10 ways to love your transgender neighbor

On Tuesday, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution “On Transgender Identity” that calls for Christians to “love our transgender neighbors” and to “seek their good always.” But what does that look like in practical terms? In light of that question, I thought it might be useful to post some reflections on how we might love our transgender neighbors. I’m sure there is more that might be added to such a list, but here are ten ways to love your transgender neighbor.

1. Be a friend. And by that, I mean be a real friend. Don’t make changing them a condition of your friendship.

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).

2. Listen. Your transgender neighbor may have a story to tell, and you need to hear it. Not just for their sake, but for yours. There’s nothing better to wipe away erroneous caricatures than to listen to someone else’s story. Listening doesn’t equal submitting to an unbiblical ideology. It just means that you care and are open to learning.

“He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13).

3. Feel compassion. Understand that your transgender neighbor often feels distress over the conflict between their biological sex and their perceived gender identity. There can be a real sense of alienation that they feel from their own body. For some, the experience is quite agonizing. How would you feel if you had to walk a mile in their shoes? We all experience some measure of brokenness due to the fallenness of creation. So we too know what it means to groan (Rom. 8:23). Of all people, that ought to summon forth a compassionate response to our transgender neighbors.

“And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).

4. Share the gospel. The gospel is good news for sinners. It is the true story about a Creator God who loves sinners and who has made a way to reconcile them to Himself through the death and resurrection of His own Son. It’s the best news in the world. How could we possibly withhold that from any friend?

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

5. Speak the truth. Friends are candid about differences. You don’t have to be mean, angry, or haughty to speak truthfully. You can do it in a way that is winsome and that shows concern but does not disdain. In short, you can speak the truth in love.

“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15).

6. Be candid about differences. This is a necessary corollary to speaking the truth. A true friend will always find a way to communicate differences that matter. A friendship that glosses over such things can degenerate into flattery and superficiality. Sometimes the truth about God’s word brings a confrontation no matter how nice and compassionate you try to be in delivering it. But don’t let the fear of confrontation keep you from being candid.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6).

7. Oppose bullying. Christians must lead the charge to condemn acts of abuse or bullying committed against our transgender neighbors. Take your stand with the oppressed. Speak up for them. Do it even if it costs you social capital or risks subjecting yourself to the same bullying. This is the kind of sacrificial love that bears witness to the way Christ has loved us.

“My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, Let us lie in wait for blood, Let us ambush the innocent without cause…” My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, For their feet run to evil, And they hasten to shed blood” (Prov. 1:10-16).

8. Receive your brothers and sisters. We should befriend our transgender neighbors even if they are not Christians. But some of them will repent of their sin, trust Christ, and become Christians. When they do, be prepared to rejoice and to receive them with open arms as brothers and sisters in Christ. Make sure they know that they are received as full members into the body of Christ.

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

9. Strengthen your brothers and sisters. Some new converts may experience a complete deliverance from the alienation that they feel from their own bodies. Others may continue to struggle. Be prepared to walk with them and to strengthen them for what may be a very difficult obedience. God has given them everything that they need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), and a part of God’s provision for them is your friendship and encouragement.

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13)

10. Pray. The Devil wants to destroy. Jesus wants to save (John 10:10). Pray for your transgender neighbor that Jesus might have his way. In his own prayer for wayward Peter, Jesus modelled how we might intercede:

“Behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).

24 Responses to 10 ways to love your transgender neighbor

  1. Bill Smith June 12, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    You’ve got skills Denny. Good word.

  2. Kathy Verbiest Baldock June 12, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Please give us a approximate count of the:
    number of transgender people you have sat and listened to,
    number of transgender Christians you have sat and listened to

    I am very curious. Interaction with any number of trans people would logically create more understanding and curiosity that would drive you to seek out answers in a more extensive way. The resolution you proposed did not reflect research on a broad basis.

    I am not sure if you can imagine how ridiculous this post seems having read your work on transgender people.

  3. Frank Franklin June 12, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    Well said Denny and its great biblical advice that makes us look like Jesus.

  4. Esther O'Reilly June 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    On the “bullying” front, I would be careful about allying ourselves with any generic “anti-bullying” organization or lobby, since their goals are usually going to wind up being very different from ours. For many of these groups, “anti-bullying” is code for “furthering the normalization of sexual perversion at every available opportunity.” It’s not just about making sure gay teens aren’t beaten up behind the jungle gym. It’s also about marginalizing and punishing anybody who refuses to participate in the overall illusion of normalcy that homosexual activists are trying to create. This is especially relevant to transgender, where it’s increasingly considered “bullying” to, say, refuse to refer to the person by his preferred pronoun. Privately, have your own standards for what counts as bullying, and obviously if you encounter a situation where you can physically intervene in a bona fide case, do so. But publicly, I wouldn’t recommend trying to “find common ground” with these kinds of organizations.

  5. Bob Wilson June 12, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    This is excellent.

    But as Esther points out above, definitions are needed. What does it mean to “Take your stand with the oppressed. Speak up for them. “?

    Everyone needs a place to live and a job to pay bills. Should Christians urge everyone not to fire employees for being gay/trans or refuse them housing?

  6. Don Johnson June 12, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

    The list is wonderful and applies to everyone if one simply removes the “transsexual” words.

    But what is unstated is what is critical: that the new SBC resolution claims that transsexuals are in sin simply by being transsexual. If one sees being transsexual as a medical condition, the SBC resolution simply makes no sense; it is like saying someone with a malformed lip is in sin because of their lip.

    • Tammy Rainey June 13, 2014 at 5:12 am #

      exactly right. there has still been no effort to prove it is sinful, and it is, at a bare minimum, POSSIBLE that it is biological. How often must the Church worship tradition when new science undermines it? Galileo has ought to say to many 21st century traditionalists.

      Also, the list – which begins well on the first three points – presumes as a given tat the transsexuals in need of salvation. This assumes facts not in evidence.

  7. Nathan Cesal June 12, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    Denny, I’ve been reading your blog for years. This is the very first time that you’ve had anything positive and practical to say to straight Christians regarding GLBTQ. I’m shocked.

  8. David Williams June 13, 2014 at 9:15 am #

    I can appreciate your gracious thoughts here, but there is a peculiar dissonance between your effort to be welcoming and the position you’ve helped move the SBC towards. On the one hand, you seem to implicitly recognize that transgendered persons do not choose to experience gender dysphoria. On the other, you are committed to describing it as “sin.” This is, as others have noted, peculiar, as is the expectation that anyone who is transgender with bother being in relationship with the SBC at all.

    On another note, within the resolution itself I was struck by the use of snippets cut from the prophet Isaiah to justify this position. How do you reconcile this use of scripture with Isaiah’s clear statement of prophetic welcome to those who are differently gendered? (Isaiah 56:3-7) If there’s one book of the bible I’d think you’d want to avoid in defending your position on this issue, it’s Isaiah.

  9. Liz McC. June 13, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    I think it’s a good blog, Denny. Full of great reminders.

    My concern, as with ANYONE who is living in sin, is this: when someone asks you if you think what they’re doing (regarding anything) is a sin… ESPECIALLY if it’s something they identify themselves with wholly…and if you do think it is a sin, and OBVIOUSLY that’ll probably offend them. Some people might not…but in my experience, it has and sometimes that person is like, “We can’t be friends anymore…”

    It’s not that I was being mean, it’s just that they asked a simple question and I answered with the answer that we all are sinners inherently and have our own struggles. And yes, I think that ____ is a sin, but that doesn’t mean I love you less or think of you as less of a person.

    It just is frustrating to me that sometimes friendships could be broken because someone cannot deal with differences.

    • Ian Shaw June 13, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      I would agree. In fact if you truly love someone, you will call on them to repent and seek to reconcile with the Lord.

  10. Jane Dunn June 13, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    #11 — Stop opposing legislation that would protect transgender people from employment discrimination.

    • Mitch Dean June 13, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

      Jane Dunn, this may be my absolute favorite Denny Burk blog post comment that I’ve ever read. Nicely done!

      • Jane Dunn June 14, 2014 at 1:15 am #

        Thanks!

  11. Ray Koop June 17, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Thanks for the article. The category of transgender is difficult to define. Everyone seems to have their own definition. Some include inter-sexed individuals. I’m not sure if you do. I do not include inter-sexed individuals in the category of transgender.

    Inter-sexed individuals are people with Klinefelter’s syndrome (XXY), people who are chimeras, androgynes, hermaphrodites, and people with hormone blockers or excessive hormone production. Some also include ambiguous sex individuals as inter-sexed. All these are due to medical, chemical, or genetic differences.

    I personally know a U.S. Army Chaplain with Kinefelter’s syndrome, who opted to have his female organs removed and keep his male organs. Now he’s not sure he made the right decision. I also know a pastor in Atlanta, who is a chimera (having both male and female reproductive organs). His denomination is not sympathetic to his genetic condition, over which he had no control at his birth.

    Rev. Dr. Ray Koop, Ph.D. U.S. Army (Retired) Chaplain

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