The Christian grandmother, talking with me about her daughter and grandson, was heartbroken.
As her daughter unveiled her new life, beliefs, and rules, this grandmother felt the ground was no longer solid. She raised this prayed-for daughter in the church. As a teenager, her daughter made a profession of faith. But then everything changed. The daughter rapid-fired her war against “heterosexism” and the new rules that would be mandatory for any future relationship. She demanded exclusive use of preferred names and pronouns. And she told her mother she could never share Bible verses or church lessons that contradicted LGBTQ+ beliefs.
This grandmother was sure she couldn’t keep the rules straight in her head even if she tried. She could barely understand what “heterosexism” was, although her daughter had explained it many times as “the dangerous belief that heterosexuality is normal.” Why would anyone go to war against this? the grandmother wondered.
Wrong Side of History
The ultimatums and blackmail landed hard: failure to comply resulted in being cut out, disowned. Her daughter, Jade, declared herself “non-binary” and used the pronouns “they” and “he.” Her three-year-old grandson, Allan, would now be raised as a girl and addressed as Sierra, presumably because he wore a tiara at a child’s birthday party and liked it. None of this made sense. The grandmother was sure her daughter was deluded by some social contagion.
This grandmother wanted to do the right thing. She tried to find the middle road and walk the thin line that allowed her to retain a relationship with her daughter, but she wondered: Am I on the wrong side of history? Should I comply with my daughter when I believe she is seriously deluded? And what about my grandson? Is he a “trans” child or an abused one? She asked herself, What if I get it wrong?
When the grandmother reached out to her pastor, he didn’t know what to say. He told her to extend empathy and try to see things from her daughter’s point of view. The small group she attended was divided on what to do as well. Some people in her small group even warned her against being “transphobic” and told her anyone can be trans and Christian, or gay and Christian. Is this true? she wondered. Some people in her small group treated her like she caused her daughter’s problems.
Life in the War Zone
I know there are many sides to stories like these.
I know for years some evangelical leaders have wanted to understand this story from the LGBTQ+ perspective, some even sponsoring gay-sensitivity checklists and conferences. But what about the grandmother? Does her point of view matter? And what about God’s? Romans 3:4 makes God’s perspective the priority: “Let God be true though every one were a liar.” What God reveals about our lives is the true truth. The Bible knows us and our needs better than we do. And that is the very best news of all.
This grandmother’s family and church life had suddenly become a war zone, and she is not alone. I hear stories like this almost every day. If you, like the grandmother, have ever felt that you live amid a civil war, you are not alone either. On the one hand, we expect the church to conflict with the world. Indeed, John Calvin tells us to “count the rage of the whole world as nothing” (365 Days with Calvin, March 19). We see the rage of unbelief all around us. We understand the rage of the world because we remember when we were once God’s enemy.
It’s not conflict with the world that surprises us; the division within the visible church confounds us. Our Lord calls us to walk in unity amid this “crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:15). He does not ask us to become compliant with its perversion, and especially when the world demands as much. Jesus calls us to model the fathomless unity of the holy Trinity: “that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22). But how can we do this when some use the Bible to call sinners to repentance and others use the Bible to call the repentant to sin?
These are the times in which we live, and Christians must face the facts.
Three Subtle Reasons
I believe there are three reasons for our divided churches. And these three reasons have unleashed five lies that many evangelical churches have embraced.
Because I have believed all these lies at different points in my life, I understand how seductive they are. God knows the times in which we live and has provided a solution. Our calling is to repent of the lies that we have believed and attempt to stay connected with loved ones lost to them — and without our becoming indoctrinated. Easy to say, but impossible to do without God’s help. What are the three reasons?
First, we have failed to see that the seeds of the gospel are in the garden.
Many of us foolishly believed that we could reinvent our calling as men and women, render men and women interchangeable, defy God’s pattern and purpose for the sexes, and somehow reap God’s blessing.
God’s plan for men and women — the creation ordinance — is first found in Genesis 1, and it is central — not peripheral — to the gospel of Jesus Christ: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it’” (Genesis 1:27–28).
We bear the image of God by growing in the knowledge, righteousness, and holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:24). Homosexuality and transgenderism represent forms of rebellion against God’s creation ordinance and image-bearing. They are manifestations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and must be repented of, not celebrated.
Homosexuality and transgenderism are not part of anyone’s creational design, no matter what our feelings say. Our feelings are not free of sin, and they don’t trump God’s truth. Christ promises to forgive and restore all who repent and trust in him for salvation. Christ does not make an ally with the sins his blood crushes on the cross and washes clean. There is hope for all in the gospel.
Second, we have failed to read the times in which we live (Romans 13:11–14; Luke 12:56).
In the 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court declared so-called gay marriage the law of the land. It also introduced the idea of “dignitary harm.” According to Obergefell, we are harming someone’s dignity by failing to “affirm” their LGBTQ+ identity.
In our post-Obergefell world, we now have two competing ideas of what it means to be human — and these ideas have collided. The Freudian/Obergefell idea is that sexual orientation is an accurate category of personhood; LGBTQ+ is who you are rather than how you feel. After Obergefell, laws quickly were put in place to honor, affirm, and celebrate being LGBTQ+. The biblical idea, however, is that bearing the image of God according to eternal and creational categories of man or woman determines who you are. It’s Obergefell or Christ: you either celebrate and affirm your sin nature, or you repent of the culpable and unchosen sin nature you inherit in Adam.
Third, we have failed to love our enemies and instead pretended that our enemies are our friends.
Many of us have failed to understand that loving our enemies is an act of godly confrontation, a weapon of our warfare and a great kindness (2 Corinthians 10:4). Christian love destroys arguments and lofty opinions raised against Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Christian love doesn’t pretend that the world is a safe place or that the enemies of Christ are harmless — even if they are your daughter. Christian love seeks to make friends out of enemies through repentance and forgiveness. Christian love doesn’t delude us into believing that sin is no big deal, or that we are more merciful than God. Pretending our enemies are our friends is a cowardly cop-out.
Five Seductive Lies
These three reasons have introduced five lies into far too many evangelical churches. The five lies coalesce in rejection of biblical authority, defiance against Christ, and celebration of pride.
Lie #1: Homosexuality is a normal sexual variant.
Lie #2: Being a “spiritual person” is kinder than being a biblical Christian.
Lie #3: Feminism is good for the church and the world.
Lie #4: Transgenderism is a normal gender variant.
Lie #5: Modesty is an outdated burden that serves male dominance and holds women back.
These five lies rely on several false claims, but the biggest is the feminist invention that “gender” is distinct from biological sex. To create false categories of personhood, and then try to build a Christian life on top of them, is futile and foolish. As pastor Christopher J. Gordon puts it in The New Reformation Catechism on Human Sexuality, “To introduce gender as a new category of personhood, separate from the biological category of sex, in pursuit of a different sexual identity, is unnatural to the creation order and harmful for the purpose for which God made us” (13).
God promises that lies — even prominent ones that have become foundational to powerful governments and academic institutions — do not have the last word. He tells us that only the truth will set us free. As Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32). Jesus does not say freedom will come if you stand in the shoes of your “non-binary” grandchild by inviting a “gay Christian” ministry into your church, or if you march in the pride parade with your lesbian daughter, or if you go to your son’s gay wedding. It’s not kindness to stand in someone’s shoes when that person needs to be rescued.
Freed from the Fear of Man
The Bible calls the fear of man a snare (Proverbs 29:25) — an instrument of execution from which you cannot extricate yourself. But as my husband says a lot, the gospel sets you free from the fear of man. So, if you find yourself wondering if you are on the wrong side of history, and if you have all of this wrong, remember the blood of Christ. Remember how it bore down on demons and delivered you from hell. Remember how Jesus became a curse so that you could receive blessing. Remember that the truth of Christ sets you free, not compliance with lies.
Understand the times. Know the reasons. Defy the lies. And love your enemies well enough to tell the truth.