Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering
Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering
When it comes to health and healing, and sickness and suffering, there are a lot of questions and a lot of confusion.
This topic hits home for me because I serve as Care Pastor at Crossroads Church. But, more than that, it hits home because it is home. All the time. My wife has various diagnoses all adding up to making her chronically ill.* That is, she’s sick. She’s sick a lot; more or less all the time.
Does God want us to be healthy and happy? Then why is there suffering and sickness? And why are some people healthy and some people sick? Why is my wife sick? Did she do something to deserve it? Did I do something? Do we lack faith?
The answers to these questions are not simplistic. They are complex. And they are mysterious. It’s always good to remember that God as God is not like us. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). That shouldn’t be surprising for us since He’s God, but it is vital that we remember that truth.
So, why sickness and suffering?
Sickness and suffering?
First, we should acknowledge how big and how relevant that question is. People have been asking this question for eons. The Bible gives some very valid and convincing reasons (especially when understand in the context of redemptive history).
The Fall (sin in general, natural evil)
Sickness was introduced into the world as a result of sin (Gen. 3). When God made the world, it was very good (Gen. 1:31). So, sickness is an intruder. Sickness is not welcome and will not always be in the world. But it is certainly here now. Now in the natural course of the fallen world, people get sick and they die, and people die as a result of old age (Gen. 5 [notice the refrain of “and he died”], 48:1, 21).
Individual Sin (specific personal sin, moral evil)
Sometimes sickness is a result of a specific personal sin (1 Cor. 11:28-30). Of course, all sin leads to separation from God and death. But some sins bring especially pungent consequences. Some sins, as 1 Corinthians says, are against our own bodies (1 Cor. 6:18). Some sickness results from disobeying God (Ex. 15:26). It seems king David himself experienced the physical consequences of sin (Ps. 32:3-4; 38:3-5).
From reading the New Testament it seems clear that some sickness is a result of demonic forces. The Gospel of Mark talks about a young boy that has “a spirit that makes him mute” (Mk. 9:17-18 cf. Lk. 11:14). The Gospel of Luke talks about a woman that had a disabling spirit for 18 years (Lk. 13:11). Acts 10:38 tells us that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (cf. Matt. 8:16). Yet, Luke also distinguishes between the casting out of demons and healing (see Lk. 4:40-41) and thus shows that not all sickness is due to demonic forces. When we take into account the points below, it is clear that not all sickness comes from demonic forces.
For God’s Glory
Scripture also explicitly tells us that some sickness is for the glory of God. The most cogent and explicit is the story of the man born blind. Jesus says that the man was not born blind because of sin but instead “so that the works of God would be displayed in him” (Jn. 9:3).
Even the death of Lazarus was for the glory of God, so that Jesus might be glorified through it (Jn. 11:4). And Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” whatever it was, was so that the power of Christ would rest upon him (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
In these examples, sickness was not a result of sin or a lack of faith. Sickness was for the glory of God.
We don’t always know why
At other times we simply do not know for sure what the reason for the sickness is. In Philippians 2:25-30 we see that Epaphroditus, a faithful co-laborer of Paul, was so sick he nearly died. Yet, we are not given a reason for his sickness. And we have no hint at all that it was because of lack of faith or because of a personal sin. And in 2 Timothy 4:20 we see that Trophimus is left in Miletus.
Paul was an apostle, had faith, and had healed others (Acts 19:11-12; 2 Cor. 12:12) and yet that didn’t guarantee that people—even his close and faithful co-workers—would be healed. We know God, by His Spirit, can heal and we can certainly pray that He will. But prayer and even the gift of healing is not a mechanism that we can simply push and guarantee that healing will be the result. God is sovereign over sickness. And for whatever reason, He doesn’t always heal. We don’t always know, as Paul the Apostle didn’t know, why some are healed, and others aren’t. But, just like Paul, we must trust God. He is good. And He has explicitly and repeatedly demonstrated His goodness.
So, sickness is clearly not always a result of sin or a lack of faith.
What should we do when we’re sick?
Look at James 5:13-18. Notice first that before it talks about healing it talks about patience in suffering (v. 7-11). So, even in the context of asking for healing, there is an expectation of suffering.
Next, notice that whatever situation we are in, good or bad, we are always to go to the LORD in it, with praise or lament (v. 13). Then we see what we are to do if we’re sick. First, we need to realize our need. That is what leads to the calling of the elders. So, humility is necessary. When we are sick, we should realize our need.
Second, we are to realize that our need is not just physical, but spiritual. That is why we call for the “elders of the church.” And that is why we ask for prayer. Prayer is a supernatural beseeching of God; it’s going to God as Father and asking for help.
Third, I think the “anointing” with oil could have at a least a twofold significance. In the Old Testament the king would be anointed with oil and that symbolized the Spirit’s presence and blessing. Oil was also used for medicinal purposes (Mk. 6:13) or used as shorthand for medicine as we see when the Good Samaritan took care of the wounded man (Luke 10:34). Therefore, in anointing with oil we are calling on the Spirit to work and we are also confirming the goodness of medicine and imploring God to make it effective to heal.
Fourth, sickness uniquely reveals that we are but dust, that we soon pass away and are no more (Ps. 39). Yet, the “prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (v. 15), even if it is on the last day that he is raised up (Jn. 6:39-40, 44, 54). I don’t believe this passage means that just because the elders prayed over someone, and they had faith, they will be healed. But I do believe the prayer of faith saves. I believe this because that’s what the Bible teaches elsewhere (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 1:9). Also, as we have said, some sins uniquely lead to sickness. If someone commits one of those sins, they too can be forgiven (v. 15), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be healed.
But, fifth, we do have a strong encouragement to confess our sins and pray for one another that we may be healed (v. 16). We know from elsewhere that sin can hinder our prayer (1 Pet. 3:7). It is the prayer of a righteous person that has great power (James 5:16). Just because people are not always healed when we pray does not at all mean they cannot be healed when we pray. James 5:17-18 goes to great lengths to tell us that Elijah was a normal enough guy and yet God moved mightily through his prayers.
So, when we’re sick, we must realize our utter need; we certainly cannot heal ourselves. We should realize the nature of our need as well as who it is we need help from: supernatural help from God. And we should realize that medicine although good, is no good apart from God’s intervening grace. So, even in our use of medicine we must be reliant and thankful to the Lord. If we have unconfessed sin we should confess and repent, knowing that sin can lead to sickness. Lastly, we should pray in faith knowing that God can and does heal.
We should seek the Lord and medical help
I believe that it’s important that we seek the Lord and medical help. We must remember that every good gift comes from the Father (James 1:17). And so, we should receive our Father’s good gifts with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4).
Yet, it is vital that we not just seek out medical help and not seek the help of God. He’s God! He holds every molecule together. It would be utterly foolish to seek out the help from a person who has limited knowledge on a limited number of things, and not seek out God—the All-Knowing-One.
As great as Asa king of Judah was, this was one of his main sins. Second Chronicles 16:12 tells us that “Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.” That’s sad. And that’s foolish.
We should not follow Asa’s example. Rather, we should follow what I propose is the biblical example. We should seek the Lord and we should seek out the good physicians He has graciously provided. Paul even tells Timothy to make use of wine for help with a stomach problem (1 Tim. 5:23).
Does God promise health and healing?
Yes and no
In the story of Scripture, the story of Christ’s cosmic rescue, it starts out and the world is flawless, there’s no suffering or sin. But then the cosmic problem comes in. There’s a tear in time, a warp in the world, a curse in the cosmos. And it’s all because of sin.
Yet, the story of Scripture is the story of Jesus—God in flesh—coming to fix the broken world. The story starts in the Garden with God, and it ends in the Garden with God. It starts with no pain, suffering, sin, or sickness, and it ends that way.
Revelations 21 tells us of the glorious reality of God the Father wiping ever tear from all of His children’s faces. We, however, are not at that place in this true cosmic story.
Yes, that will happen—no suffering, sin, sickness, sadness, or death. But we are not there yet.
Yes, the LORD both forgives iniquities and heals our diseases (Psalms 103:3-5), but that doesn’t mean that the effects will be fully felt at the same time. For instance, the LORD has not yet brought “justice for all the oppressed” (v. 6). But that will happen. Jesus will bring complete justice. Jesus will satisfy His people with good thingsand He will renew our youth (v. 5). But not yet.
We are forgiven and welcomed into the Kingdom in and through Jesus Christ and yet we are not yet in the full realization of the Kingdom. It is true that Jesus has “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matt. 8:16-17; Is. 53:4). And our main illness and disease is that of sin and in taking that on Himself He enables access to the New Creation in which there is no illness or disease.
As Sam Storms has said, “To whatever degree we experience healing in this life, it is the fruit of Christ’s atoning death.” It is by Jesus that we receive the undeserved grace of God, and God taking our illnesses and diseases is certainly undeserved. “But it doesn’t necessarily follow that where there is atonement there is immediate healing.”
That’s a biblical and verifiable reality. Paul, Epaphroditus, Trophimus, and many other faithful Christian brothers and sisters have had their sins bore by Jesus and thus been accounted righteous (Is. 53) and yet died with various sicknesses. Therefore, Jesus’ atoning and propitiatory death does not equal healing in this life.
There’s also another real sense in which “yes, God wants us to be healthy and happy.” That’s part of why God gives His good commands, so that it may go well with us (Deut. 4:40; 5:29, 33; Eph. 6:3). Yet, following God’s commands does not in any way guarantee that things will go well with us from an earthly perspective. Just look at Jesus’ 12 disciples…
Does God promise health and healing? No. Not in this life. However, because of the love of God in Christ Jesus we know that in spite of sickness we have a surpassing hope. We know that all things will actually work together for good (Romans 8:28, in context).
“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 4:17-5:4).
God does not promise health in healing in this life. In fact, persecution and plague are very likely to await us. That’s what Jesus repeatedly said (see The New Testament on Suffering). Yet, we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). This place is not our home. And our current bodies are not our final bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-49).
As you can see, a simplistic answer to the question of sickness and healing will not suffice. Yet, God gives the answer. And the answer is Jesus Christ the Lord. But the answer may be “yes” now, and it may be “no” now, but for all who trust Jesus it’s a “yes” later. Healing will happen. Suffering will cease. But that doesn’t mean it will happen now.
*Lyme disease, POTS, EDS. And as of this writing, she has COIVD-19 which is not good to mix in with all of her other health issues.
The Chasm of Being a Latino Christian
Why am I Latino?
There have been many moments in my life where I have wondered, “Lord, why am I Latino?” Maybe it is not a common question, but for me, it made the difference in me understanding the core of who I am and who I should be. I have wondered. I have waited and sought answers from people, books, and reflected—hoping and yearning, to understand why. Being Mexican, coming to faith in a Chinese heritage church, pastoring at a majority white church, I have always felt different. Different simply because I did not always look the same as my brothers and sisters around me, and I felt like something was missing.
People often talk about how culture often influences being able to feel at home in a church, but in my case with my ethnic heritage, I have been able to look past those things and have found a home in the unknown and new. Going from big city to rural, I have remained open to all in which God has called me to. And I have found comfort in the new and have become more aware of how my upbringing allows me to minister to the body of Christ in ways that only I can, and that is a blessing.
Without trying to sound proud, I am grateful and humbled that Jesus would choose a sinner like me, broken and in the process, to serve Him and His people in this capacity despite whatever my upbringing might have been. But I still desire to understand why.
In my seeking, I was meeting with one of my professors and he pointed me to Mañana by Justo Gonzalez. The book examines different beliefs in theology through the lens of the life and history of Latin America and the Latinos that inhabit it. I had not met many Latino Protestant Christians and I was looking to see if there were any authors who could provide insight into my question. Surprisingly, I was drawn to tears by this statement made about Latinos converting to Protestantism: “It is often a traumatic break that brings about much suffering.” I had no idea how true this statement was for me. From the very moment of conversion, I have felt something like this.
I had to tear myself from the customs of my family that had persisted through generations. Having been brought up Catholic I had to remove myself from things like the veneration of Mary, praying to the saints, praying the rosary, and attending mass. These things and more, had more stock in my life than I had realized because in rejecting those things I no longer was able to share that part of life with my family.
This is where the chasm formed between the culture in which I grew up in and the road I walk as a believer. I separated myself from the things that go against Christ’s sacrifice for me and that would pull me away from Him and in the process, it tore me from the generations of traditions of my heritage. I never knew how to navigate that and am still in the process of figuring those things out. However, in the intersection of culture and Christianity, I have found Christ’s redemption of it. Christ is the author and perfecter of all the happenings that led to the point of my conversion and beyond. All the events that transpired before even my birth were somehow to bring God glory in the renewed life I would one day have. I’m grateful and I’m privileged to think that I have the honor of being the first Christian in my family. And I look forward to continuing this journey and refining the idea of what it means to be Latino in light of Jesus Christ.
I know that the seeking does not end here. Nor does it simply end in the reflection of a single blog post. It will probably take an entire lifetime of hardship, unpacking baggage, pressing into the uncomfortable to understand how my ethnicity will influence my life. I rest assured, however, knowing I have the hope that Christ will see me through all of it, even if I do not get to the bottom of why I am Latino. Only the Lord knows.
*Photo by Tiago Aguiar
How should Christians think about gender?
How should Christians think about gender?
How should Christians think about gender? This is an important and controversial topic. This is merely one post but hopefully the beginning of a grace-filled, loving, and humble pursuit of the truth. We won’t be able to cover everything here but I hope this will be a good first step on a productive journey.
As we begin, I want to read a quote from Andrew T. Walker, he was one of my professors and he has written a book on this topic and I just love this quote from him. He asks: How would Jesus talk to us about this topic?
“He would listen to us, and he would love us, and when he disagreed with us, it would always and only be out of compassion, never oppression. There is no hurting person he would mock, or shun, or insult, or sneer at. He is so determined to pursue what is best for all of us that he died—excluded, mocked and rejected—to secure it.”
That is the heart we want to have as we approach this subject. We want the best for others. And when we disagree we still want to love. Jesus modeled this and He calls us to imitate Him.
What is gender dysphoria and what does it feel like?
Dysphoria means “a state of dissatisfaction/anxiety.” So, gender dysphoria means “a state of dissatisfaction or anxiety having to do with one’s gender.”
“Gender dysphoria is the medical term for the experience that one’s gender identity and sex, or how one was biologically identified at birth, do not match, resulting in conflict.”
People with gender dysphoria feel like the body they were born with doesn’t match the way they feel. They don’t feel comfortable with their gender. They feel like something is not right. And so, people with gender dysphoria may not dress in a way that is typical. They may also take medicine or have surgeries to look different.
Have you ever been in a setting or in clothing that you didn’t feel comfortable in? I remember singing a song from The Sound of Music in front of a bunch of people at the fair with my sisters. If you know much about me, you know I can’t sing. So, me singing in front of a bunch of people was not comfortable (for anyone!). But, perhaps the worst part was the silly outfit I had to wear. I felt and looked so goofy.
I had to do that quite a while ago and thankfully it only lasted a few minutes. But, I remember it. And not fondly.
Imagine feeling out of place in your own body. Actually, I think a lot of people can relate to that to some degree. But, imagine you felt so uncomfortable that you felt like your body was not the right gender. That’s how some people feel. One person expressed it like this: “Dysphoria feels like being unable to get warm, no matter how many layers you put on. It feels like hunger without appetite…. It feels like grieving. It feels like having nothing to grieve.”
Greg Eilers says it this way: “I was crushed with gender dysphoria. I had grown to hate myself. I could not look at myself in a mirror. I despised being a male and loathed wearing men’s clothes. I longed to live as and be recognized as a woman.”
This, I hope, stirs our compassion and empathy for those suffering and struggling. Jesus, Scripture says, sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15); we too should sympathize with the struggles of others.
With our desire for the good of others in mind, are you familiar with pica, the eating disorder?… It is a compulsive eating disorder in which people eat nonfood items; things like dirt, clay, flaking paint, and even bedding from hamster cages and metal; things that clearly are not good for you and can be very harmful.
In this example, we see that our desires are not the litmus test for what is right or good for us… Some things are harmful even if we have a desire for them…
Where then can we go to know what is good for us? Where is our guide for life? This is the issue, this is really what it comes down to when we consider gender… Where do we locate authority, knowledge, and trustworthiness? Our feelings and desires? Society? Or from somewhere or someone else?
How do we know what is good for us? How do we know what will lead to our health and thriving?
If Christianity is true, and God created the world and loves the world, then we want to hear what He has to teach us on this subject.
Christians find their direction, bearings in the world, and authority on the firm foundation of the crucified Creator. “He may not always agree with out feelings or our reason—but he can be trusted, and he knows what he’s talking about, and he has the right to tell us how to live.”
1) God’s Creation and Gender
God tells us what the blueprint is for us to function to our fullest in the book of Genesis (Gen. 1:26-27) and Jesus reiterates that same truth (Matt. 19:4).
“He [Jesus] answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4).
Scripture shows us that “men and women are different. Our differences extend to the deepest levels of our being: chromosomes, brains, voices, body shapes, body strengths, and reproductive systems. What our bodies are designed and destined for are different. How our bodies are designed bear witness to the difference that reflects God’s creative will for humanity.”
I think it’s helpful to make a few observations from this passage. (1) We see we are created people. (2) We are created male and female. And amazingly I’ve read that scientists are able to tell if a person is male or female by looking at a single cell from anywhere in their body. (3) And so, I think it follows that what God the Creator does, people should not seek to undo. He, as the Creator, knows how His creation is supposed to function.
God’s good intention for humans when He created them is that they be male and female. In this way, human unity and diversity images Him (notice, however, that it’s not unity in chaos).
God made man first so as to emphasize something: man’s need for woman. The Bible says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” That’s not how it’s supposed to be. How it’s supposed to be is there is to be a “helper” fit for him (Gen. 2:18).
That’s God’s good plan for humanity: male and female; “equal, and different; intended, not interchangeable.” That, of course, does not mean that women are one ounce less important than men because they are called to be a “helper.” In the Bible God Himself is described as a helper (Ps. 54:4; 118:7). Women are certainly not less important! God’s a helper but He’s not less important!
God could have designed things differently. But, He didn’t. And after God made Adam and Eve, as male and female, He said that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Therefore, we see God has a particular good purpose for His binary—male and female—creation.
If it is true that God exists then it’s true that He knows what He’s doing.
If God doesn’t exist or He doesn’t know what He is doing then we are left in a big mess. That would mean we have no guidance in how we are to function. It means we are in the forest without a compass. We are traveling through complex roadways with no GPS. It means there is no guidance whatsoever. That not only do we not have guidance about gender; it means we don’t have guidance regarding any moral issue.
It means we make our own way. We make our own meaning. No one has the authority to tell me or anyone what to do. I have no basis to tell you not to be a jerk…
If, however, God exists then we have guidance. We have reason to think there are ways that are good to live and treat people and ways that are not good to live and treat people. It means we are more than evolved animals with animal impulses.
And if God knows what He is doing then it would make sense to listen to Him. He is the Creator. He knows how we are supposed to function.
Back when God originally made humans, when everything was still very good (Gen. 1:31), Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed (Gen. 2:25). “Imagine that: a world where everyone is at ease with who they are and how they’re made; and feels good about how they look, rather than embarrassed or awkward or deeply disturbed about it; where people are able to completely trust those around them, so that they are able to be open with them. That is a wonderful world.”
So, the first thing we’ve seen that Christians believe is that there is a good God that actually exists that has a good plan for His people. God knows the best way for people to live and because He loves us He wants us to live in that way (Kind of like how parents don’t want their kids to just eat cotton candy all the time. It’s not because they don’t love them. It’s because they do love them. In the same way, God wants what’s best for us and He knows what’s best for us).
2) Rebellion and Ruin and Gender
God wanted the world to be a certain way. He wanted us to live and thrive. But, we know that life is not always that way. We all have struggles and temptations. Why is that?
The Bible tells us that something tragic happened with humanity. Humanity disobeyed God. Humans failed to function according to the “Owners Manuel,” so to speak.
I had a friend that was having some trouble with his car. It just didn’t have the power it used to have and should’ve had. My friend couldn’t figure it out so after a few weeks he took it to someone who knew what they were doing, a professional mechanic, to have it looked at and the mechanic right away knew the problem.
The car was not supposed to be driven for miles and miles, day after day, week after week, with the parking brake on. That was not the intention of the car creators. And when the car is operated in that way it cannot fulfill its purpose to the best of its abilities.
Since the fall of humanity in Genesis 3, humans have struggled with following the “Owners Manuel.” We often do what we think is best. We often don’t notice that it causes a lot of problems.
We all have brokenness. I, for example, struggle with anger. We all have struggles.
God says love people and treat them with respect. I sometimes want to yell at people, or worse.
We all struggle in various ways (James 3:2). Some people, like me, struggle with anger issues. Some people struggle with same-sex attraction, some people have gender identity struggles.
The Bible explains the fact that we have struggles. And God understands that we have struggles.
But, the cold hard reality is “we have neither the authority nor the ability to rewrite or reconfigure how God made his world. It’s his creation; we’re just living in it.” The truth is “when we as creatures reject the Creators blueprint, we are both rebelling against the natural order of how things objectively are, and (though it may not seem like it) we are rejecting the life that is going to be the highest good for us.”
I do think it’s important for us to realize that even after the fall of humanity we are still “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). So, there’s a lot of ruin, but we are not ruined. Your body is still good.
“The Fall of Adam has led to disorder in all aspects of human existence, including in how humans form in the womb. Recognizing that we are all subject to the brokenness of sin can help us have compassion toward those whose physiology falls outside the norm.”
Rebellion leads to all sorts of ruin. But, thankfully God doesn’t leave us there.
3) Jesus’ Rescue and Gender
As I’ve said, I struggle with anger. I’ve acted out in anger before and hurt people. That’s not God’s intention. God takes sin seriously because it’s damaging. Because of sin, I deserve punishment but Jesus offers peace. Look at Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Therefore, through Christ, there’s no condemnation. I’m even a new creation (2 Cor. 5:21)! That, however, doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. I do. I will, I’m sure, until I die.
But there will be a day when my struggle will be gone! Look at Philippians 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”
Sometimes when we have a particular sin, temptation, or struggle we can identify ourselves in that way. But, the reality is, who we are in Jesus is our truest self. Our deepest identity as Christians is to be found in Christ.
Jesus is the most important thing that any of us have in common. Jesus is the most crucial aspect of our identity. He is more important than where we’re from, our race, status, or sex. Listen to what Galatians 3:28 says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences. It’s saying the biggest most important thing is that all Christians—no matter who we are or our background—are all “one in Christ Jesus.” But, differences when carried out in holiness are beautiful. The Christian Church is to be like a beautiful mosaic rather than a drab old musty basement wall.
So, even with male or female we shouldn’t push unbiblical stereotypes, partly because stereotypes are often just based on the changing cultural climate and not in the objective truth of Scripture. Consider, for example, that pink has not always been considered a “girly” color or consider that men in the 14th century were basically the first to wear yoga pants (i.e. hoses that were sometimes quite colorful).
By this, I’m not saying that we should disrespect societal norms (cf. Deut. 22:5). I’m saying that the stereotype that men aren’t supposed to cry is wrong. Jesus Himself cried. What about dancing and poetry? Is dancing and poetry more feminine than masculine? Well, King David who killed wild beasts, slew a giant, and was one of the most elite soldiers that walked the earth also danced and composed poetry. So, just because someone is different from society’s stereotypes does not mean that that person should rightly be a different gender. God, not the ever-changing culture, should be our guide.
How should Christians think about gender? As we consider the rescue of Jesus and the topic of gender there are a few helpful observations for us to make.
1. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves.
Sometimes people say something like this: “If you’ve met one Steelers fan, you’ve met them all.” What people mean by that is that all Steelers fans are the same. I love what Preston Sprinkle says in his book, Embodied. He says, “If you’ve met one transgender person, you’ve met one transgender person.” The reality is, every transgender person is different. Even every Steelers fan is different. It’s important that we understand that every single person has a different story and has different struggles.
2. Jesus cares more deeply than we can imagine.
Christ cares deeply. And calls Christians to too. “How Christians treat transgender persons matters. Christ is not served when we simply spout Biblical bullet points rather than delve deep to understand the crushing condition that is gender dysphoria and help ease the pain of those suffering it.”
3. Jesus, as the Creator, knows what’s best for us (John 1:3).
4. Jesus calls us to welcome, love, and listen as He Himself does.
I agree with Andrew T. Walker:
“A church should be the safest place to talk about, be open about, and struggle with gender dysphoria.”
“A transgender person ought to feel more loved and safe visiting a Bible-believing church than in any other place in the world!”
5. Jesus calls us to a life of sacrificial discipleship.
We’re all called to suffer and sacrifice for our Savior.
“Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’” (Matt. 16:24–25).
This will look different for all of Jesus’ disciples but will also be worth it for all of Jesus’ disciples. Further, Jesus promised that the Helper would be with us to help us.
How do we go about in the real world with this? What are some practical ways we need to navigate this issue in real life?
“Unless you celebrate then you are bigoted and unloving.’ But, is this true?
It’s not bigotry to believe that biology determines one’s sex/gender. Throughout at least the vast majority of history humans have understood there to be just two sexes/genders. Does it not instead seem potentially more prejudiced to hold to potentially innumerable sexes/genders when the world over, throughout most of history, disagrees? Should that at least cause one to be respectful of those who see it differently since, after all, they hold the majority position by a long shot? Not that the majority is necessarily correct but the person that screams the loudest is not necessarily correct either.
Preston Sprinkle gives a very helpful overview of the arguments in his book Embodied but he advocates for “pronoun hospitality.” I agree with Andrew T. Walker though, when he says “The best solution is to avoid pronouns altogether if possible. Calling a person by their legal name or preferred name is more acceptable because names are not objectively gendered, but change from culture to culture.”
What about intersex?
“’Intersex’ describes someone born with atypical features of their sexual anatomy or sex chromosomes. Depending on which conditions are counted, estimates of the proportion of people who are born intersex vary greatly, from 1.7 percent to 0.018 percent. The higher estimates include people with any kind of disorder or difference of sexual development (who may not even be aware of it), while the lower estimates restrict intersex to describe people whose sex organs are not classifiable as either male or female or whose chromosomal sex does not match their anatomy.”
It should be understood that intersex people
“exist and will most often go through significant hardship as a result. The presence of intersex people represents a biological aberration rather than a biological norm or additional third biological sex. But there is much more to be said. As we have already seen, all of us, irrespective of any biological challenges we may face, of any kind, have been fearfully and wonderfully made. There are no exceptions… our bodies are all fallen; we all encounter a measure of bodily brokenness. But that does not take away from the care with which God has made us.”
There are different intersex conditions but people can serve, love, and glorify God with those conditions. In Acts 8, an Ethiopian eunuch saw the good news of Jesus for the first time and was baptized as a disciple (v. 35-38). We don’t know the specifics of what it meant for him to be a eunuch. Was he intersex, castrated, or something else? We just don’t know.
What we do know is that his identity could rest securely in Christ. Christ got at the core of who he was. And he went from not being able to go into the inner courts of the temple because of his condition, to being able to go boldly (through Christ) to God His Father (cf. Is. 56:3-5).
Jesus welcomes all people at great cost to Himself (Rom. 15:7) and He calls those same people to walk in holiness, whatever their particular struggles, and to be on mission to share His love with others.
 Andrew T. Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 15.
 Greg Eilers, Ministering to Transgender Christians: A Resource for the Christian Church, 42.
 “A person with gender dysphoria has intense and persistent feelings of identification with another gender, and a strong discomfort with one’s own assigned gender. Gender dysphoric individuals might experience distress with their body, with being perceived and treated as their assigned gender, and with the expected role of their assigned gender” (Greg Eilers, Ministering to Transgender Christians, 42).
 Rebecca McLaughlin, The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims, 96.
 Eilers, Ministering to Transgender Christians, 16.
“To those whose biological reality is painful and confusing, Jesus gets it… The biological complexity some might have to face is… part of the bodily brokenness that all of us have to reckon with in one way or another. For every single one of us, our body is imperfect and causes us some amount of suffering. Such suffering varies hugely from person to person, but no one should feel somehow in a category of their own. Your experience may be very different from that of other people. It may seem that no one else, however much they try, truly gets it. That may be true. But Jesus sees all and knows all. He has lived as a human on this earth and suffered the extremities of physical pain. He is not “unable to sympathize with our weaknesses… (Heb. 4:15)” (Sam Allberry, What God Has to Say about Our Bodies, 53-54).
 “Would it be kind to tell someone suffering from anorexia that their self-perception of being overweight is correct simply because that is how they perceive themselves?” (Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 72).
 “An (imperfect) analogy might help. Color-blind people find it either hard or impossible to distinguish between green and red. Color-blindness is not uncommon—you may in fact experience it. And, thankfully, there are lots of work-arounds to keep it from being too much of a hindrance to daily life. But it is nevertheless a reality for many. But just because some struggle to distinguish red from green doesn’t mean that the colors red and green do not actually exist. They clearly do. They are objective realities. That some confuse one for the other does not change that. In fact, when we drive, our lives depend on the fact that these two colors really do exist and are not subjectively determined. Yet the fact that these colors exist doesn’t mean that there is no confusion or difficulty for anyone. There is” (Allberry, What God Has to Say about Our Bodies, 53).
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 45.
 Rebecca McLaughlin, 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about Christianity, 136.
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 45-46.
 “Jesus affirms both the binary of male and female in creation and the binding of male to female in marriage” (Rebecca McLaughlin, The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims, 103).
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 56.
 Cf. Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 59.
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 57.
 “According to many ancient philosophies, men were more important than women. But the Bible tells a different story. God made humans—“male and female”—“in his own image” (Genesis 1:26–28). Men and women are equally important. But they are also importantly different” (McLaughlin, 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about Christianity, 136).
 In some ways, I think this implies the vast importance of women! Men need women. Men cannot do the work God’s called them to on their own!
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 60.
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 51.
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 52.
 Eilers, Ministering to Transgender Christians, 58.
 “Jesus was the perfect man. But he was no gender stereotype… No follower of Jesus need hold to rigid gender stereotypes, in which men make skyscrapers and women decorate their walls. Instead, we must cling to our Savior. He is the one who knows us to our core and loves us to death and beyond. He made our bodies, and he holds our hearts. Our deepest identity lies in him” (McLaughlin, The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims,109).
 See McLaughlin, 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about Christianity, 150-51.
 “Some people think real men don’t cry. But Jesus cried. Some people think real men sleep with lots of women. But Jesus never even had a girlfriend. Some people think real men don’t stand for insults. But Jesus took insults all day long. He defended the weak, but he wouldn’t fight back to defend himself. Some people think real men don’t cook or care for kids. But Jesus did both these things. If we want to know what it means to be a perfect man, we must look at Jesus.
Women are called to copy Jesus too. He is the perfect human, so all Christians—male or female—are called to imitate him. But the ways in which Jesus used his strength and power for others, not himself, is a particular model for men, who often have more physical strength and have traditionally had more power (Philippians 2:1–11)” (McLaughlin, 10 Questions, 138).
 Eilers, Ministering to Transgender Christians, 124.
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 121.
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 122.
 Preston Sprinkle, Embodied, 205.
 Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 157.
 McLaughlin, The Secular Creed, 102.
 Allberry, What God Has to Say about Our Bodies, 50-51.
Living as Canceled Christians (a response to a response)
A reader of my previous post objected to some of what I wrote. Which of course is fine. I remain grateful that we have the freedom to do that. I’m also grateful for the opportunity it provides me to interact with some of his thoughts and critiques. So, here’s my response…
First, he said he didn’t know what “canceled Christians” means. It is a reference to the “popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures… after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming” (dictionary.com). Christians are being shut down from sharing their biblically informed views (especially moral issues on sexuality) on social media and often in general conversation as well.
He said that “we are to invest much energy into this world.” I, of course, agree with that. The Bible is replete with examples calling us to do just that. One of the reasons it calls us to invest in this world is actually because of the coming of the next. Our eschatology (study of last things) is a goad to our ethics (e.g. Matt. 24:36ff; 25:13; Col. 3:1ff; 1 Thess. 5:1-2).
He also said that this world is not a “stinky tent. It’s God’s handiwork.” This world is not literally a stinky tent. The Bible doesn’t say that exactly. The Bible does, however, say that “in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling… For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened… we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:2, 4, 8). It says, “the creation was subjected to futility… the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption… For we know that the whole creation has been groaning…” (Rom. 8:20, 21, 22 see also 2 Cor. 4:16-18). It thus seems to me that the world is a metaphorical “stinky tent.” It is not our final home. We should have a certain amount of longing for our “lasting city” (Heb. 13:14 cf. 2 Cor. 5:1; Jn. 14:2-3).
God’s creation does show His handiwork and it is an “expression of His creativity.” The first chapter of Genesis says six times that God’s creation is “good” and in the seventh and final announcement God says it’s “very good” (Gen. 1:31). That, however, is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning. Something sinister happens. The Fall (Gen. 3). And because of sin all manner of curse and chaos.
We live in a post-Genesis-3 world. So, while creation still attests to the goodness and creativity of God, it is also riddled with ruin because of sin. Jesus as promised in Genesis 3:15 is the one who finally remakes it. And He is the hope of the world.
I really appreciate that he says, “we are called to imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.” That is very true. I am not sure why but it seems like he was led to believe that I would disagree with that truth. I am not sure why, however. No writing of any length can say everything, but especially a blog. Yes, we are to “imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.”
I actually believe it’s true that unless Christians live as the campers and exiles they are, they won’t participate, they won’t invest, and they won’t forgive as God would have them. It’s being focused on the Kingdom that makes us effective in whatever kingdom we find ourselves in. It’s the person who realizes the value of the treasure (i.e. all the goodness of the new creation) that will sacrifice all to gain it (Matt. 13:44); even if it means loving those who are sometimes unlovely.
That is why we must “set [our] hope fully on the grace that will be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). That, as Peter explains, will help us “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (v. 22). It will help us “imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.” It will help us with creation care and the Golden Rule.
As C.S. Lewis said,
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
We can be so earthy minded that we’re no earthly good. And we won’t rightly love our neighbor if we only love ourselves. As we look to Christ and the heaven He’s purchased us we will more and more be drawn to live like Christ, to love and sacrifice ourselves for others (See e.g. 2 Cor. 3:18; 5:14-15; 2 Pet. 3:11-14).
Regarding his comment that “most [my] assertions are not contextualized or elaborated” and that what I wrote is “gobbledegook,” I would say that the assertions in his response are also not “contextualized or elaborated.” And had they been his response would have been much longer. I would not say though that as a result what he wrote was “gobbledygook.” I looked up the definition of “gobbledygook” and apparently it means “language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms.” I’m not sure where my post earned the term “gobbledygook” but that is not a noun I want associated with anything I write. I actually wanted my post to be simple and thought provoking. Ironically, it seems to me that writings that are most contextualized and elaborated are the very writings that have the most likelihood of being gobbledygook.
I want to be clear, instructive, and helpful. And this gentleman’s comments are a spur to encourage me in that pursuit. For that I am thankful.
 Of course, I don’t expect the gentlemen’s brief response to be perfectly nuanced either. Covering every facet is not possible in a brief comment, blog post, or even a book-length treatment. We are both fallible and temporal. Scripture itself, if the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) is not rightly considered, can seem lopsided. Matthew and Luke, James and Paul, however, are not at odds even if they are emphasizing different things and coming at issues from a different perspective.
Layout your Lament to the LORD (Psalm 10)
The Bible teaches us that we can layout our lament to the LORD. We can cry out to Him for help or to honestly share our disillusionment. Lament psalms make up around a third of the book of Psalms and is the most numerous type of psalm within Psalms. And so we see, “The vast majority of psalms were written out of a real-life struggle of faith.”
The Bible teaches us that we can layout our lament to the LORD. We can cry out to Him for help or to honestly share our disillusionment.Tweet
Here we’re looking at Psalm 10.
Cry for Help (v. 1)
The first thing we see the psalmists does in this psalm is cry out for justice. “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
We too can take our honest wrestling to the LORD. In fact, that is what we must do. We must bring our laments to the LORD.
Statistics and Comfort in Calamity
Photo by Ben White
Does the 2% death rate statistic comfort you? What does the Bible say about comfort during calamity?
Some sources are saying that the mortality rate of COVID-19 looks to be 2%. However, it is too early to say. The percentage will be bigger or smaller depending on various factors (such as the age of the people infected, access to the needed medical treatment, etc.). I think we should acknowledge a few things about the statistic. First, 2% looks like a small number. And it is. At least, relative to a larger number.
Second, to put it into perspective, 2% of the population of the world is around 140 million people. That, as we can see, is a lot of people. COVID-19 could rival the AIDS epidemic. Of course, it seems highly unlikely that everyone in the world will get the virus. But even a fraction of that number is a lot of people. And it’s important for us to see the numbers from this vantage point so that we don’t play the numbers down.
Falling like the Rain
I woke to the sound of rain drenching everything in its path and my daughters quiet voice asking if the dog can still go out to use the restroom. “Yes, please take the dog out!” was my urgent reply.
I have always loved the rain. The sound it creates as it slaps the ground, rushing along the path it created just moments ago. It is a gift from God. He uses the rain to feed and nourish all His creation. All of our senses are brushed by His creation. We shiver in the dampness, we smell & taste the sweet yet dank rain, we hear and see the chorus of individual drops dissolve.