A teenage Christian girl working in a local coffee shop is told by one of her co-workers—a biological female—that she wants to be referred to as “they/them” pronouns. What does she do? She’s conflicted because she believes God creates every human being in the womb and determines whether they are male or female. She knows that is not something God has left in our hands to manipulate or rearrange according to our own preferences. At the same time, she has been taught all of her life to love her neighbor, and to be kind to others. If this girl wants to be referred to as “they/them,” should she buck against that and do damage to her witness to Christ? Should she risk this person hating Jesus and Christians simply to make her point that she disagrees?
This scenario is a real one. The LGBTQ+ revolution has swept through Western civilization, sweeping away people’s minds in the process. LGBTQ+ activists, through support from universities, entertainers, politicians, and the media have transformed the public’s opinions about what is good, beautiful, and true concerning sexuality and gender. The transgender movement is a perfect example. For all of human history, until the last few years, people understood gender in a very straightforward manner. There are men and there are women. People are born male and female. That’s it. There is the very small subset of people born with disorders and conditions in which they have both genitalia and/or a mixture of male and female chromosomes (0.018%). Everyone else is clearly born a male or a female.
That has shifted in recent years—at least in terms of the narrative. Now people can change their gender according to how they feel. Gender is fluid. A little research dug up an article citing 72 genders. Facebook at one time offered users 58 options to choose from when identifying their gender. Now they offer male, female, and custom. You can write in your customized gender. That perfectly captures the spirit of the age in which we live.
It is now common for people to place their preferred pronouns in their social media bios. At most public schools, teachers have to learn what pronouns each student wants to go by. Again, there are no brakes on this train. The number of potential pronoun options is legion. What should you do when classmates, co-workers, friends, or family ask you to call them by pronouns that do not correspond with their biological sex? Should Christians play nice and call people what they want to be called or should Christians be confrontational and call them by the pronouns that match their God-given gender?
I do not believe it is proper for Christians to call people by pronouns that do not correspond to their birth sex. Let me explain my answer.
First, the act of denying your birth gender and adopting the gender of your choice is rebellion against God. It is defiance. God has determined the life of each person and meticulously chosen whether they would be male or female. Our parents didn’t choose it, and we don’t choose it. God does. When we attempt to change that, we are attempting to play God. We are suppressing the truth of how God made us and choosing a life for ourselves. Christians cannot participate in this rebellion by placating to pronoun demands. In our efforts to be nice and sweet Christians, we affirm people in their rebellion against God. We cannot do this.
Second, one of the ways Christians can bear witness in a world growing more secular and godless by the day is to live by the truth. The Christian at the coffee shop may not be able to convince her co-worker to embrace her God-given pronouns, but she doesn’t have to participate in a lie. Rod Dreher wrote a book on this very thing entitled Live Not By Lies. In it Dreher outlines stories of Christians living under Soviet Communism after World War II. The Christians in these territories had no power or influence to change people’s thinking. But what they had the power to do was refuse to live by lies. They didn’t have to propagate or affirm lies. Christians living in a LGBTQ+ conquered civilization may not have the influence to turn people’s thinking about gender back to God. But what Christians can do is refuse to live by lies. If we call someone by a gender pronoun that denies who God made them to be, we are participating in the lie and heaping further judgment on them. Paul’s statement in Romans 1:32 captures the problem, “Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Christians can’t give approval to those who practice open rebellion against God.
Third, our response must not be rude or unnecessarily offensive. We can disagree with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). The Christian at the coffee shop doesn’t have to call the girl “they/them” or “he/him,” but she should be slow to unnecessarily offend. She shouldn’t walk around saying “she/her” in the girl’s face all day. Instead of offending or placating to the pronoun demands, use the person’s name. Avoid purposeful conflict.
In Romans 12:18, Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” This is such an important passage for Christians to reflect on in light of the culture we live in. We are to live at peace with everyone. The demands of conforming to people’s gender and pronoun preferences present us with challenges. Can we live at peace with them? Should we bow to their whims in order to live at peace? No. The key in that passage is: so far as it depends on you. You see, as Christians, we want to live at peace with everyone. But we cannot live by lies and embrace people’s rebellion against God in order to have that peace. When people make these demands, the peace no longer depends on us. That peace is disrupted by the people making demands of us. As Christians, we should desire to live at peace with God instead of embracing lies in order to live at peace with men.