Feb 01 2012
"I Found Out Today One of My Co-Workers is Transgender..."

 

Here's a question from an Air1 listener.  I forwarded it on to a friend of mine, who handles the questions often in his field of counseling.  Thanks for the great question (I changed the listener's name) and Ray, thanks for your willingness to answer.

Your honest questions, by the way, are always welcome. We have a terrific pastoral staff at Air1.  They can be reached at 888.YES.AIR1.

 

Hi Brant.

I found out today that one of my coworkers is transgender. We had a sensitivity training seminar talking about what terminology to use and how to act around this person. This is the first transgender person that I will have encountered. I want to be friendly and "normal" around this person, but I'm nervous. I believe that God chose gender for each person, so I don't agree with the lifestyle this person has chosen. How would you advise me to act? And, could you please pray for me?

Thanks.

Chelsea

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Hello Chelsea, 

Friendly and normal is great place to start. It's natural to feel nervous around a new person and if in the process of working together you make a mistake and do the opposite of what your sensitivity training has taught you, just apologize. From a Christian perspective my thought is this...you are responsible to love your neighbor and do unto others how you would have them do unto you right? That's it! We are free from the law of sin and death to love others and judge ourselves so that we live before them as a witness. Even if you disagree with your new coworkers way of life you don't need to say so. Instead find the common ground you can agree on. You might be really surprised what you come to like about this person. 

This is a great opportunity for you to practice valuing someone who needs it. Be a blessing! I know sometimes Christians feel that if we don't "represent" God by telling the pagans that they are living their lives wrong; then as Christians we are condoning the act of sin in a persons life and God is upset with us. But this untrue, in fact by befriending your coworker you are placing value on them. Which is what God did with the woman at the well and many other biblical examples. Jesus was the friend of sinners after all.

One of my favorite quotes by Sy Rogers says this: "People do things (sin) for reasons. This doesn't make their sin okay but it does make it understandable, forgivable, and correctable." You don't have to be a therapist or know why your coworker has made the choices they have. You are not responsible for their lifestyle you are just responsible to live your life before them as a witness as to how good of an advocate God is.

Who knows...maybe if your coworker gets to know you close enough perhaps he or she will ask why you are so different. You can say: God's love, grace, and mercy. You can let them know that God loves them too just like they are (when we come to God in relationship he always takes us further). The point - like in our own lives we needed to find Jesus first before any thing else could be addressed. 

Lastly, take the transgender issue out of the equation. In reality it doesn't matter if someone is gay or straight. It matters if that person is reconciled to God through Christ. Everything else is symptomatic of how surrendered one is.

We are all getting over something in our lives even with Jesus. I'll keep you in prayer that you have the courage to be a friend to this person that is new because being new at work is sometimes hard. 

In Christ,

Ray Sullivan

For more resources: 

www.syrogers.com

www.servingsouls.com

Jan 04 2012
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures: Let's Try the Gospel

It's THE mysterious question.  Everyone in church culture is talking about it:  "Why are the kids leaving?"

And then the follow-up questions, "Should we start new programs?"  "Maybe we should have even awesome-r music?"  "Maybe we should rename our church something cool?" "Should our pastor try the half-tuck?"

Actually, if this researcher's right, and I suspect strongly she is, it has nothing to do with any of that. 

Kara Powell works with Fuller Youth Institute, and talks with Relevant Magazine about their extensive research:

The students involved in our research definitely tended to view the Gospel as a list of dos and do-nots, a list of behaviors. We asked our students when they were college juniors, “How would you define what it really means to be a Christian?” and one out of three—and these were all youth group students—didn’t mention Jesus Christ in their answer; they mentioned behaviors. So it seems like [young adults] have really picked up a behavioralist view of the Gospel. That’s problematic for a lot of reasons, but one of which is that when students fail to live up to those behaviors, then they end up running from God and the Church when they need both the most.

So youth group kids got the impression that the Gospel was about what we do, not what Jesus already did.  They went to church, and got the t-shirts, but they don't understand the Gospel.  We can blame THEM, of course - we love doing that, when people don't go for our programs - or we can wonder, did they ever really understand it?

Did they understand that because of what Jesus already did, God's approval of them is NOT based on their behavior?  Did they understand that Jesus knows that we cannot fulfill the law ourselves, and therefore fulfilled it for us?  Did they understand why He said, "It is finished!" and the temple veil was torn in two, once and for all?  Did they understand they are - truly, seriously, literally - no longer under the law?

Let's be honest:  Probably not.  Because when people actually hear the scandalous Gospel, they don't tend to forget it.  They can't.  If they "got it", they wouldn't, then, define what it means to be a Christian with behaviors. 

 

And, as a former youth minister, I can guess why they probably didn't hear it:  Because of the well-meaning hey-let's-not-get-too-crazy-with-the-grace folks, who think the radical message of grace needs "balanced", lest people, you know, go nuts and start having sex and killing people simply because their Sunday School teacher convinced them of how good God is.  Thing is, that grace, through the Holy Spirit, actually CHANGES people.  Once they grasp how wonderful it is, how - truly! - amazing grace really is, they don't tend to start sport-hunting humans.  They are changed, with a faith that lasts, yes, even through four years of glorious brokenness and learning at State Tech.

We want to control people.  But, there's a problem: We can't control people. 

You can make a slave out of someone, sure - but even then, you can't control his heart.  Perhaps his heart could be won by the shocking love of God, the one that sets him free of religous tyranny, once and for all?

So I say we go all in.  Let's tell them.  Let's go ahead and give people the Gospel, the whole, stunning, wonderful thing, and take our chance that God wins their hearts.  The risk of telling them the truth, of course, about how GOOD the "Good News" is, is that they'll go morally crazy, which, as we noted, when people "get" grace, doesn't tend to happen.  (I realize my parents love me unconditionally.  This makes me want to please them.)

If we tell them the Gospel, which is anti-moralistic, they will not confuse Jesus with moralism. Good thing, too, because moralism is boring.  And it doesn't work.  And it's a lie.  There's that, too.

The risk of NOT telling them is this: They grow up thinking Jesus is just another religion, and they suspect they are moral failures, and go through life missing out on the romance they were made for with their Creator.  They'll feel like their beating their heads against a wall, constantly playing a morals game, with the sneaking suspicion they're not really winning.  They'll either become Pharisees, or, worse... they'll just walk away.  (Wait, is that worse...?)

And, by the way, that last scenario...?  It's happening all the time.  So let's go ahead and try the Good News. 

Oh - one more reason to go ahead and tell them the whole, scandalous, amazing truth about the Gospel: 

It's true.

Dec 07 2011
The Big Objection: Our Culture, the Bible and Sex

(Okay, here's another adult-level blog entry.  Not for kids...)

In our culture, it's the Big But.

"I like Jesus, BUT..." and the "but" is usually followed, one way or the other, with an objection about the Bible and... sex.  People think something's deeply messed-up with a belief system that says two consenting, unmarried adults should refrain from sex.  Something's amiss.  Something's backward.  Maybe you think that, too.  If so, let me suggest something you may not like:

You may need to expand your horizons a little bit.

No, seriously.  The moralistic Bible-thumpers may be more broad-minded than you are on this one.  Perhaps you're offended by the Bible's philosophy on sex not because you're so thoughtful on the issue, but because you haven't thought that much about it.  (Of course, you could rule this argument out-of-bounds from the start, but that might just confirm it.  I do expect some people have already stopped reading, by the way.)

Every culture has its objections to the Bible.  The Bible is an equal-opportunity offender.  Thing is, cultures are different, and so we find different things to be deeply offended by.  For us, here, and now, it's about sex, or sexual autonomy, to put it more simply.   We just hate the idea that a loving God would put sexual limits on us.  The Bible says sex outside of marriage -- all sex -- is a sin.  The Bible says homosexual behavior is sinful.  The Bible says lust, itself, is sinful.  The Bible has offended our sensibilities. 

The Bible even embarrasses some Christians, who are desperate to make what it says conform to our culture, here and now.

Author Tim Keller makes a great argument:  In the middle-east, they're not offended by the Bible's teachings about sexuality.  It's the whole forgiveness thing that rankles them.  It's not that they don't "get it".  They get it, all right.  They just don't want it, and find it impossible, ridiculous, and even morally repugnant. 

Like we said:  Every culture has its objections to the Bible.  And our culture worships sex and romance.  WE are the ones who've decided a life without having sex is somehow a life devoid of meaning, a nightmare, and impossible.  The Bible has the audacity to say our culture is wrong on that one.  It suggests that sex is a gift of God, to be celebrated, to be sure, but not what defines The Good Life.  That good life can be lived -- and has been lived -- by millions, who've gone without sex.

I feel strangely guilty for even typing that last sentence, like I just denied the moon landing, or spat on the flag.  It's kind of like -- no, EXACTLY like -- I've committed some sort of heresy, this time against my very culture.  But Christians have always been heretics this way.  From the very outset, in the Roman world, they challenged the idols of their culture, and were even called "atheists" for doing so.  And idols are often something good, made into an Ultimate Thing, and in our culture, that good-turned-Ultimate is sexual autonomy and romance. 

The Bible challenges that idol, just like all idols.  Our culture doesn't like it, and can't imagine how it could do that.  In the West, we don't burn the Bible.  Oh, we're much craftier than that. 

We just try to make it fit us.

Oh yes, we're offended.  But -- and here's the big question -- if it were true, wouldn't it do just that?  Wouldn't it offend every culture at some point, even the ones who think they've just evolved higher than the others?

And isn't it possible that the reason we find it so backward, so strange, is that we can't imagine stepping out of our own cultural biases?  To us, of course, the mere idea that we would be restricted expressing our individual sexuality is ludicrous!  -- but we're creatures of a certain time and place.

So here's another Big But:  Sure, the Bible offends us on sexual matters, BUT... is it possible -- just possible -- we might see things differently, if we took off our cultural glasses?