Not Even Sermons Are Safe Anymore
October 22, 2019
The Crossing Church from Columbia, Missouri has been in the news recently -- and for all the right reasons. Just last month, the church garnered national attention when it helped members of their community pay off unpaid medical bills. Through partnership with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization that helps people pay off outstanding medical debt, church members donated more than $430,000 which was used to pay off more than $43 million of medical debt by negotiating with debt collectors.
At the time, Pastor Keith Simon explained the motivation behind his congregation's generosity: "We do this because we feel like God has been incredibly gracious to us. He's paid our debts. We think those who follow Jesus should be radically generous with their time, their talent, their treasure."
Today, the Missouri church is in the news for something else: their pastor preached a sermon on October 13 titled "Male and Female. Ancient Text. Modern Debate." Using Genesis 1:27 as his text, Pastor Keith Simon preached on God's design for sexuality and transgenderism. Displaying pastoral sensitivity, Simon walked through the Bible's teaching on gender and reflected on how Christians can minister to those who identify as transgender. With love and compassion, the pastor explained how men and women are created in God's image and how the transgender movement does not align with the Bible's teaching on sex and gender complementarity.
But despite Pastor Simon's efforts to discuss the topic from a loving, biblically informed perspective, local LGBT activists immediately cried foul, launching a petition and demanding local businesses cut ties with the church. Last Thursday, Sager Braudis Gallery, a local art gallery, was the first to cave to activist pressure. Although the church had financially sponsored the gallery for five years, the gallery said they were severing ties to show "solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community" and to register their protest "against institutions who perpetuate and use their powerful platforms for content of this nature."
While skirmishes over marriage and human sexuality have become commonplace, this latest incident reveals an alarming level of intolerance among progressive activists. An honest observer would be hard pressed to find anything in the sermon that could be construed as vindictive or hateful. In fact, Pastor Simon went out of his way to avoid politics, at one point saying, "We're not talking about partisan politics or the culture wars." Instead, Simon wanted to show what Jesus taught on these contentious issues, regardless of the current cultural moment.
Throughout the 40-minute sermon, Pastor Simon modeled the way Christian ministers should discuss transgenderism from the pulpit. He straightforwardly explained that the issue is unavoidable; transgenderism is a regular topic in the media, entertainment, sports, and legal communities. According to Simon, the issue is so prevalent that it would be "weird to talk about this everywhere but the Church." Moreover, the topic cannot be ignored because the Bible speaks to it. In fact, the first chapter of the Bible reveals that the two sexes were God's idea, and that part of what it means to be made in God's image is to be created "male and female." In other words, the issue "shows up in the text." Therefore, pastors who want to preach the whole counsel of God's word have no choice but to teach on sex, gender, and God's design and purpose for marriage and sexuality.
But not only did Simon base his sermon in the Bible (he discussed Genesis 1 and Matthew 19 at length), he was honest about the church's past failings in regard to the LGBT community. He explained that too often the church has taught unbiblical stereotypes and offered a picture of masculinity and femininity that is out of step with the Bible. However, Simon insisted that "gender is not superficial to who we are," and that faithfulness to God's Word requires affirming the Bible's sexual ethic, even when that ethic is out of step with the culture.
During the course of the sermon, Simon asked two poignant questions. First, speaking to LGBT activists, he asked, "Are we sure this is best?" Is buying into the transgender narrative good for women? Is it good to give puberty blockers to children even though 80 percent of children who identify as transgender eventually identify with their biological sex? The obvious answer is "no."
Second, Simon asked, "Do we really want people's subjective, internal feelings to define reality?" He explained that we don't do this with other issues. If someone's mind tells them a lie, we try to counteract that lie by pointing them to objective truth. We don't go along with the lie. Thus, rather than encouraging someone to embrace a gender identity other than their biological sex, we should help people see the goodness of their God-given gender.
At the close of his sermon, Simon explained that the issue of transgenderism boils down to a question of authority. Who has authority when it comes to our bodies and how we use them? Is it contemporary culture or Jesus? Ultimately, Simon explained, "Jesus is Lord over us, culture, and our bodies." He finished by exhorting his congregation to show love and compassion to those struggling with gender dysphoria. "Speak the truth in love," he exhorted.
The church could not have been clearer that the Bible affirms that all people are made in God's image. Speaking of people who identify with different sexual lifestyles, they stated: "[w]e affirm their full personhood, dignity, and worth. We believe that our government bears a responsibility to protect their lives, dignity, welfare, and all other rights afforded to every other person in this country."
Indeed. Yet this may not be enough for those opposing what the Bible teaches on this matter. From the halls of Congress to state legislatures, town halls to school board meetings, many are unified in opposing biblical truth on the issue of human sexuality. May all Bible-believing Christians unite to defend the truth in the public square -- before it is too late.