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I have three young children who each profess faith in Jesus Christ. As we bring them up, my wife and I are continually reminded that we are doing so in an age that is hostile to the Kingdom of Christ and to the Word of God. Of course, this is nothing new. The world system that is opposed to Christ did not begin in the Western world in 2012. It began in Genesis 3. Christian parents have always had to deal with sinful cultures. The only difference about today is the specific shape the opposition to Christ that the culture takes. Just one of those new challenges today is the issue of transgender.
Fairly recently, my children heard a news report about a young boy who thought he was a girl. His parents, seeing the sorrow that was flooding his heart, wanted to show care for him by embracing his desire to be a girl. They started to dress him and style his hair as a girl and everyone was—apparently—happy. My children were shocked. So was I. All of a sudden I was having to explain things to them that I would not have chosen to explain at such an early age. I know many parents are in the same boat. Faithful parenting in our culture means helping our children think through this from the standpoint of faithfulness. Here are four categories to help us frame our conversations with our children.
We must speak to our children about God and the authority of His Word. God has revealed himself to us in the pages of Scripture. When it comes to the issue of gender His revelation could not be more clear: 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). This instruction means that gender is inextricably linked with biological sex revealed at birth, and is not grounded in preference or traditionalism, but in the Word of God. We must teach our children that transgenderism is wrong because it is at odds with God’s Word in the Bible. This means that when children struggle with this issue, it is not merely their own problem, it is a parental problem of those who more faithfully need to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
We must speak to our children about sin. When God speaks, telling us who we are and what we should do, we do not like it. We fight against it. This is called sin, and we all do it. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). When our kids encounter transgenderism on the news, with their friends, or in their own personal struggle, then Christian parents need to help them make sense of it by talking about sin. We need to be clear that transgenderism is a manifestation of human sinfulness, but that it is not the only manifestation. We can say things like, “That little boy on the news is fighting against God’s Word just the way you do when you behave cruelly toward your sister.” Transgenderism is explained by sin, and is far from the only manifestation of it.
We must speak to our children about grace. Grace does not mean that we do not speak about sin, but it does change the way we speak about sin. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11). God’s grace has invaded humanity, and that means that for the rest of eternity we must never speak about sin without speaking about the grace of God. We can say to our children, “You know that little boy does not understand who God made him to be, but Jesus came into the world to give us His grace so that we can follow Him as we should. Let’s pray that we can all trust Jesus to help us, and let’s pray for that boy and his family too.”
We must speak to our children about kindness. Notice that in each of the examples above, I used the opportunity of transgenderism to speak about our own children’s sin and need for grace. This is the way it works. When our children understand a biblical view of sin and grace it demonstrates that sin is not merely the reality that those transgender kids struggle with. Grace is not something that the gender-confused parents need. We all struggle with sin, and we all need grace. When we understand this universal reality it makes us kind. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). Every person needs an answer bathed in grace.
The only people who can offer a gracious word are the people who have experienced grace themselves. It is not enough that our kids know that transgender persons are guilty of sin, and in need of grace. They must also be convinced that they are sinners and in need of grace. When they do they will be able to approach sinners in a transgender world with a kind word of grace as those who have the grace of Jesus themselves.
7. Heath Lambert (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the Co-Pastor at First Baptist Church Jacksonville, FL. Lambert is also a visiting faculty member at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (Crossway, 2011), co-editor of Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (B&H, 2012), and co-author of Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change (P&R, 2015), and author of A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundation of Counseling Ministry (Zondervan, 2016).