Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

Last time, in episode 357, you addressed actor Laverne Cox, born a boy, who has now chosen to take on a female identity. Cox appears on the cover of the June 9 issue of Time magazine. In the last podcast, you talked about the principles of Romans 1 and nature. But we need to make this even more personal. Pastor John, what would you say to a young man or woman who is considering a sex-change operation? For a variety of reasons, the transgender option appeals to them. Now you’re sitting across the table from them. What do you say?

It is absolutely right that I get to that question, because last time I just tried to do foundational stuff and I believe that those foundational things are absolutely essential in coming to terms with who we are in our anatomy and our chromosomes and then in our identity. So let’s suppose the person says, “Ok, Piper, I listened and I have always felt that way. I don’t feel good about this. I believe it is wrong for me to try to get a sex-change operation or whatever. What am I supposed to do with these unbelievably strong desires that I have? What about me and the fact that I feel like a woman even though I have a male body or I feel like a man even though I have a female body? What am I supposed to do?”

Heartbreaking Ambiguity

Before I give my counsel, I really need to insert here a reality that I am not talking about; namely, there are rare births of babies with both sets of genitals. There is a real ambiguity in that case, not an ambiguity of preference, but an ambiguity of nature. I am not talking about that tragic situation. That is simply heartbreaking for parents. It is like any other heartbreaking birth defect or disability.

In that case, here is what I would say if I were the parent or what I would do if I were the parent: I would make the heart-wrenching effort to discern genetically and chromosomally the clearest biological foundation for the sexual identity that I could and then I would raise the child that way using whatever surgery or hormonal helps were available. I am not talking about that situation in this episode. That is a real, painful, natural anatomical ambiguity. I am talking about people whose anatomical, chromosomal nature is clear as male or female.

Seven Exhortations

So here is what I would say by way of counsel for what they might do. I think I have got seven things jotted down here.

1. Resolve to follow God’s word.

Number one: Resolve once and for all that you will follow the word of God wherever it leads until the end of your life or until Jesus comes. Don’t leave it open-ended. Most of us stumble into sin because we leave things open-ended. We don’t make any firm, clear commitments and resolutions. So set your face like flint to follow the word of God. That is why I began where I did in the last episode.

2. Acknowledge the reality of disordered desires.

Number two: Realize that these desires you have — this recurring sense of feeling like a gender different from what you are biologically — these desires, this feeling, is part of the universal human experience of disordered desire as a result of the fall of man into sin. And every one of us is born with disordered desires that need to be subdued.

“Set your face like flint to follow the word of God.”

I was thinking about this: The variety of disorders in our desires is virtually infinite. That is, it is beyond medical or psychological ability to define. No one is without disordered desires. And when I say that I don’t want to make light of certain sexual disorders that are really profound, really deep, and that relate closely to one’s very identity. I don’t want to make light of them like they compare to some little thing that I deal with. But I do want to say that they are not wholly different from what all of us deal with.

In other words, we all need a firm grasp of the depth and pervasiveness of sin and its physical and biological impact. For humans, it started with Adam and Eve. It was passed down from generation to generation. It runs through the physical members, the Bible says, and is ultimately not under our control. That is how deep sin is. The mind of the flesh cannot please God without being conquered by sovereign grace. We all have innate, sinful desires. And most of them are related one way or other to our bodies. So we can’t excuse ourselves because we have these strong psychological, physical desires. For example, ninety percent of the violent crimes in America are committed by one gender: men. Why? Well, partly because they have ten times as much testosterone as women. Does that excuse us? No. It doesn’t excuse us. It is statistically and physically demonstrable why ninety percent of all violent crimes in America are performed by men and we are not excused by that strong psycho-physical reality that is in us, pushing us towards these kinds of things.

3. Trust God’s promises.

Third: Trust the blood-bought promises of God to give you the emotional and personal and material and relational help you need to live in freedom — freedom from fulfilling disordered desires. For example, let’s just take the love of money. I am referring to deep, dysfunctional craving love of money. Here is what the Bible says about how to manage it in Hebrews 13:5: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content.” So it is telling us: Get rid of one emotion and have another emotion. It is amazing that the Bible talks this way. Get rid of love for money. Be content with what you have. “For” — here is the ground — “he has said” — God said something — “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

“We all need a firm grasp of the depth and pervasiveness of sin and its physical and biological impact.”

In other words, God’s presence and God’s promise make a powerful emotional difference in resisting wrong desires and finding contentment in really painful and difficult situations. And that is the way it is for all of us: Trusting in the promises of God to sever the power of disordered desires and to give contentment in seasons of failed dreams. That is normal Christian experience. Some have to fight some things more than others. Some people have to fight some things more than others.

4. Lean on the Holy Spirit.

Here’s number four: Lean heavily on the Holy Spirit. And by his power say, “No!” to the disordered desires. “If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). So very specifically, if you feel like putting on the clothes of a different sex; if the desire starts to rise to imitate the mannerisms or assume the postures or to fantasize as the other sex, Paul says: Put that to death by the Spirit. That is calling upon the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s name to help you and then embracing the promise as a superior pleasure and then choosing long-term joy in holiness over short-term pleasure in sin. All of us have to do that.

5. Present your body to righteousness.

Number five: There is a positive counterpart to putting bad desires to death. Namely, present your members — your physical bodies in all their parts — to righteousness. Don’t just put things to death, present your bodies to righteousness as it says in Romans 6:13. In other words, there is both the negative putting to death in Romans 8:13 and there is the positive giving your members to righteousness in Romans 6:13. It is crucial, therefore, to be acting out who we are in Christ.

Two more, briefly.

6. Seek wisdom.

Number six: As a young person, talk to your parents about what you are struggling with if there are any temptations in regard to this transgender thing. And as a parent, draw out of your child what he or she is feeling. Seek wisdom from Christians who have gone through similar things and walked uprightly and get the best medical counsel you can from a doctor who shares your biblical convictions about God’s design for men and women.

7. Look ahead to glory.

And the last thing I would say, number seven: Life is hard. We are all broken. Look to the day when this light and momentary affliction of eighty or ninety years will be over and then everlasting joy and perfect wholeness.


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