The unhelpful ways we talk about gender and sexuality
In many countries, June is celebrated as Pride Month. We evangelicals should be aware that conversations about gender and sexuality have to do with fellow humans. By a church leader in Central Europe.
22 JUNE 2022 · 10:14 CET
In many countries and in a host of multinational corporations, June is celebrated as Pride Month. It is, therefore, to be expected that we will be hearing a lot about LGBT+ issues from both secular sources as well as Church leaders.
But are we, as Christians, using this as an opportunity to promote mutual dialogue, or are we failing to talk about gender and sexuality in ways that witness to the love of Christ?
Gender and sexuality are without a doubt two of the hottest issues of the day. Both are extremely personal, cutting too close to home, and as a result they need to be handled with great care. Conversations about these sensitive topics need to bear in mind that they do not concern mere issues, but fellow humans—“people to be loved,” as Preston Sprinkle suggests in the title of one of his books.
Yet we evangelicals often resort to no less than warmongering rhetoric. We fall prey to the divisive “us versus them” pattern of thinking. Believing ourselves to be in a culture war against the mainstream society, we feel the need to make our voices heard even when no one asked. To the outsider—the one we are pointing our righteous fingers at—we come across as lunatic haters, rather than prophets of hope or bearers of good news.
We may argue that “the Bible is clear on these issues”, adding that we have been called to preach “the truth in love”. And I’d like to believe that, deep down inside, our motivation is love for our neighbours. Yet, more typically, it seems to me that we are speaking out of fear or disgust. If this is our strategy for bringing people to Christ, we should not be surprised when it fails, causing backlash from those we are seeking to convert to our point of view.
In the end, we are leaving more damage in our wake: We are alienating not just those outside the Church, but often also those inside the body of Christ who are trying to make sense of their own sexuality or gender identity as they pursue God-centered lives.
Even when they choose the officially sanctioned path, our discourse leaves them struggling with guilt and shame. Unsurprisingly, many end up leaving the Church when presented with the opportunity. (See Andrew Marin’s Us Versus Us for some rather alarming data on this.) Surely, this is concerning, to say the least.
It is high time that we revisited the maxim of “first removing the plank out of our own eye” and addressed how we can better model Christ’s love towards the LGBT+ people in our communities.
After all, Jesus spent time with those traditionally labelled as “sinners” in order to show them that God’s grace is available to all who seek him. Only then can we meaningfully engage with them—only if we take the time to listen and care do we actually earn the right to speak.
A church leader from Central Europe.