This one might lose me a few friends.
Since the news broke about Caitlyn Jenner’s magazine cover everyone has opinions on it. And everyone has opinions on the opinions. Even when we pretend that our opinions are actually about stuff in general, we are really talking about Caitlyn Jenner and all that controversy. This is not a bad thing, per se.
One particular stream of thought that I’ve picked up on is Christians taking a stand against hateful remarks and pledging their unwavering love for everyone no matter what. Also a good thing. A command from God, actually. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30). Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). Love your enemy (Matthew 5:44). No greater love than they who lay down their life for another (John 15:13). Love isn’t an option. Yay love.
Occasionally words like “acceptance” and “tolerance” and “not judging” slip in as well. Sometimes from Christians, sometimes from people who aren’t Christians. I’m not terribly interested in addressing non-Christians. We have very different standards and perspectives, after all.
So, brothers and sisters, let’s chat.
What is love? Kind of a dumb question on the surface, but one we really need to know the answer to if we are going to correctly obey God. Despite what songs and movies may tell us, love is not an emotion, nor even a spectrum of emotions. When your heart starts racing and you get butterflies in your stomach and you can’t stop smiling because someone amazing is right across the room, that’s not love. I’ve heard it best explained this way: love is action, specifically one that puts someone’s well-being first. Love is the action you take when your desire for someone is the very best life they can have. Love isn’t gratifying someone’s emotions, or letting them do what they want. After all, good parents love their children, and that means bed times and vegetables and discipline as much as it means play time and treats and cuddles. I think we all understand this on a certain level. After all, we know Christ loved us not just because he said so, but because he died for us, taking our punishment for our sins, giving us his righteousness, restoring our relationship with God, and giving us an eternal home with Him.
So what do we make of these other terms we often think we are supposed to do along with love? Acceptance and tolerance and non-judgement?
Are we to accept the non-Christians, those still dead in their sins? To an extent yes. Just as God accepted us as we were and did not turn us away, and just as Christians before us most likely accepted us before we were one of them, we should accept as they are. We can’t change them, after all (that’s God’s business). Are we to tolerate non-Christians? As best as we can, yes (Romans 12:18). We are bringers of peace, not strife. Obviously if someone is trying to kill you that changes things. Tolerance has its reasonable limits. Are we not to judge non-Christians? Well, hard to say. I don’t think public condemnations and screaming hellfire are terribly loving, but when it comes down to it judging is simply saying what is and what isn’t. It would be foolish, for example, to think we are unable to judge that murderous neighbor of ours from a few sentences ago, and there is no wrong in judging someone a liar when they insist on speaking untruths.
(“But Anthony,” you reply with gusto, “doesn’t Jesus say ‘judge not lest ye be judged’?” Yes he does. Keep reading to he next few verses. Jesus is simply telling us that if we judge people, we will be judged by the same measure. It’s a warning against hypocrisy.)
So inasmuch as you are continuing to act in someone’s overall best interests, you should indeed accept and tolerate and not judge someone.
What of other Christians? Are we go accept, tolerate, and not judge them? Well here is where it gets interesting. For the Bible spells out that we are to hold each other accountable, Unlike the non-Christians, the word of God has been revealed to us, and the Holy Spirit resides in us. While there is little we can do about non-Christians living their lives as they see fit, we are not at luxury to wink at sin when we see it among our brothers and sisters. We are expected to correct them (James 5:19-20). And we aren’t even supposed to associate with Christians who are flagrantly sinful within our church (1 Corinthians 5).
So what do we make of Caitlyn Jenner? According to one of those recent interviews, when he was still Bruce, he said he was a conservative. If he said he was a Christian I can’t find the reference (Google is just showing me think pieces like pieces like this one on the “Christian response” and such). For the purposes of this, it doesn’t matter so much; he certainly doesn’t attend any of our churches. Should we love Caitlyn Jenner? Absolutely. Do we tolerate and accept and not judge Caitlyn Jenner? Well, to go back to my earlier answers, “to an extent”. Caitlyn Jenner wants to be called Caitlyn now. I can go with that, sure. Sometimes people change their name, whatever. Caitlyn says he’s a woman now. No he’s not. The surgeries and implants and makeup and fashion shoot and photoshop don’t turn a man into a woman. I know it is trendy in social justice circles to say that gender and sex are totally different, but I’m going to say no that is wrong.
Am I being judgmental and intolerant of Caitlyn Jenner now? Maybe, but there is nothing loving about lying, nothing loving about calling a man a woman, nothing loving about pretending that a bunch of superficial alterations can turn a man into a woman, nothing loving about treating mental illness like it is the next great civil rights movement, nothing loving about celebrating a vain and self-absorbed advertisement campaign for yet another reality TV show.
None of us are really in a position to tell Caitlyn any of these things, though. We can’t sit him down and explain that we love him and he needs help. Whoever had that responsibility abandoned it, and he was unlovingly left to his own devices. Since none of us actually know Caitlyn or can do anything about this delusion all the people around him are feeding, our only option is to pray for him, that he might yet find the healing he actually needs.
That is always loving.