I have a confession to make. Years ago the thought of transgendered individuals caused me to inwardly shudder. In my thinking, that lifestyle was so abnormal that my brain had a hard time processing anything other than shock and revulsion.

Having studied the subject and spent some time with individuals who suffer from gender dysphoria, I have grown a lot. Not into a position of complete tolerance and acceptance, but into a view of compassion and love. These individuals—like all of us—need Jesus. They desperately feel trapped inside a biological body that does not feel right, and so they seek freedom and change. What they often don’t realize is that Jesus Christ is the only one who can bring true freedom and change.

Transgenderism is on the rise—which speaks volumes about our culture and our desire to please self rather than God. What was once considered strange or an abomination is now becoming normalized. We are living in a culture in which everything is permissible, and it is considered hateful (or sinful) to tell someone “no” or to point out that a particular behavior is wrong in the eyes of God. And thus, men rely on their own hearts to discern what is right and what is wrong. If we are going to win this battle we must stop looking upon transgender people in revulsion and start looking at them as lost souls.

The first step in our battle plan should be to reach out in love and welcome them to our worship services. Many of these individuals are hurt. They feel isolated and rejected. They are desperately seeking relationships. As Christians, we need to offer them the one relationship that can cure all their struggles.

Yes, this may take some “training” in our home congregations. We may even need to be reminded in sermons about what it means to truly love our neighbors. And it certainly will kick most people outside their normal comfort zones. But again, remember these people are hurting and lost. These are some of the very individuals Jesus would have ministered to during His time here on Earth. If we truly love them we will reach out and help them—not shake a finger and condemn.

The second frontline battle we must wage is in our own homes. Our children need to be taught clearly and plainly that God created males and females. (Yes, there are extremely rare cases in which individuals are born with both male and female anatomy, but those are mutations and not lifestyle choices.) Our children need to be warned that there are books out there teaching error. They need to know that the media often promotes immorality. Christian parents must teach their children God’s original plan and encourage them in that direction from a very young age.

The third battle we must consider is that those who are transgender are not rejecting us, but rather they are rejecting Jesus. When we disagree with a person’s lifestyle or what they are involved in we often take it personally when they argue or refuse to give it up. We get angry or offended. We shield our children’s eyes and talk negatively about them behind their backs. Friends, we must stop and realize that they are not rejecting or offending us—they are rejecting and offending Jesus Christ. The truth is all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and we are all in need of a savior! So stop taking it personally and think about their soul.

God created man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). He created us male and female (Genesis 1:27) and declared that it was very good (v. 31). God, in His infinite wisdom did not make these biological sexes interchangeable. Additionally, God created males and females to compliment each other so that we can become one flesh and have children (Genesis 1:28; 2:23-24). This was all by God’s design and is good. When someone rejects the biological sex God gave them, and His incredible blueprint for men and women, they are not rejecting us—they are rejecting God and His design. Remember when Jesus was asked about marriage He took the Pharisees all the way back to the Garden of Eden and pointed out God’s original plan (Matthew 19:4-6):

“And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’”

Andrew Walker, in his book God and the Transgender Debate, observed: “Don’t miss what Jesus is saying here:

1. We are created people.

2. We are created male or female.

3. A man is someone who is able to become one flesh—have full sexual intercourse—with a woman, and a woman is someone who is able to become one flesh with a man.

4. What God does people should not seek to undo. (pg 59).

By rejecting their biological sex that God gave them they are trying to assert their own authority over God—just like Adam and Eve in the garden. Ultimately, transgender individuals are rejecting Jesus.

Fourth we must establish that there are absolute truths—we need to reveal the overall foolishness of allowing anyone to “identify” as anything they so desire. There was a popular YouTube video that went viral several months ago that showed a relatively short white man telling college students that he was a 6’5” Chinese female. He clearly was not. But these students had been so indoctrinated with the idea that you can be anything you claim to be that many were okay with it.

Friends, there are things that are absolutely true. We get this in things like engineering and technology. Just because someone identifies a piece of cardboard as a bridge does not mean it will function as one and support the weight of an automobile. Likewise, just because someone declares an airplane tire an engine does not mean it will function in such a way to get you off the ground safely. Just because someone “identified” it as such does not make it so. (And I seriously doubt all those college students would want to fly in an airplane in which 3 out of 4 engines were actually tires that someone “identified” as engines.)

Our culture needs to be reminded that there are things that are absolutely true even if it goes against their opinions or hurts their feelings. John 8:31-33 says, “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” A few chapters later Jesus was praying and said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

The fifth battle we must wage is revealing that ALL of our hearts are impure—the question is will you give in to every impulse? The feelings of gender dysphoria are very real for some people. (Granted, there are many now who are simply following the crowd and seeking attention. However there are some who are truly distressed.) Their heart’s desire is for them to be different from their biological sex. They stay up at night in tears stressing over it. However, a quick scan across our culture reveals that many people are up at night struggling with things in their heart. For example, some struggle with alcohol or illegal drugs Others struggle with adultery or greed. For many the struggle is worldliness or gambling. The question is should we feed or act on those feelings just because the heart believes it will bring joy or happiness? Jeremiah recorded, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

We cannot rely on our own hearts to relieve pain and suffering or to bring about true joy and peace. Those can only be done through Him. We must admit that not every indulgence should be embraced. We should constantly be asking ourselves which desires are okay to fed and which desires should be starved. There are those who believe no desire should ever be starved, however ask them how they would feel if someone else’s desire was to rape them or molest their children. Certain behaviors and desires are wrong and should be starved.

People suffering from gender dysphoria believe having sexual reassignment surgery will “fix” their feelings of distress and sadness. But we should ask: How do you know what your heart is telling you will ultimately bring you joy and peace? Remind them that their own decisions in the past have led to heartache and problems. Ironically, research has shown that trying to change biological sex does not bring more happiness. Paul McHugh reported research in the Wall Street Journal that revealed people who undergo sex reassignment surgery do not, statistically, report higher levels of happiness (see Paul McHugh, 2016, “Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution,” WSJ online). We cannot rely on our own hearts to bring us joy and peace.

The sixth battle we must wage is who is the source for our authority? In this cultural debate Christians must realize that the two sides start at a different place when thinking about sex/gender. We need to first back up and realize the other side is coming at things from a totally different worldview. Their worldview has nothing to do with God. Therefore, they base all of their decisions on themselves. It’s the “Me, Myself, and I” mentality.

So we should engage them in a loving manner and ask: “Where do you get your standard for right and wrong if the only people you consult is yourself?” What happens when every person on the planet is their own source for authority or for right and wrong?! We must demonstrate the foolishness of this approach. We must help them realize what happens to communities and nations where people decide for themselves what is right and wrong. Lastly, we must show them there is a source that is trustworthy, demonstrates more compassion, and is all-knowing. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Seventh, we must remind our culture (and the news media) that hormones and surgery cannot change sex. Realistically the term transgender is inaccurate. You can’t change someone’s gender with a scalpel or pills. Men are born with XY chromosomes in our cells. Women are born with XX chromosomes in their cells. Men have reproductive systems and hormones that can be altered, but it does not change the fact that every cell still declares that person a male. In addition, there are secondary sex characteristics that reveal physical differences such as broader shoulders, increased height, deeper voice, larger Adam’s apple, and larger hands. Women are usually shorter in stature, have higher voices, smaller Adam’s apples, and have wider hips that God designed for childbirth. Anatomically speaking you can certainly make physical changes, but you can’t separate true gender from their biological sex.

Many of these individuals are miserable in their bodies. Christians need to remind them that the relief they so desperately are seeking will come with they are given a beautiful incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15). Help them to see that this world is temporary—like a vapor—but there is a time coming when every knee will bow and we will be judged.

While there are many other battles we must engage in, the eighth is over pronouns. Yes, proper names can be “gender-neutral,” but pronouns cannot be. If God created a little boy, that boy and his parents may choose to dress him like a female, but God made him a male. And for me to call that boy a “she” is actually going against God’s creation. Many companies are now making it mandatory for employees to refer to their coworkers by whatever they identify as. While this may seem like a small thing that Christians should just give up on, please understand that what they are doing is taking an area that was once black and white and making it a fuzzy shade of gray. God’s creation has a purpose. He is all wise and all knowing. For us to come along behind Him and try to verbally change part of His creation is pitting us against God. God’s Word does not sever sex from gender.

At last count Facebook had 51 different gender identities that people could select from to describe themselves. Words like “Cis,” “Non-binary,” “Intersex,” and “Genderqueer” are making their way into our vocabulary. I firmly believe this debate will only get bigger in the coming years.

The question is, will Christians sit back quietly as our culture redefines male and female the way they redefined marriage? Will we allow the opposition to paint us as unloving hate-mongers? Or will we reach out with a loving hand and offer these people what they really need—Jesus Christ