Written By Krysti Wilkinson, USA
“Ha, ‘That’s not the gender I associate with’. Can you believe that’s even a thing these days? The world has gotten so ridiculous.”
A friend and I were discussing how you can’t be too quick to assume one’s gender these days. He was trying to be funny. And, in a way, I understood where he was coming from. The language we now use, the things we are encouraged to say to be politically correct or to avoid hurting a person’s feelings, do seem, at times, a little ridiculous.
But I paused and thought about it a bit more.
“You know, I’ve never felt like I was born into the wrong kind of body. And I’ve never felt like I belong to a different gender than society tends to classify me in. So I can’t speak for them, but I can imagine that must be a very scary experience. And, for the sake of bringing a little comfort to people who must spend a lot of time in fear, I don’t mind it ‘being a thing’.” I replied.
The Church seems to be spending a lot of effort trying to figure out how to react to society these days. And it makes sense—we want to be in the world, but not of it; we want to be a light in the darkness. We have to walk a careful line of embracing humanity while also pointing to a better way. It’s a confusing place to be.
I’ve heard all the science back the gender fluid debate and all the science against it. I’ve heard the “there is no gay gene” defense, and the “born this way” claims. I’m no expert on the situation, but I’d like to think of myself as, at the very least, well versed in the opinions. And while it can be a pretty complicated situation for the Church to find herself in in 2017, I’d like to think the response is quite simple: What would Jesus do?
When I look back on Jesus’ life on earth, I see Him seeking out the marginalized and the hurting. Not condemning them or correcting their way of life, but including them in His story and inviting them into something greater. He chooses compassion, time and time again, when it would be so easy to do otherwise.
It was the religious teachers who were too caught up in laws and regulations, whom Jesus ridiculed. It was the Pharisees who so convinced they had life figured out, whom He was quick to correct. The people who were looked down upon, judged, or completely forgotten about—those were the ones He drew near to. Those were the ones He cherished.
We can debate the potential effects of bathroom laws, but I wish we were more focused on the current reality that 84 percent of transgender youth feel unsafe at school. We can discuss gay marriage, but I wish we were talking about LGBT young adults having the highest rates of suicide attempts. When Christians want to debate numbers, I want to remind them of Jesus’ two greatest commands: Love the Lord our God, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
We’re to be known by our love. Do we remember that as we bicker over what pronoun to assign to a person? Are we choosing love, or denouncing people’s ways of life? Are we loving our neighbors, or are we trying to tell them how to live, what to do, and who to be? Are we only reacting to society or actively loving the members of it?
We’re called to love, above all. Love involves hard conversations and discipline and all of that. But it’s ultimately about drawing close to Jesus and wanting others to draw closer to Jesus as well. We can’t do that if we’re too busy focusing on what is indicated on their birth certificates or rolling our eyes at their use of pronouns or keeping ourselves as far away as possible from them.
I’m still learning so much about this conversation, as I think we all are. I’m trying to ask more questions than offer answers, and trying to forget everything I “know” in an attempt to learn a thing or two. We can tend to cling to the truth we’ve always assumed to be absolute and deny any other ideas as illogical when entering in to difficult conversations. I’m trying to put all the weapons down. Conversations are much easier when we both agree to show up with open hands.
So, when my friend scoffed at people associating to a different gender than they are born “being a thing”, I asked him how he felt about it. I didn’t claim to have better answers than him or to know more than he did and I tried to see where he was coming from. Loving others includes granting grace. And I’m always in need of a constant supply of grace.
While we’ve been so busy searching for cold facts, scientific evidence, and indisputable truth to back one claim over the other—I can’t help but think Jesus doesn’t care. The Jesus I know chose compassion, time and time again, over condemnation. I hope to do the same.