helpful direction. And as Christians, we've not done a good job of Biblical sexual discipleship- discipleship being training and really forming the person.

And I think that for someone who is struggling, like you mentioned, there's a need for discipleship and friendship and counsel that says, “Listen, tell me a little bit more about what you're going through. I want to hear your story. I want to know what you're going through, but I also want to hold out for you a compelling and beautiful vision for who Christ is, for what Christ has to say about our bodies and about gender. And how do we reconcile those two things together?”

At the end of the day, if we're approaching it from a Biblical framework, we know that Christ is calling us to a life of discipleship, a life of self-denial, but also a life of grace for difficult things and for difficult journeys. We also have a Savior who understands our weaknesses and who understands our hardships and our difficulties. And so rather than ostracizing people like that or saying, "Hey, we can't help you," or just, "Suck it up, just do what you know you need to do." I think there's a component of counsel, friendship and discipleship that is really sorely needed in settings like that.

[Linda] Yeah. And I think it was really important, that first thing you said about coming alongside, getting to know someone, right? Because we're not really able to speak that until we really understand where they're coming from and how they're feeling. Then we can help address it as we're able to or as they want that input.

[Jonathan] And sometimes what can happen is that when we don't know a person's story, we can misapply information that we know from the Bible. So we might say a very true thing, but it might not be the wisest and best thing at the moment. An example of that might be, Eli sees Hannah in first Samuel one and she's  just muttering to herself and there's been a lot of drinking going around. And he thinks that she's drunk. He says, "What's wrong with you? You've drank a little too much."

So he takes external data, he sees something and he makes an unhelpful assumption and then an unhelpful conclusion, and you're right, when we don't really take time to get to know people and come alongside them sometimes we might do that. We might see a transgender person out in public or we might see somebody in a small group and they might share a prayer request about their gender dysphoria and without getting to know the person, we might make assumptions about them, their story, their struggles or background without really getting to know them. And in that way, we really misapply Scripture and its teaching in unhelpful ways.

[Linda] Yeah, that makes so much sense. Well, in the next session, we're going to get into much more of what it actually looks like to walk this out with colleagues, with students and all these things. But thank you so much for helping us think about this from a Biblical perspective.

[Jonathan] Thank you, wonderful.

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About Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes is the Founder and Executive Director of Fieldstone Counseling. He also serves as the Pastor of Counseling for Parkside Church Bainbridge and Green. Jonathan graduated from The Master’s College with degrees in Biblical Counseling and History and his M.A. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of The Company We Keep and Counsel for Couples and the forthcoming Rescue Plan (P&R Publishing, 2020).

Jonathan has written for a number of sites and organizations including, The Gospel Coalition, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Covenant Eyes and the Journal for Biblical Counseling. Jonathan serves on the Council Board for the Biblical Counseling Coalition; he speaks frequently at retreats and conferences. He and his wife, Jennifer, have four daughters, Ava, Riley, Ruby, and Emma. In his spare time Jonathan enjoys spending time with his family, reading, traveling and cooking/gardening.

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Linda Kardamis

I believe that when God calls us to teach, He promises the strength & wisdom to do it well. All we need to do is keep learning, growing, and depending on Him. I'm here to provide practical advice and Biblical encouragement so you'll have the confidence and perspective to not only inspire your students but reach their hearts as well.

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