True Compassion Starts With Truth

by Andrew Rodriguez

When I first addressed LGBTQ affirmation in the Church, I ended with this statement: “True compassion affirms the reality of God’s design while offering competent help to those who desire it.” This is an understanding sadly lost in contemporary Christianity, let alone the whole of society. But it should be readily apparent. If a doctor encounters a patient with an arm unable to move, the doctor would be perfectly reasonable to assume the individual has sustained some sort of trauma, such as a stroke or a dislocated shoulder. And the doctor’s compassion would be demonstrated by his efforts to mitigate difficulties resulting from the immobile arm and to resolve the cause of the immobilization. The doctor wouldn’t berate the patient with condemnation. “Don’t you know how to move your arm?!” (However, he would likely rebuke the patient for attempting to drive a car with only one functioning arm. The patient may not be responsible for causing the arm problem, but he is responsible for how he handles it.)

Nor would the doctor, as someone in a position to help, be showing compassion by offering some shallow platitude. “Aw, I’m sorry your arm won’t move. That’s sad, but such is life.” The doctor would especially not be showing compassion if he attempted to convince the patient that some people just simply don’t have arms that move, and we need to labour to make the rest of society and the Church more affirming of arm-immobilized people. No, a competent and compassionate doctor would be curious about the cause of the patient’s ailment. He wouldn’t just assume it’s a good and normal variation of arm mobility. Why not?  Because he understands the reality of the human body. He would not be able to genuinely help the patient if he didn’t have this foundational knowledge of the body’s design and function.

Compassion starts with affirming the truth of God’s design for us. Without that realization, we have no basis for identifying any disorder or sin, for sin is to miss the mark of God’s design and intention for us. And it doesn’t take the Bible to tell us that arms are meant for moving, eyes are for seeing, and genitals are for generating. And with the extremely rare exception of hermaphroditism, humanity has been reliably trusting the genitals to identify one’s gender for millennia.  Furthermore, we can learn from general revelation that sexual activity creates an emotional bond between two people. So, we can also deduce that sex has a unitive purpose. Of course! Who better to receive and nurture children than two people committed to give of their whole selves to each other and any offspring they receive?

All of this should be plain to us. But our society has been reeling from contemporary versions of Gnostic dualism. The relationship between the physical and the spiritual (and hence, moral order) has been ruptured, so we no longer see the inherent meaning, value and purpose in our bodies. The modernists see us just as highly evolved animals, prioritizing the physical. And the postmodernists prioritize their subjective views of self over and against the body. However, a truly Christian worldview integrates the material and immaterial. Indeed, ours is the religion of the incarnation. Just as Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, came in a body to reveal the invisible God, so our bodies reveal our persons. Our sexually confused and chaotic world claims that “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” are based on the idiosyncrasies of each person’s feelings and ideas, resulting in an ever-growing LGBTQ+ conglomeration.

But nature and Scripture make clear that God gave us a trustworthy arbiter — even in our fallen world — of our sexual identity: the body. And the body makes clear that there are only two genders, male and female, and only one sexual orientation, union with the opposite sex. Therefore, as Theology of the Body educator Christopher West often says, our bodies are not only biological but also theological. We fail to see how homosexuality and gender identity discordance are forms of sexual sin and brokenness when we are blind to the truth of God’s vision for our sexuality. Indeed, if we don’t know the meaning of our sexuality, then we don’t know the meaning of our humanity. So, let’s start with the beginning. That’s what Jesus himself did when questioned about the sexual controversy of his time and culture (Matthew 19:4-6).

“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). Upon the introduction of humanity, we immediately learn two things. First, all of humanity is made in the image of God, a concept in the ancient world previously reserved only for royalty.  This grants each human being innate value and even authority, a radical idea for the Israelites escaping slavery in Egypt. But we also learn that each person is not just a human specimen, but a male human being or a female human being. And there is something about our bifurcation into maleness and femaleness that images our Creator. Our tendency is to reduce the idea of the “image of God” to immaterial qualities, like the facts we have spirits, that we have a moral sensibility, that we have intellect. All true, but maleness and femaleness are revealed by the body, specifically in our reproductive systems. Therefore, secondly, if being made male and female images God, then our bodies, and especially our sexuality, reveal mysteries about the nature of God.

In short, our sexuality shows that God is distinct persons that are one in essence, that this community of persons is loving and eternally committed to each other, and that he is creative. We can know all this because the first command God gives man is to be fruitful and multiply. But Adam cannot do this on his own. He needs a mate that is similar in human nature but differs from him in a manner that enables them to unite sexually. So, God creates woman out of man and then joins the two in marriage — in a one-flesh union that is designed to be permanent, mutually beneficial, and produces new life. Finally, not only does our sexual difference and the one-flesh union of marriage reveal aspects of our Trinitarian Creator, but they also reveal God’s plan to invite us into the life of the Trinity.

In Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul shows how human marriage is the sign of our future heavenly marriage, as the husband images Christ and the wife images all humans that constitute the church, Christ’s Bride. God wanted this plan to be plain to all of humanity, so he made our bodies a symbol of it and placed erotic longings in us — desires that cannot be satisfied fully by the pleasures of this world but ultimately and infinitely by him. This is the goodness and beauty to which our sexuality points us. Why is sexuality so important to me? Because it’s so important to God. And it’s so important to God because it gets to the core of our humanity. It is meant to point us to Him. In his great compassion, God desires to restore our vision of sexuality so that we can enjoy the ultimate, ecstatic union with Him for eternity.

Source: Andrew Rodriguez is a licensed professional counsellor and director of Integrity Christian Counselling. He’s a certified Reintegrative Therapist. He’s on the board of Voice of the Voiceless, uplifting the voices of ex-LGBT people. And he does work with ReStory Ministries, equipping churches to address LGBTQ.

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