Several people have asked me lately if LGBTQ1 issues, including President Obama’s recent order mandating transgender access to bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools, should be considered “life issues.” It’s a great question because it has to do with mission focus and effectiveness.
I’d suggest that the short answer to this important question is both a qualified and an unqualified “yes.”
It’s a qualified “yes” because LGBTQ issues typically do not involve the focal point of life ministries: situations in which judicially innocent, defenseless persons are threatened with imminent forced death. A prime example of this focal point is the unborn in peril of abortion.2 Nonetheless, LGBTQ issues (like heterosexual sins)3 are part of the organic nature of sin as an intricate web of beliefs and behaviors that can spring from, and in turn can give rise to, situations in which defenseless people are placed under deadly threat. “God’s standards of human sexuality are treated in Scripture as the most important of all rules for relations among people.”4 So heterosexual and LGBTQ issues both have a huge impact on other “standard” life-affirming topics like relationships, sex, infertility, pregnancy, adoption, abortion, parenting, foster care, and more.
A second and unqualified reason for this “yes” is that LGBTQ advocates often confuse or assault, albeit sometimes without malice or intention, the cornerstone life-arena concept of Imago Dei (“Image of God” derived from Scriptures like Genesis 1:27). Among other things, the Christian concept of Imago Dei reminds us that all human beings possess intrinsic, divinely declared value because we are created by God in His likeness.5
To attack or attempt to displace Imago Dei as the foundation of human identity and value with, say, gender identity or sexual orientation, opens the door to more varieties of sin and misery than can be listed in a blog like this. A hint of what’s on the other side of that door is the comparable misery that results when our culture says (at least by its policies and practices) that a person’s value equals what he or she can produce. By supplanting Imago Dei with this utilitarian view of human value, we can easily justify killing those who produce very little or who cost us too much, such as unneeded embryos left over from fertility procedures, the “unwanted” unborn, and those whom the culture may call the “time-and-resource-draining elderly and disabled.”
A third and unqualified reason for this “yes” is the gospel. I actually don’t mean “gospel” in the sense that I almost always talk about it – as the Spirit-fired springboard of joy in the heart of a repentant sinner who champions life out of gratitude for being rescued by God in Christ. Instead, I mean the Christian gospel as that which expresses God’s intention for total human flourishing.
For example, in the gospel, through a person’s repentance and faith, God’s Spirit redeems the whole person – body, mind, and soul. Among other things, He then desires to live through these wholly redeemed people to wholly redeem the world. This means that God in His gospel declares His intention to redeem everything, including every aspect of human endeavor: environmental management, family systems, educational theories, friendships, scientific inquiry, artistic endeavors, sexual beliefs and behavior, farming practices, business systems, governmental structures, and more.
It’s the overlap of this gospel-desire of God with the other ideas cited above (inclusion in the “intricate web” and the Imago Dei) that forms a starting point for champions of life to equip their church to respond with grace and truth to LGBTQ issues. For some very practical help on HOW to handle LGBTQ issues, please watch the video of my 2016 CFL Life Summit workshop “How to Handle Hot Topics.” Also, let us help you build a gospel-driven Life Team in your church that can carefully and consistently equip your church to engage these and other tough life-arena issues. Click here for more information.
1 LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Queer/Questioning.
2 For those familiar with our Life Team 101 training, LGBTQ issues would fall somewhere in the third or second ring out, and not in the bull’s eye of our famous Target Diagram. And we always coach folks to equip their churches to rescue people in those kinds of dire situations first.
3 For example, it’s easy to see that heterosexual promiscuity often leads to crisis pregnancies, which often lead to abortions, which often lead to suicidal tendencies if left unexposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s proper for a life-affirming ministry to address any topic in that chain.
4 An Introduction to Biblical Ethics by Robertson McQuilkin, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989, p. 192.
5 This is a little bit like saying that every Van Gogh painting is extremely valuable simply because it was painted by, well, Van Gogh. It’s Van Gogh’s prestige that gives the painting value. Any attack on Van Gogh’s authorship of the painting will erode the perceived value of the painting. If it’s a Van Gogh, it’s treated with utmost respect and care. But if it’s a no-name painting, then it’s much easier to throw it around or mistreat it. Art curators take this kind of thing very seriously – for good reason. As life-affirming people, we equip others to be “art curators” of God’s most magnificent artworks – human beings. By teaching others about Imago Dei, we teach them to value life and treat all people with utmost respect and care. There is much more that can be said about Imago Dei and its implications. This article by John Piper entitled “The Image of God – An Approach from Biblical and Systematic Theology” is a good primer on the topic. The conversation in this blog has been abbreviated only for the sake of simplicity, time, and space.