Joan or John? My Answer: Part Four
Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective (Crossway, 2004) and Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway, May 2009).
- 2009 May 29
In saying that I don’t think Joan can continue to live as a “woman,” I am not saying that regeneration will mean that he suddenly “feels” like a man. John is telling you the truth when he says that he has felt all of his growing-up life like a woman trapped in a man’s body. He will probably not suddenly turn into a lumberjack. He will probably grapple with this issue for the rest of his life.
I was saved from, among many other things, covetousness. Coveting seems natural to me. Not coveting is unnatural to me. There’s not a day that goes by in which coveting isn’t the easier, more natural thing for me. But I fight against covetousness because God is conforming me into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). He does this through suffering, through discipline, and through the warlike struggle of the Spirit against the flesh, the new creation against the satanic powers (Rom 5:3-5; Heb. 12:5-11; 2 Cor. 2:11). Your testimony is the same, if you’re in Christ, with any number of sinful patterns and weak points in your life. The same will be true for John. Don’t give up on him if he has setbacks, and don’t give up on him if he still “feels” like a woman for the rest of his life. Keep pointing him to the gospel, and to the faith that hears and acts.
John’s presence in your congregation will probably mean that some Pharisaism will emerge. Some people will find John “freakish.” Some of the men will be revolted by the whole idea, and will think they are asserting their masculinity by mocking or marginalizing him (even if just in subtle, eye-rolling sorts of ways). The responsibility of the pastor is to lead his people away from this destructiveness. John’s life in the congregation can be a visible signal of the mercies of God. This means the church should, immediately upon receiving John as a repentant sinner, announce that his sin (not in part but the whole!) is nailed to the cross of Christ, buried with Jesus, and obliterated by his resurrection power. This means any ongoing gossip or judgment of John’s sin or John’s past is itself violence against the gospel, as well as divisiveness in the congregation, and will be disciplined as such.
The shepherds must lead your people to receive John, as they were received by Christ (Rom. 15:5-7). The pastors and leaders of the church can help people to see how they can help bear their brother’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
This means, first of all, that women in the congregation will be needed to help show his daughter what it means to be a godly woman. Some of them will want to take her into their homes and lives, being mothers and grandmothers in Christ for her (Titus 2:3-5). This also means that the men in the congregation should make a concerted effort to disciple John, receiving him into their circle of friendship, and showing him what it means to follow Christ, and what it means to be a man. For some of them, it will be awkward. So what? It seems awkward for the Lord Jesus to spend time with drunkards, prostitutes, and Gentiles like us, but he did it, and does it even now.
I’ll have some concluding thoughts in the final post, coming up next.