A Biblical Theology of Sexual Identity
Time Magazine made a few waves this summer when they released the June cover image of Laverne Cox with the cover title, The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier.
Laverne Cox, the woman, is in reality, Roderick Cox, the man. Except that Roderick Cox did not “feel” like a man and made the decision to become a “woman.” As Laverne Cox, she became the first openly transgender person last year to ever be nominated for an Emmy in her role on the Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black.
Additionally, the attention of America was drawn this summer to the story of Ryland Whittington, the seven-year-old little girl who didn’t feel like a little girl. And thus her parents have allowed her the choice of becoming a boy. At age seven.
Such stories grab our attention. The talk shows capitalize, calling in gender therapists and child psychologists to explain to us the in’s and out’s of how such a thing happens. The goal, of course, is to normalize the whole transgender issue as just another expression of self in an ever-growing diverse and celebrated culture.
The whole issue of sexual identity has been thrust onto center stage with this and the same-sex marriage wave that is sweeping our nation. In all of this the church must speak.
Where does God stand on the whole sexual identity issue?
He must have an opinion.
After all He is the Creator, right?
The most foundational text speaking to God’s creative order related to sexual identity is found in the book of Genesis. Which makes sense, as it is the book of “beginnings.”
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
Most commentaries focus on the “image of God” portion of this verse as if here lays the real “umph” of the text. Even I wrote a whole book dissecting the “image of God” picture in Genesis. But given the turn of our culture, what once may have been considered the “throw away” part of the text has now become immensely profound.
This along with additional biblical texts help us form a clear biblical theology of sexual identity. One that is desperately needed today by men and women who struggle with feelings that perhaps they were born with the wrong physical parts.
- God is sovereign over sexuality and does not make mistakes. This is an important starting point. As Creator, God is sovereign. He is in control, as opposed to things being “out of His control.” His sovereignty applies to all of His creation, even sexual identity. To claim anything else is to undermine God and to claim that God, indeed, does make mistakes.
- Sexual identity is, therefore, not a choice but an assignment. To be more clear, you are a man or a woman because God chose you to be that way. There is nothing about you that is an accident or a mistake. And regardless of how you “feel” or what you may “want” your identity as a man or a woman cannot be changed, even with surgery. To God you will always and forever be a “he” or a “she.”
- Submitting to God’s choice of sexual identity is the beginning point of submitting to His sovereign plan for your whole life. And this is where the rubber meets the road. Since the beginning of time (Garden of Eden) there has been a struggle between the will of Mankind and the will of God. The biblical ethic drawn all the way out teaches that God has a perfect plan for each and every individual life. That plan has a starting point. The starting point is when you are conceived in God’s mind, then in a womb, and then born into this world…as a male or a female. The rest of your story in life will flow from this. By usurping God’s sovereignty over sexual identity, an individual proclaims: 1) God made a mistake, 2) I will correct the mistake, 3) Therefore I am my own god. Such a path can never lead to true happiness and joy. The statistics bear this out. In one Swedish study, transgender people who experienced gender reassignment surgery, instead of being made whole and happy, were in fact 20 times more likely to commit suicide. The path to true happiness and wholeness in life begins with submitting to God’s will and plan for life. And that begins with accepting yourself for the way you were created…. “male and female He created them.”
- Masculinity and femininity are expressed along a varied spectrum inspired by God. There is no one “kind” of man or one “kind” of woman. The biblical record beautifully depicts masculinity and femininity across a wide spectrum. You have the beauty of Queen Esther and the ruggedness of Judge Deborah. You have the machismo of Esau alongside “mama’s boy” Jacob. Within the framework of a biblical theology of sexual identity, statements like, “I just don’t feel like a man/woman,” don’t make any sense at all. Feelings have nothing to do with sexual identity. You are what you are. Love of the arts or of sports has nothing to do with being a man or a woman.
Under this theological framework, we are free to be and feel and love, as the man or woman we were created by God to be, all under the sovereign reign of a perfect God who loves us all and desires nothing but the best for His creation.