What Pronouns Should We Use for Transgender People?

Why Christians should uphold the biblical gender binary, and why you shouldn't worry that this will hurt your evangelism.

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I’m in NYC. Living in Chicago, I’m no stranger to big cities. I love big cities. This is where ideas take root and affect culture. In NY more so even than Chicago. I had a conversation tonight with a new friend doing really incredible Gospel ministry in a really tough place. And he’s walking with some folks through some challenging situations… and it directly connects with one of the major ideas that are currently shaping our cultural conversation.

One of the ideas currently being trafficked is that misgendering a transgender or so-called gender-fluid person (an individual experiencing gender dysphoria and seeking to manifest as the opposite gender as what they are, or as no gender at all, or as some non-binary gender option, to refer to them as anything other than what they request, this is violence, it’s hateful, bigoted, intolerant… and if you’re a Christian, you’ll hear that it’s against our mission and even hurts our witness by unnecessarily offending others. 

Main point: Christians should uphold the biblical gender binary.

Even in spite of cultural pressure

Even going against persuasive arguments against doing this.
Three priorities 

Loyalty to God

Love of neighbor

Our own discipleship

The Priorities

Loyalty to God

Loyalty to the word given by God: The Bible says God created them male and female. This is not something that we are allowed to change or deny. Our first loyalty is to God. We must operate out of a biblical worldview. Proverbs 26:4 - Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you become like him. You don’t want to enter into the unbelieving worldview in a way that affirms it. For. Any. Reason. It would not be wise or advisable to deny God’s word--especially in the hope that by doing so, I will eventually win the person to God’s word. More on this later. 

Loyalty to reality governed by God: God gave us science to determine what’s real and expects us to think and act in accordance with it, guided by Scripture. Transgenderism is unscientific. Prov. 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” Scientific inquiry is worship of the God who created the cosmos. Our job is to discover, interpret, and apply--not to deny what’s really there, re-define reality and impose our own scheme over the top of it, contrary to reality. Col. 1:17 says in Christ all things hold together. This world is his world. It’s his reality, not ours. It’s a joy to discover, but it doesn’t belong to us. He’s given it to us to steward, because we’re made in his image.

Loyalty to the image of God in us all: The transgender person made in God’s image and who belongs to God. Genesis 1:27 says God created man in his own image; in his image he created him; male and female he created them. This is the scheme for how God has chosen to express his image in the world, and we don’t get to redefine that. And lest we think God creates us and then set us loose to do as we please, Ezekiel 18:4 says. “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.” In context that’s a passage about how individuals won’t be punished for the sins of others. Each one is personally accountable to God. We are in God’s image, and we are accountable to him. So by acknowledging and maintaining the biblical gender binary, we are representing God as his image bearers, and affirming that in our transgender and so-called non-binary friends. They are accountable to God too, whether or not they affirm that. They don’t, but we do!

Love for our neighbors

Don’t encourage a false diagnosis: It does my neighbor no good to misdiagnose their problem. If I call a “him” a “her,” I am agreeing with them that he was born into the wrong body. Yet because God determines who is born with what body, this would be blaming God for their gender dysphoria, rather placing the blame on sin, or the psycho-somatic forces at work in their mind and spirit. When Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4, he diagnosed her situation with pinpoint accuracy and she marveled--and believed! As believers we are spiritual surgeons, using the double-edged scalpel of Scripture to operate on the human soul (Heb. 4:12) (Paul Maxwell tells me that’s surgical language. Far be it from us to misdiagnose and fail to operate. Trying to operate with anything else is like using a rusty fork. Or a limp spaghetti noodle. Use your scalpel! Don’t forget that James says, So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. THEY ARE LIVING WITH A DEEP BURDEN. WHETHER BORN OF ABUSE OR OTHER FACTORS, WE NEED TO HELP THEM LIFT IT. AND REFUSING TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT DOES NOT AID THEM IN THAT PROCESS. 

Affirm gender as a gift: Gender is a beautiful gift from God. By affirming his or her God-given gender, I am celebrating who God made him or her to be. I am affirming something about them that transcends how they feel about themselves and says, “no matter how you may feel, God made you exactly the way he wanted you to be--and he loves you as he made you--and you can come to know him as he made you. The book of Titus lays out expectations for men and women in the church. We need BOTH. The world needs BOTH. Gender is a gift… BUT this does not mean we turn transgender people away from our churches. We call them to repentance and to embrace God’s gift. And then we are to walk with them, in grace, in love, in community, and help them to do this. How many of us have had brothers and sisters in Christ do this for us with our sins and hangups? Galatians 6 says we are to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Set the stage for evangelism: 

When you think of transgenderism, what is your reaction? Do you feel repulsed? A desire to avoid that person? What was Jesus’s response to people burdened by sin and wandering from God? Matthew 9:36 - When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

So what should be our response? The same as Jesus: COMPASSION. And to beg the Father to send out more workers into the harvest, with the Gospel (which is what Jesus commands us to do in the very next verse). 

And when we bring the Gospel, then, the Bible gives us a wonderful framework for presenting it, that is directly bound up with gender.
See, gender imagery is at the heart of the Gospel. Think of Ephesians 5:32, where Paul wraps up a passage on marriage by saying, “This mystery is profound; I am talking about Christ and the church. Upholding the biblical gender binary let’s us speak clearly about the Gospel in the Bible’s own terms. It also establishes our Christian worldview in a way that brings us into stark contrast with the world. It lets our light shine in a world that is in many ways growing darker. This is loving, as long as the Church is adhering to biblical ways, because the biblical perspective is actually better. The guidelines the Lord lays out in Scripture are what’s best for humanity. And these are a cohesive whole. By affirming God-given genders as one aspect of the holistic, biblical worldview, we are presenting to the world a view of the world that is complete, that holds together, and we are inviting them into something that addresses and blesses every area of their life. Nothing is excluded, not gender or anything else. 1 Cor. 3:21 admonishes us not to boast in human efforts and accomplishments, saying “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours”--our worldview is universal and we need to apply it in every arena of life, including the very personal one of gender.

Our own development as Christians

There is also the reality that other believers are looking on as we navigate these scenarios. New believers are watching to see if they can trust the Bible in every situation, or if there are certain times when we need to abandon what the Bible says in order to make our case more appealing to non-believers. 2 Tim. 3:16-17--We are ”equipped for every good work” by the God-breathed Scripture. That includes evangelism. Learning to do so in a biblical way will spur on our growth. We don’t live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the Father’s mouth! What happens when you eat? You grow. What happens when you live by God’s word? You grow.
Facing hardship and opposition as Christians is not something that we intentionally seek out. We aren’t resisting for the sake of our own rights, or to be contrarian. But, when we resist the cultural currents and stand on biblical truth--and then we face opposition--this gives us an opportunity to grow. We become more Christlike. We may even suffer for Christ’s sake. Acts 5:41 - after being flogged, the disciples, “left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”
Gives you a chance to trust God more. There is a strong temptation to give in for the sake of the mission. But this is the same temptation Jesus faced down in Luke 4:7, when Satan tempted Jesus with the world’s kingdoms, “If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Think about the impact Jesus could have had! But he knew he had to go through the cross before he would get the crown.


What about Klinefelter’s Disorder? And other true non-binary cases? 

This isn’t what we’re talking about. 

They typically manifest as one gender or the other. 

It’s a very different situation and not relevant to the scenario we’ve addressed, in which the person does not have Klinefelter or another disorder but is feeling, choosing, or otherwise acting in a way contrary to their gender.

Are you saying that all men have to dress a certain way, and all women must act a certain way? Are you imposing manmade standards? 

No. There’s a range of masculine behaviors and attitudes, but they are masculine. 

Scripture is clear when it says “act like men.” God expects us to know that this means something. 

Women and men interact a certain way, biblically. Men and women are likewise prohibited from acting like one another. 

This isn’t an episode on what behavior is manly or womanly, it is rather to affirm that there is such a thing and to call us to affirm such as biblical, good for the world and best for the individual.

They haven’t given you permission to “operate.” 

No? That’s okay. Because only the Lord can do a spiritual heart transplant anyway. He’s called us to diagnose, and to do so along biblical lines, and in the process, we may find that God will use our biblical proclamation to do the procedure himself.

We risk unnecessarily offending our transgender friends and putting roadblocks in the way for the Gospel. 

I hope I’ve shown that our priorities need to be in order, and that our top priority is not mission effectiveness but love and faithfulness to God… and mission faithfulness is defined by how well we do it on God’s terms, not the world’s. 

Also, I don’t personally believe we’re doing anything good for our evangelism by functionally denying the very Bible we are calling them to believe and submit to!

We need to trust God to bless our efforts, as we hold to the truth in a loving way. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be rude. Don’t be arrogant. You’re a sinner too!
We can affirm them in their gender experience, and then call them to the biblical view later. 

This amounts to affirming something we know is false for the sake of Christ’s mission, in his name.

Yet what we win them with is what we will win them too. 

Why would we make our jobs harder for ourselves later. Get it out there now!

You don’t see Jesus doing this. Nor the apostles. They held a firm line even while loving folks. They held to the truth. 

Why would God, who is true, bless us when we lie in his name?

It just doesn’t seem very loving. 

We must do this because we love them. 

We must do this because we love God more. 

Acts 4:19: But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge….” They went on to say that they simply had to speak about what they had seen and heard. They couldn’t deny the truth in the name of love or even to save their own necks!

It’s hard. We’ll face opposition and pain. 

I know that. 

I know I’m putting myself at risk by recording this podcast. 

This could earn me some backlash, from Christians and non-Christians. 

I’m not doing it for the attaboys, I can tell you that. I don’t expect them.

But we must act like men. Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13. How do we stand firm? Isaiah 7:9 tells us: If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” Ezekiel 6:10 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”


Why do I bring this up? Because I don’t want you to be caught flatfooted when God brings you a friend who proffesses to be transgender or non-binary. 

Because churches need to be able to think biblically about these things. 

Because Christians need to be thinking clearly about what our priorities are. 

Because I believe the Lord laid it on my mind and wanted me to put it out there. Any credit for anything  good goes to him; it’s his word.

If you’re not a Christian listening to this: GOD LOVES YOU. Even if you say, we’ll I’m God’s enemies. The Bible says God loves his enemies (Matthew 5:44-45). And you can become God’s friend. You don’t have to straighten out your gender first. You don’t have to do anything first. Simply turn your inner being over to Jesus. 

The Bible says Jesus lived the perfect life and completely met God’s requirements. No Christian has done that. You haven’t done that. I haven’t either. We’re in the same boat. 

The wages of sin is death, the Bible says. And Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God. This is God’s doing. He did it because he loves sinful people like us! If you will ask him, he’ll change your heart, mind, and everything that goes against his plan for your life. Maybe not right away… but he will forgive you immediately and accept you. NOT BECAUSE You’re so great. But because Jesus is, and he took your place on the cross. 

Jesus was buried. 

And there are multiple Bible verses in the Old Testament that predicted that Jesus would rise. AND HE DID. He beat death. 

God condemned sin in Christ’s body, and God raised him up to life again. 

If you will turn from your self-reliance and self-definition and hold your life with an open hand before God and say, Jesus, take whatever you want and give me your everlasting life, he’ll do it!

To connect with us, go to TheThink.Institute. While you’re there, sign up for the Think Update, my weekly email with tips on how to explain, share and defend your faith. 

 I’m not going to post show notes for this one [edit: I did]. I’m in NYC, I’m tired. But I’ll be back in Chicago and up to full speed again soon, Lord willing. Until then, this isn’t goodbye--it’s a chance to get back out there on your journey and put this into practice. 

Until next time, I hope it made you think. 

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