Additional Questions from February 12, 2017
"How to make real relationships"
Q – Is there a place in the body for transgendered people?
A – There is a place in the body of Christ for all people. The church itself is, of course, not a ‘gendered’ body; the word ‘body’ as it is used in the Bible is a metaphor for our understanding of the biblical teaching that we all have different roles and gifts and abilities, but we function together. Sometimes the language used of the church is masculine when it is being referred to as Christ’s body, sometimes it is feminine when it is being referred to as Christ’s bride. The point is not that the church is an actual body with a literal male or female gender, but that the church is like a body in that we all have a different way of fitting in to the one church, and each one of us has a part to play. Transgendered people, like all people, need grace from God and forgiveness for their sins, which is freely offered to them, as to all people, through faith in Jesus Christ. All people, including transgendered people, become a part of the body of Christ upon conversion – a part of the universal Church – and our local church is a reflection of that. All people, too, have room to grow spiritually, and have sin in their life which needs to be left behind, including transgendered people and all of the rest of us in the local body of Christ at Deer Park Church. Going further, as a church we believe that it is the teaching of the Bible that sex is reserved for marriage, and that marriage is designed for one man and one woman, and we apply that principle uniformly, including to a participant in our local church body who is transgender. Please feel free to contact me directly via the church office if you have any further questions.
Q - Can you think of a time in your life when you experienced deep disappointment with your church family relationships and you walked through it healthily?
A – There have been several times when I have been disappointed with relationships in my church family, even while realising that the disappointment I have faced is quite small compared to what some others have experienced. As I reflect back, I have handled it in different ways, and with different results. In one case, I felt that I was very much ‘in the right’ in what had happened, and I held on to that sentiment for a long time and it was quite unhealthy for me. I think in some ways it became an obstacle to me really forgiving the other party; even if I was ‘in the right’, I continued to do damage to my own heart because I could not let myself forgive until the other party acknowledged that I had been right and they had been wrong. That was a wrong way of handling things, and since then, I have not only had to forgive, but also to ask for forgiveness. In another case, I was hurt and disappointed with another person, and I didn’t see any fault on my own part (several years later I began to understand better how I had disappointed them too!), but I went to them and asked for forgiveness for anything I had done, and forgave them for anything they had done. It was so freeing for me. That is the attitude I recommend and aim for, and the one that the Bible teaches: “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32) Freedom from disappointment is only possible when we forgive with the kind of humility that Christ had, even suffering death on the cross.
Q - Can you be a Christian but not go to/belong to a church?
A – You sure can: saving faith is based on Jesus Christ and not on church attendance. But at the same time, the Bible clearly teaches us to “not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25) Being a part of a Church is not what saves us, but it is a normal part of Christian living. We need each other: you need the church, and we need you too! Missing church is not a sin; it is more like ‘missing out’, and even, over the long term it can be a symptom of “unhealthy” in a person’s spiritual journey and growth.
Q – In response to Sunday's first question about asking for forgiveness when there has been conflict in a relationship and "draining the tub"… What if they don't accept your apology and don't forgive you? What should our response be?
A – We should expect that at least some of the time people will not accept our apology and will not forgive us. The guiding principle in a difficult situation like that would be Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Sometimes it is not possible to live at peace, because it takes two sides to be at peace, and all you can do is really control your own side. There are three responses you can make: First, you can apologise for your part, as you have already mentioned, and sometimes you can even apologise to a certain extent for the things that the other party thinks you have done, but you have not done, or not done intentionally. Second, you can decide to forgive them, even though they have not apologised, or even acknowledged that they have done something wrong. That is sometimes the most difficult step. Third, I think that it is wise to set up healthy boundaries in the relationship to protect yourself and your family. Sometimes a trusted Christian brother or sister can help you see better where you might set those boundaries. You don’t have to withdraw completely, but you can take a step back and decide how far you will give of yourself on a go-forward basis.
Q – You talked about how we are all a part of the body and everyone has their role/function. What is our response if we feel someone is not in the right role or living up to the expectations of the role?
A – Good question! And practical. This situation arises a lot. If the person is endangering the Gospel message or someone entrusted to his or her care, then we need to step in right away and intervene. Sometimes, however, it can come to light over the long term that a person is just not a good fit in a particular role. That is a very delicate situation, and ultimately it requires a loving conversation that is clear, but presents good options for future ministry. It is also a conversation that genuinely needs to be had both for the sake of the ministry and the person in the ministry role. If I can, I always try to have as many ‘yes’ statements or ideas prepared as I can if I am going into a conversation where I have to say a big ‘no’. Also, I make sure that there is no animosity in me toward the other person, but just real love and a desire to see them fit in better in a way that will suit them and build up the body over the long haul. It’s far better to be clear and gentle than passive aggressive.