Marriage and Gender

June 27, 2015

In light of the Supreme Court decision this week, I will take a week away from our Romans series and preach Sunday, July 5 on the implications of biblical truth for marriage, identity, and gender. We’ll consider implications for us as families, as a church, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, and as citizens of a secular state.

Note that our Statement of Faith Governing Teaching – which all DGCC elders must agree to without reservation – says explicitly that God appointed the first man and the first woman “different and complementary roles in marriage as a picture of Christ and the church.” From the beginning, God defined marriage as one man married to one woman as long as they both live (see, among others, Mark 10:2-9). That has not changed, and will not change.

So let us respond to these cultural shifts and legal decisions with:

  • prayer, for our country, our children, our witness, our lost friends and family;
  • confidence, that God is in control of all things, and is working all together for the good of His people and the glory of His Name;
  • firmness, knowing that “the grass withers, the flowers fade, but the Word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8);
  • loving witness, for those who differ with us on these issues, together with all our neighbors, co-workers, families, and friends;
  • boldness, knowing that if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31-39);
  • joyful perseverance, knowing that hardship, trials, and even possibly persecution may well come in the future over these very issues  – but if we suffer for His sake, we are blessed (Matthew 5:11-12, Acts 5:40-42, Hebrews 10:32-39).

Do pray also for me as I prepare this sermon.

In the meantime, I recommend you read these posts on this issue:

From John Piper: So-Called Same-Sex Marriage: The New Calamity

From the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, but signed by a wide spectrum of evangelical leaders: Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage

 

 

Jenner, Dolezal, Roof – and Identity

June 18, 2015

Bruce Jenner

Rachel Dolezal

Dylann Roof

An Olympic champion decathlete who now identifies as a woman; a white woman who told others she was black; a young man who walked into an African-American church prayer meeting Wednesday night and killed 9 people, saying, according to reports, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

What is the link among them?

They certainly are dramatically different from each other – most obviously in that neither Jenner nor Dolezal has assaulted another person, while Roof has committed a horrendous act of terror.

But look at these three through the lens of identity, through the question, “Who are you?” Each seems to be trying to find an identity they lack:

  • Jenner reports to have dressed in women’s clothes secretly for years, and looks to find freedom by now publicly acting like a woman.
  • Dolezal identifies with “the black experience,” as she calls it, and became the head of a local branch of the NAACP. By all accounts, she was quite effective in that job. But she lied about her white biological parents, claiming her father was African-American.
  • From the pictures on his Facebook page, Roof seems to glory in white supremacy, to find meaning in seeing his race as better than and threatened by blacks.

Jenner is trying to find joy, fulfillment, and freedom in gender identity. Realize that Jenner is not among those whose biological development goes awry in the womb, resulting in a difficult-to-determine sex. He is a biological male. Indeed, no woman has ever run 400 meters in 47.51 seconds as he did – and if any woman ever does, she certainly will not also be able match Jenner in putting a 16 lb shot over 50 feet, long jumping over 23’ 8”, pole vaulting over 15’ 8”, and high jumping over 6’ 7”. (All time only 14 women have long jumped farther, 9 women have vaulted higher, and 17 women have jumped higher – and no woman appears on even two of those lists.)

But gender, say many today, is a social construct, distinct from biological sex, and Jenner is simply choosing to live as his/her genuine gender, not trying (at least not yet) to change sex.

Certainly many of the expectations a culture has for men’s roles and women’s roles are social constructs, with little if any relation either to biology or to biblical manhood and womanhood. The way we dress, the way we walk, the work that we do, the jewelry or make-up we wear, laws concerning voting and land ownership and inheritance – all these are social constructs. We Christians have to be careful not to claim that our own sub-culture’s expectations for how men and women act are all rooted in biblical revelation.

But while we must agree that some aspects of any culture’s conceptions of manhood and womanhood are social constructs, biology tells us there are some unique roles for the sexes, and Scripture tells us our Creator’s prescription – a prescription which may seem to be constraining, but in fact, as one aspect of submission to Christ and being transformed through the renewal of our minds, will lead to freedom.

Jenner stated, “As soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free.” Jenner is trying to find freedom and joy in a change of identity, a change of public persona, a change of outward gender role. But Scripture tells us our identity is to found in Christ and obedience to Him. No other identity will lead to eternal joy.

Dolezal and Roof in quite different ways are trying to find joy and fulfillment through racial identity: Dolezal by pretending to be black and becoming a defender of black interests; Roof apparently by deluding himself into thinking of whites as superior, and finding identity in being the supposed noble defender of the superior race. Roof’s sense of identity then leads to the horror and carnage of Wednesday night.

Note that race is completely a social construct. Race, unlike sex, is not biologically determined. Some ethnicities are biologically distinct – but not races. That is, there are no genetic markers common to everyone we perceive as black, or to everyone we perceive as white – just as in India there are no genetic markers common to everyone in one caste or another. Yet this social construct of race (like caste) influences the way we see ourselves and others, and deeply impacts how others treat us (horribly, even to the point of hating and persecuting and killing).

So since race is a social construct, what’s the problem with a person society labels “white” as a child deciding to live as “black” as an adult?

The problem – for Jenner, for Dolezal, for Roof, and for us –comes down to: Where do you primarily find identity?

We all have multiple roles and identities: Our families, our jobs, our income, our nationalities, our ethnic heritage, our language, our education – all of these as well as race and gender feed into who we are.

But where do you primarily find identity.

Scripture tells us: Our first and foremost identity, the identity that defines us most vitally, the identity that determines our future is this: Who we are before God.

For God created mankind in His image and by right that creation rules as king. All mankind shares His image. Yet all mankind has defiled that image, rebelling against our rightful king, setting ourselves up as the arbiter of right and wrong – indeed, attempting to find our primary identity in something other than what God says about us. We deserve His punishment; we deserve eternal separation from Him. But God determined and promised that He would call from all types of mankind one people for Himself to be His treasured possession – to delight in Him above all things, and to be His great joy for all eternity. In an act of sheer grace, He sent His Son, the Second Person of the godhead, to become man and to live the life we all should have lived. Through His death on the cross, He suffered the penalty due to us for our rebellion. But God raised Him from the dead, proving the penalty was sufficient. To all who come to Him by faith in the Son, submitting to Him as King, rejoicing in Him as the greatest Treasure, He grants an identity that defines all else: Beloved by God. A part of the Bride of Christ. God’s precious possession.

So the Apostle Paul writes:

In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

Paul is not denying that ethnicity is important – any more than he is denying that sex is important. He is saying that in Christ, we have a new identity: Members of God’s family! We have put off the old self and have put on the new self – a restored image of God! (Colossians 3:9-11). We retain our sex, our ethnicity, and, at least for a  time, our roles in the economy – but none of these define us. We may be black or white or Chinese or Indian – and our ethnicities can serve to glorify God (Revelation 7:9-10) – but we are all primarily Abraham’s offspring, heirs of the promise to him, fulfilled in Christ Jesus.

So by all means pray that Jenner and Dolezal and Roof will find their identity in the only source of true freedom, true fulfillment, and true joy – Christ Himself.

But also ask yourself: Who am I? What most defines me?

Scripture tells us: Our relationship to God must define us most. If we do not know Christ, our separation from Him, our position under His wrath, defines us. If we trust in Christ, He gives us an identity. He calls us God’s children. He makes us His Bride – without spot or blemish or any such thing.

That is who we are. This defines us – more than race or gender or income or class. May we delight in that identity – and live it out fully – to the glory of our Lord.