Transgenderism is the topic of choice lately. Perhaps our culture has made its peace with homosexuality and same sex marriage, leaving a vacuum for the next great controversy in sexual ethics. Meanwhile, I still remember a time when American culture reeled with disapproval (at least outwardly) upon hearing that someone engaged in sex outside of opposite sex marriage. Within my 62 years of life, I’ve watched a breathtaking change in moral standards.
When I was 14 or 15, a neighborhood girl that I used to play with suddenly moved away from her parents’ home. Her parents had tried to teach her good morals, but she’d gotten involved with the wrong crowd. After my mom caught her reading lurid novels at the neighborhood drug store, she forbade her from coming to our house, sensing (correctly) that she held some influence over me. Not many months later, she’d moved to another state, leaving her parents and younger brother behind. Reluctantly, my mom told me that the girl had been sent to a home for unwed mothers. Soon thereafter the scandal drove her dad to suicide.
And about 45 short years later, the president of the United States has overstepped his Constitutional authority by ordering public schools to let children use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their perceived gender identity. And now I sit here feeling dumbfounded by how rapidly we’ve gone from hiding teenage pregnancies to forcing schoolchildren to deal with the complexities of transgenderism.
Of course, sexual immorality has always polluted humanity. The Sexual Revolution that arose in the 1960s really isn’t much worse than the debauchery that the apostle Paul witnessed in First Century Corinth. It’s not unreasonable to suppose that the Corinthians would have embraced transsexuality if the technology had been available back then. So, although 21st Century Christians (particularly those of us who can remember girls moving away to conceal pregnancies out-of-wedlock) feel baffled by this new acceptance of “gender fluidity,” we shouldn’t be.
In the progression of sexual liberation that’s overtaken 21st Century society, I fear that our latest obsession with whatever taboo is most recently broken will numb us to the seriousness of heterosexual sex outside of marriage. Out-of-wedlock births no longer shock, or even sadden, evangelicals. So–while we absolutely need to stand firm against the newly accepted sins of same sex marriage and transgenderism, let’s awaken to the fact that heterosexual immorality still incurs God’s wrath.
Sexual sin of any kind not only rebels against God’s authority (as all sin does), but it causes us to desecrate ourselves. Paul explains the problem with sexual immorality so powerfully that I’ll quote him rather than trying to articulate the principle myself.
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ~~1 Corinthians 6:9-20 (ESV)
If we truly belong to Christ, our bodies house His Holy Spirit. That being the case, we have an obligation to honor His purity by remaining pure ourselves. Our culture may have moved far beyond stigmatizing people who engage in premarital sex, snickering at our puritanical values, but the Lord Jesus Christ calls us to His standard of holiness regardless of what the world does. We should wince in grief over the transsexual who rejects God’s choice of gender for him or her, but we should equally wince in grief over the unmarried couple who sleeps together.
These people need compassion, I agree. Please don’t misunderstand me as advocating harshness toward anyone who falls into sexual immorality or gender confusion. But true compassion requires that we lovingly point them back to Christ, encouraging them to repent and surrender their sexuality to Him.