Reflecting God’s Image

©chaseroflight @deviantart.com
©chaseroflight @deviantart.com

Outlier: Someone who stands apart from others of his or her group by differing behavior, believes or practices. Maverick; dissenter; iconoclast

Well, I suppose I’ve always been an outlier. Challenging. Researching. Looking at both sides of an issue. I’m a former teacher. Over twenty years. It’s what I do, and it’s what I taught my students to do. Critical thinking. I’ve never swallowed rules or dogma whole. I’ve done my best to dig and excavate, figuring out why and how and when. It’s how I came to Christ.

Those who never seemed to “fit” always seemed to be on the edges. What became clear is that “outliers” are necessary. Simply by moving from the safe centre they allow others to feel safe moving away from the centre. And those outliers (the same and different) must always be on the fringes. Always allowing others to look beyond the middle and know it is safe to step out. Paul Grace

Sometimes on this blog, I write as an outlier. As someone with a completely different perspective. In doing so, my intent is not to incite anger or encourage argument, but to open hearts and minds. I pray for insight and hope, and for hearts filled with love. This has been a long way of saying, “This is one of those posts.”

When I read about a flock of Christians doing something based on “religious” or “biblical” beliefs that make my stomach queasy, my first instinct is to investigate and explore, and consider what Jesus said and did.

Recently the State of Tennessee enacted a law which allows mental health professionals to refuse to treat patients based on the therapist’s religious beliefs. It allows them to reject service to LGBT patients seeking help. Of course, they can refer a patient to another therapist – just as a dessert baker can refer clients to another cake baker when they refuse to make wedding cakes for gay couples.

My question is, when did Jesus refuse to heal anyone? When did Jesus refuse service to anyone? Even after an embarrassing lesson to his apostles about calling people degrading names, Jesus healed the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25-30).

And then Target, my favorite superstore, decided to make its bathrooms gender-neutral. Wow. I’ve been going to restaurants with gender-neutral bathrooms for years. No big whoop. In fact, I remember fighting for them years ago because there was always a line at the women’s room doors. So now, because Target decided to make a statement about gender equality, some Christians are up in arms about the safety of their children. My guess is, if Target hadn’t made any public statement at all, the change in bathroom policy would have gone largely unnoticed.

In fact, the opposite is true in gender-marked bathrooms: transgender people face brutal violence and in some instances death in marked public bathrooms they are forced to enter what is the opposite of their identified female gender, but the same as their physical sex before gender reassignment surgery.

I have two questions for those of you so upset by this change:

Parents, do you EVER allow your young children to go into public bathrooms by themselves? Of course you don’t, so you will protect them whether a transgender woman is there or not. And chances are, you won’t even know.

Do you honestly think transgender people are the same as pedophiles? If you do, then please educate yourselves. Used to be some of you thought (maybe still do) gay people were all pedophiles. Pedophelia is a distinct sexual orientation marked by persistent sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Totally different animal.

I admit, I had a serious lack of knowledge about transgender people, and I didn’t have much interest in adding to that knowledge. But I recognized that was a shortcoming on my part. So several weekends ago, I dedicated an entire weekend to watching two seasons of the series, “I Am Cait.” It was my Transgender 101 class into what happens when a child horrifically discovers his gender identity is the opposite of the body he is born into.

And no, transgender people are not at all saying God made a mistake; their story – Caitlyn Jenner’s story – simply chronicles how someone chooses to deal with this particular thorn in the flesh. Would you deal with it as a Christian Science member, disdaining to utilize any medical resources at all? Or would you seek professional help, and use the gifts and talents God gave them to help you with your decisions?

After watching I Am Cait, I gained insight and compassion, I had more questions, I did more research; a couple of those websites are listed below. And I realized I had to respond out of love, not fear.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Don’t you realize God’s kindness is intended to change the way you think and act? (Romans 2:4)

Just think of it: the unconditional loving embrace of the Father; the grace-filled compassion of Jesus; the forbearing wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

If we do not show love, we do not reflect the image of the Father.

If we do not extend grace, we do not reflect the image of Jesus.

If we do not think and speak and act with mercy’s wisdom, we do not reflect the desires of the Holy Spirit.

If we insist on being right instead of surrendering to the will of God, we will not reflect His image, and will not allow others to receive His invitation.

Dear brothers and sisters, we cannot continue to react in fear to things we do not know about. We cannot react as the world does and build walls, close doors and send people packing simply because we refuse to understand them. We must reflect Jesus, who after all, never treated us sinners with contempt, but treated all of us with grace and mercy and unconditional love.

Put off your old self [completely discard your former nature], take on an entirely new way of life, and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], as God accurately reproduces his character in you. (Eph 4:22-23 AMP, MSG)

If you’re brave enough to explore the transgender issue, look for I Am Cait on Hulu or Amazon

Other gender identity resources:

American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx

Glaad tips for allies of Transgender people: http://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies

Thank you for reading; thank you for opening your mind and heart. Thank you for your willingness to explore and understand. Thank you for your desire to love and serve and heal as Jesus did.

8 thoughts on “Reflecting God’s Image

  1. I must be an outlier too because I agree with all you have written. I personally know a transgender Christian who was a man and now has become a woman. Despite a progressive and chronic illness, which in fact was the spur to make her change gender, she is much happier in her new body.
    Thank you for talking about this subject,
    Much love
    Julia

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  2. “If we do not show love, we do not reflect the image of the Father. If we do not extend grace, we do not reflect the image of Jesus.”

    Amen, my outlier sister! And as you said, we’re not outliers just to cause trouble or start an argument but to open hearts to love.

    Short story…We had a transgender girl in our youth group several years ago (born a boy). At the time it was not heard of much in the church. We asked our district office for advice on how to handle it (especially the bathroom thing at events, etc.), but none of us knew what to do. So we decided to just love her! This girl was the nicest kid you would ever meet, willing to help out with anything, and loved Jesus. She helped other kids when they were going through stuff. After she graduated and went to college, her mom (didn’t go to our church) came to our office and thanked us. She said she was so grateful that she was loved and accepted by our church. It really spoke volumes to her about God. You could say we learned a lot about love through all that. 🙂

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  3. “Parents, do you EVER allow your young children to go into public bathrooms by themselves? Of course you don’t, so you will protect them whether a transgender woman is there or not. And chances are, you won’t even know.”

    Susan, what a balanced post. The question that is never asked (in these emotive and inflammatory issues) is the one you added here. Just when do parents takes responsibility for reality – and is so doing become “real” again? You reminded me of how so many trips to the loo when out and about were my turn to ask (that child’s exclusive question) “are we (finished) yet?”

    As for the transgender and lgbt stuff? I was asked yesterday about two chaps (in the “establishment church”) that I had been complimenting on how their presentation of music and hymns had touched me – had changed me – to see something precious in worship I had not seen before (and in the process had allowed Him to write a complete service – during that same presentation – without any music at all!). I was asked would I change my opinion of I knew they were a couple. And I was offended.

    I was offended that I was asked that question at all. Why would it matter, why might it matter, who should it even matter at all? Because why would anyone think to ask that question in the middle of something that had been so connecting with God and Love – with such precious intimate soul stuff? I was offended because there are people who would have thought it relevant, important, excluding and sinful.

    And in the process missed completely the stuff God was gifting so generously through these two brothers!

    I read John’s “Wood and Stone” post earlier. Then Cate’s (earlier than that) post re Eugene Peterson and Bono touched me. Eugene’s observation: “we have to learn to cuss without cussing” – we have to find ways to show people how mad we are about stuff – using the arts, music and poetry …

    You and John and Cate are all showing me how. Thank you.

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    • You bring up an excellent point, Paul. When we exclude, when we label, when we let someone’s sins define them, we cover our eyes and never see how God is working in them to show His glory. (And we forget about all those ancients who came before.)

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