Gender ideology: Is untruthfulness ever the most loving response?
July 6, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The uncertainty over how Christians can follow the Bible’s directive to love as Christ loved without compromising the truth is creating confusion and chaos in our churches — particularly as we attempt to minister to those struggling with gender identity. In a recent podcast, J. D. Greear, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention said, “My own position is that if a transgender person comes to your church, it is fine to refer to them by their preferred pronoun.”
Many other leaders in the Christian community agree with Greear. But does the desire to build relationships conflict with adherence to truth, or have we created this conflict by elevating someone’s feelings over our commitment to honor God’s standards of right and wrong? How do we follow the directive of Ephesians 4:15 and “speak the truth in love” when someone asks us to use pronouns consistent with their gender identity rather than their birth gender?
The unwavering standard of righteousness
You may be familiar with Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman, recorded in John 4. Normally, no Jewish man would speak to any Samaritan, much less a woman who wasn’t married to the man she lived with. But Jesus had compassion on her and initiated the conversation — not to indulge her fantasies about the acceptability of her lifestyle, but to illuminate her error and draw her toward repentance. He saw her only as a person in need of the forgiveness and hope he alone could provide.
The woman quickly discerned Jesus’ sincere concern for her and interest in her well-being, even though they’d only known each other for a short time. He provided a safe environment for her to process the truth he revealed about her sinful choices and the availability of the Living Water that could set her free.
Jesus also gave her the opportunity to identify her sin. He said, “Go, call your husband and come back.” She then said, “I have no husband.” He countered with the truth: “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (John 4:16–18). He didn’t airbrush the truth; he encouraged her to confront it.
This story illustrates that we can be both loving and truthful. Yes, we love as Jesus loved, but we also speak truth as he spoke it.
Love speaks the truth
Too often, Christians are considered bigoted or unloving if they speak truth about transgenderism. To avoid this characterization, some advise that we practice “pronoun hospitality” — use the pronouns the person prefers. This is a kindness, they say. This is loving as Jesus loved. For example, in my father’s case, I would’ve told him, “I’ll call you Becky and use female pronouns because I want you to know that I love you.” That’s what the people in the church he attended chose to do.
But how does affirming a loved one’s fantasy guide them toward truth?
Kathy Grace Duncan lived eleven years as a man. But one day the pastor of her church asked her, “Who are you? Who are you really?” Kathy says, “When I confessed that I was a woman living as a man, the Holy Spirit blew into me. At that point, I realized I needed to go back to being the woman I needed to be.”
First Corinthians 13:6 reminds us that “love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.” Kathy Grace’s pastor and other church leaders loved her enough to confront the lie she was living. Their truthfulness prompted her to open her heart to the Holy Spirit. Speaking the truth that led Kathy Grace to freedom was much more compassionate than perpetuating the lie that held her captive. Truth illuminated the path to wholeness.
Love lives in truth
Practicing pronoun hospitality may sound loving; however, it suggests that our convictions, untruths, and agreement with a lie don’t matter. Pronoun hospitality forces us to be deceitful — to speak and act in ways that conflict with our convictions. Such hypocrisy puts us in agreement with the Enemy of our souls who delights in the chaos that deceit and delusion create.
Some people have judged me for calling my father Dad when he wanted me to call him Becky. But I have complete peace about that decision. I didn’t call him Dad and use male pronouns out of anger or hurt; I spoke truth because of my love and concern for him and the darkness that surrounded him as he lived out his delusion. He needed Jesus. He needed to become the man God designed him to be. The world and his church affirmed his delusion. My mom, siblings, and I spoke the truth to him in love, and we prayed continually that God would penetrate the delusion and guide Dad into a relationship with the One who loved him most.
Pronoun hospitality is not the answer. Speaking the truth in love and avoiding deceit or hypocrisy is the practice that best reflects the way Jesus interacted with the people he encountered. Let’s follow his model of living and loving in truth.