Surely, what the world needs right now is yet another article talking about Bruce Jenner’s decision to begin identifying as a woman. Well, fear not, because this post really isn’t about the Vanity Fair unveiling of “Caitlyn” at all. In fact, I’d rather not talk about it–and that actually is what this article is about.
By now pretty nearly everyone on the planet knows about the former Olympian’s announcement that he is a woman, complete with hormone treatment and eventual surgery. The story is dramatic, it is tragic, and it is almost certainly none of your business.
With a sensational, controversial issue like this, the temptation to jump into the discussion and offer one’s own two cents is almost overpowering. And certainly, if someone asks for a biblical perspective on transexuality, we should be prepared to give them a good answer. But if you feel the urge to share your opinion about Bruce Jenner, it’s worth pausing to ask yourself why. I Timothy has a searching warning for those who “go around from house to house… gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention” (5:13). Are your words going to do someone some good, or are they just an expression of that driving American need to be part of the story, if only by talking about it?
Jenner is a professing Christian who attends a non-denominational church in California, which means he and his choices are the responsibility of whoever is in a position of religious authority over him. (Paul talks about the role and responsibilities of elders in the church in I Timothy 3:1-7, 5:17-22, and Titus 1:5-9.) Ultimately, Jenner’s decisions are the business of the entire body of believers to which he belongs (I Corinthians 5). But you and I who feel the urge to opine on Facebook? What gives us that responsibility, or even that right?
When Jesus described the process of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-17, he emphasized the need for discretion. First you approach your fellow believer alone, then with two or three others, and only then, if he will not listen to you, should you bring the issue before the whole local church. If Jesus expects us to be so restrained in raising concerns about members of our own churches, where our intervention can actually do some good, shouldn’t we be even more reluctant to trumpet our moral assessments of people we don’t even know? Even when the judgment is obvious, it is all too easy to slip into gossip or condemnation without love. “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
My point is not that we should completely avoid discussing a news story that we can hardly ignore. Perhaps fruitful conversations can spring from a sad and perverse story. But we should weigh our comments and ask ourselves where they are coming from. Until we’ve purged every bit of the Pharisee who prays, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people” (Luke 18:9-14), we need to keep our mouths shut. Until we feel our Father’s heart breaking for a lost sheep torn apart in body and soul, we need to keep our mouths shut. And unless we know precisely what good we hope to accomplish by what we say, we need to keep our mouths shut.
Before we say anything at all about a broken, desperate man who seems to have no one who can extend a truly loving and helping hand, we ought to meditate on Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”