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Gender, identity and being Christian - a few thoughts

A few thoughts from the Bible

Main Idea

God created man and woman perfect, to be joined together ie. married and live in perfect harmony with each other, the environment and with God. Yet we read that within the first three chapters of the Bible, this had all changed. Woman no longer was a 'helper' for her partner, but became subject to him, they were tossed out of the Garden of Eden, there was a struggle to obtain food, and the environment turned on them (Genesis 3).

All of humanity now struggles with the question of what is right and wrong and the most common social issue in 2016 is that of defining ones identity, usually in terms of gender. For a Christian we have an identity in Christ, for the unbeliever, the identity needs to be built upon someone (some hero), or one's own experience; a quick sand that swallows you up, and destroys you.

Gender in the Bible

God created two genders of human; firstly the man, then the woman, both in the image of God. Furthermore, unlike the rest of creation, God considered this aspect of creation to be very good (Genesis 1:31 my emphasis); whereas the other created beings were considered merely 'good'. There are no other gender ascribed to humans in the Bible. Their role is also clear – they were to be joined in one flesh, the unmistakable definition of marriage (Genesis 2:24); to produce off-spring (Genesis 1:28), and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28). The Bible is also very explicit about sexual relations; God granted permission for sexual union to occur only between a woman and man in marriage, and no other, ever. The Bible sets out a large number of forbidden unions and expressly indicates these are sinful and contrary to the will of God.

Why is there so much confusion today about gender and identity?

Although God sets out the starting point of humans and the fact they were created 'very good', man was given total autonomy as to the direction he could take his life. Furthermore, he was given the right to subdue all things to control all that was in the world. Indeed, he should have been able to make everything subject all to himself. However, he had boundaries and due to his pride he crossed those boundaries; that is he sinned, the consequence of which is in each and every human born today. Due to the sin of Adam, we all bear the consequence – we are born sinners, and our desire is to sin. Our confusion today stems from sin.

Who defined what was right and wrong?

God made humans in his own image. This means we have an intellect, the ability to ask and answer questions, an ability to reason and use logic etc. No other animal has this ability. Furthermore, and rejected by this world, but clearly stated by God in the Bible, humans have a soul that is God-conscious and a spirit that can communicate with God.

However, what man was not given was the right (or role) of deciding what was right and what was wrong. This was, and still is, solely the responsibility of God. The largest issue facing our young people today (and many older) is deciding right from wrong; there is outside of the Bible no unchanging error free and perfect ethical model to guide a life. Thus we find the purpose of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil being placed in the Garden of Eden was to test man. Adam chose (as was his right) to disobey God; but on doing so is required along with all who descended from him, to receive the punishment for disobedience – death. So on eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil Adam and all of human kind chose to reject God's definition of right and wrong and defined it himself; and being decedents of Adam, we do exactly the same, and fail most miserably. Thus humans today want to, and do redefined their gender, not based on the physical attributes created by God, determined by the X and Y chromosomes, but rather on their own thoughts and feelings that are shaped by the environmental they live in. They have nothing else in life to define their life – their ethic is based on the fallacy that one is merely a product of evolution; chemicals that reorganise, supposedly, themselves, based on some future benefit.

What was the consequence of the fall?

The consequence of the fall affects all today although our mandate to subdue the world was not taken away from us. However, the environment was given the power to 'push back' on any effort of humans to subdue it. Food & water security, which was 'good', i.e. perfect to this point became a struggle, even to death with droughts and flood, and thus all humans by the 'sweat of our face' need to work hard and diligently to obtain sufficient quality food to remain healthy, and indeed to live (Genesis 3:19).

More poignantly the very existence of humankind became a burden; childbirth would be a painful experience, something animals do not experience (Genesis 3:16), disease entered the world as did death. And furthermore, the role of woman would be usurped from one of being in perfect harmony and union with her man, to being ruled by man, so rather than being a helpmate [helper] (Genesis 2:20), she became his servant to be used by him for his pleasure, which means he controlled her will and thus autonomy[1].

To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." Genesis 3:16

In summary, the fall caused the following:

  • Mandate of control over creation was removed, but was broken; the environment would conflict with humans at every level.
  • Humans were cast out of perfection found in the Garden of Eden.
  • Creation would threaten our very existence, in particular food sources, along wihd disease, wild animals etc.
  • Humans would need to work very hard to remain fed and healthy.
  • Roles of the sexes would be changed causing tension between man and woman, with men ruling
  • Humans would struggle to know right from wrong – epitomized in realising what nakedness was.[2]

Why is there confusion over gender?

Human's in rejecting God have no guidance on what is right and wrong, that isn the Fall has broken and confused our understanding of what is right and wrong. Humans were made with a perfect identity and could form perfect relations. After the fall this was struck down. The question is then, how do we live in a world of such confusion when there is a very real feeling of confusion versus the reality of how God made each of us? It is very clear, that although humans should have control of all things, even our own feeling, we do not seem to. Yet we find one who had, and still has – Jesus Christ.

The writer to the Hebrews is demonstrating the superiority of Jesus Christ, Yeshua the Messiah, over the angels, Aaron the high priest, and indeed all things. In chapter two he quotes Psalm 8 and notes a very important difference between what God ordained, and the current reality – not everything that should be, is:

But one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet." For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him [subjected to him JND]. Hebrews 2:6-8

However, the author of Hebrews is not about increasing head knowledge, but rather, the book's purpose is to encourage believers to take hold of the full realization their position in Christ. Although we live in a wicked, fallen, confused world, we (who believe in the Yeshua the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ), see Jesus – perfect in all things. Note the emphatic "but" in the next verse.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9

We see Jesus, humiliated by his false accusers, the humiliated by his crucifixion (naked on the cross)[3], but also the triumphal return to be at the side of God in heaven. In this we gain the confidence that Christ who saves us is able to save us from each and every sin. And this is what we must focus on – salvation!

A believer's identity is in Christ – indeed – he or she has a new identity. A Christian is able to, due to the Holy Spirit, put off and crucify any other identity.

I am crucified with Christ, and no longer live, I, but Christ lives in me; but in that I now live in flesh, I live by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me. Galatians 2:20

So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new: 2 Corinthians 5:17

Our earthy body is broken, and is on a finite spiral downward, a fact I more fully realise each day, as I age. It is our identity on the other side death that counts, not this side. We will struggle, and some much much more in this life about who we are and what we aught do. But we must look up – at Jesus. Without being identified with Christ, there is only one consequence – hell; and thus the responsibility of Christians is to to share the saving knowledge of Christ[4] not condemn a persons desired identity.

How does one deal with identity issues?

There is only one place to look for one's identity – that is in Christ. For it is only in Christ will one be given a new and perfect (real) identity. :Looking into ourselves leads to disappointment else egotistical arrogance.

A note of the philosophy of the world

The modern ethic of the current world is built on the supposition that humans arose from nothing (big bang), and are now merely a complex group of chemicals that 'communicate' with each other, and on death; well, that's it. Under Darwin, Freud etc. the soul is now assumed to be one's sexuality. Experience replaces reality, hence one can do anything, believe anything, and believe one is anything, for after all one is only a bag of chemicals. This contrasts a Christian who knows they are a creation of God's own image, created by God, and his or her soul is the very essence of themselves, which defines a person and can know God. The soul of a person is not experience nor the desire to have sex – these are driven from the mind (intellect and emotion). It is the spirit of a person that experiences the relationship with God. The soul and spirit of a person, defines a person, are not mortal, and will be judged by God. 

Dealing with loved ones looking for their identity

Christians and the church, in particular, cannot tell the world they are wrong – we cannot imposed the ethics of God on others. As Jesus stated, placing new wine in old vessels (skins) leads to grief – it cannot work[5]. We cannot (it is impossible) to convince people of a new ideology based on the Bible – indeed Christianity has nothing to do with ideology – and was never promulgated by Jesus; only the raw real fact – Christ came to save the world.  The role of a Christian is to win each person to the person of Jesus Christ – not to a religion, or philosophy or an ideology. This is done through telling the truth – Jesus Christ is the Son of God who saves us from eternal judgement; and counsel "believe in him". For in Him we can find a perfect harmonious identity.

The lessons of the early church are profound – the apostles did not set out to change or indeed remove (nor reform) society of the day – which was inhuman, vile, evil, wicked and against God, but rather they preached Christ, crucified! In the following, Paul speaks how he encouraged the highly intelligent Corinthians by preaching Christ crucified, and speaks nothing of highlighting their evil ways.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

We are to proclaim the gospel, which is not telling people they are wrong, but rather, the consequences of sin can be avoided by accepting Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This truth is evident from those that have defined their identity in Christ, but once were far from him. Rossia Butterfield, an ex-lesbian, articulates this well – she was not saved from homosexuality, but rather, "I was converted not out of homosexuality, but out of unbelief"[6]. We are condemned by God by our unbelief, not our sin; those who do not have Christ (and the only way of being in Christ, is to trust in him, that is to believe in him) are already condemned.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1

For the individual

We are not defined by our identity – God did not define us that way, but rather we are defined by who we are in Christ. The world has seduced all to believe that 'I' is the most important person (at the exclusion of all others) and our identity is our most important attribute. Indeed, our experience has become more important than reality, something unknown 150 years ago; Facebook to wit.

God is not some distant capacious god. He is a true and faithful friend, who knows us inside out, evidence by King David, who suffered very much; including his own weakness for beautiful women, his pride, his enemies that desired many times to kill him, his children who committed incest and murder and desired to usurp the throne and yet he was able to write:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me.

You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.

You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.

My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;

And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalms 139:1-24

Here we see David define himself in God – it is was not a matter that he was the king over the chosen people of God (and successful & prosperous at that), but rather he is defined in his faith in God; a sinner saved by grace because he had faith in the Lord God Mighty.

The real issue is the modern world has convinced people that their sexuality is more important than their soul. In this, our experience, in particular sexual experience, is what defines us, and has become the most important aspect of life, rather than our soul, promulgated by the likes of Freud & Darwin etc. In this, sex and sexuality becomes the soul, and therefore shapes a person's outlook on their own image, identity and place in society – they no know other, which is what has really screwed up our young people, in particular.

Summary

The issue here is not one of sex or gender, but the fact that we are all sinners and God's grace is sufficient for all – including homosexuality – he died for all, and any who accept him, believing in him, is saved. It is in Christ that we find our true identity – all else is shifting sands and hell awaits.

For a Christian, the command of God is explicit – our experience is irrelevant – it's our identity in Christ that forms who we are.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Matthew 16:24

[1] Thus, to some extent the feminists are correct; the role of women is not to be a servant of man (put crudely as "a spittoon for his sperm", a symbol used by Germaine Greer in The Female Eunuch, 1970); God in His perfect creation made women with an intellect, an ability to reason etc, and particular roles (only a woman can nourish an infant with human milk and much more), not one of subservience as a servant to men. Noting that in Genesis 1:28 – both man and woman were given the mandate to subdue the earth and Genesis 1:28 is not gender specific (And God bless them, and God said to them) because the verb does not refer back only to Adam, but to both the male and female (Genesis 1:27) – they both had a role in 'subduing' the world (i.e. harnessing the environment and that in it, for good). Humans have never experience the perfect relationship, as ordained by God, between man and woman, thus, we have no experience of what this is, only the example of Christ for the Church.

[2] It is interesting to reflect that naked humans cannot escape the harshness of the environment; both the weather and the highly cancer causing ultra violet light from the sun – before the fall this was not so.

[3] A point lost to artists who attempt to paint the crucifixion (Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:15, John 19:1).

[4] Note we preach the gospel not a list of 'sins' that are 'very bad'. We are all sinners and all separated us from God, and therefore, all deserve to die. Being transgender and engaging in sex with those with the same sex chromosomes has the same consequence as lying; the wages of sin is death (and hence hell) in eternity.

[5] We are also forbidden to cast pearls before swine – a parable to indicate that the world will, indeed can only, curse the word of God. It is impudent for Christians to reproof sinners of their sin – the vile, impure and wicked will not, and indeed, cannot accept, for they are blind and cannot discern what from right and wrong (the Holy Spirit was sent to do this John 18:8, 1 Corinthians 2:10 etc. along with Scripture Hebrews 4:12). It is only when they see Jesus will they be convicted of sin.

[6] Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (2015) Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ, Crown and Covenant Publications, pg 50

David L Simon (3 July 2016)
\Doctrine\Gender, identity and being Christian - a few thoughts