Two sexes, created to be distinct
The Bible shows sexual differentiation is not a light matter to God
During one of my summers as a college student—over 25 years ago now—I served as a counselor at a Christian camp. One of our responsibilities as counselor, besides keeping watch over a rowdy bunch of kids and teenagers and trying to teach them something about Jesus, was to come up with skits for the many large group gatherings during the week. Some of the skits were supposed to be serious, but most of them were supposed to make the campers laugh.
The camp director, an older man who has since gone to be with the Lord, told us there were two new rules we had to follow in putting together our brilliant sketch comedies. One, we couldn’t do anything so gross that some poor camper might get sick. Two, no crossdressing. The first rule was disappointing, but made sense. You don’t want to ruin a camper’s week by doing some nauseating food gag. But the second rule felt more inconvenient. After all, it was a staple of zany camp hijinks to have counselors dress up in outlandish outfits, especially men stuffing their shirts full to look like models of exaggerated femininity.
The director didn’t explain his rationale in great detail, and I don’t think it is always wrong for people to wear silly clothes in silly contexts. But I’ve often thought about the prescience in that older man’s wisdom. He knew that we were performing for puberty-throttled teenagers. Even in the late 1990s, he could see the potential confusion that a week of crossdressing skits might cause. Likely, no one would have been scared or led down a path of sexual deviance, but he figured why risk it? Why risk making teenagers feel (even more) insecure about their bodies? Why risk presenting drag—and I’m not sure we even knew the term at the time—as a fun, playful option for Christians? Maybe he was stricter than he needed to be. Or maybe he was ahead of his time.
Anyone with half an ear open to the news knows that we are living through a disturbing and disorienting cultural moment in which grown men and women don’t know (or pretend like they don’t know) the difference between men and women. Trans news is in the news every single day. Whether its Dylan Mulvaney drinking Bud Light, or J.K. Rowling getting pummeled online, or entertainers coming out as non-binary, or influencers lecturing their followers about preferred pronouns, or manly looking “women” taking the prize in women’s sports, or drag queens gyrating for little children, or politicians lauding the ghastly disfigurement known as “gender-affirming care,” we are awash in a world that refuses to believe that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Thankfully, while the pastoral and personal issues are complicated, the Biblical teaching on the trans issue is not. Deuteronomy 22:5 states matter-of-factly: “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” I know, citing a verse from Law of Moses can be fraught with difficulties. Why should we listen to this verse when just a few verses later God’s people are told not to sow with two kinds of seed (v. 9) and not to wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together (v. 11)?
For starters, Jesus said he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). So before we throw out any Old Testament command, we should be prepared to explain how Christ has fulfilled the command and transposed it to another key. Likewise, if the sacred writings are able to make us wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15), and if all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable (v. 16), then every part of the Old Testament has something to teach us about God’s will for our lives. This is especially true for prohibitions in the Old Testament that are not given as case law, or connected to the sacrificial system, or tied to ritual uncleanness. The fact that Deuteronomy 22:5 prohibits an “abomination” suggests that this command was about more than good agrarian common sense.
And actually, the laws about seed and cloth help us understand what the prohibition against crossdressing is really about. God’s concern is with confusion and mixture. Paul reinforces the point of Deuteronomy 22:5 in 1 Corinthians 11 when he teaches that it is shameful for a woman to appear as a man and for a man to appear as a woman. Sexual differentiation is not a light matter to God. One, because He means for us to reflect His image as male and female. And two, because He means for male and female to reflect Christ and the church.
God created mankind in general as a sexual binary, and he created each one of us as one or the other. When we attempt to conceal God’s design by dressing like men (as women) or by dressing like women (as men)—or, even worse, by seeking to alter our sexual anatomy as men and women—we not only reject God’s good plan for us, we undermine the order he has established for all humanity.
I’m not sure my camp director two decades ago saw all this, but we could sure use more of his spiritual instincts today. We know we now live in a mad, mad world when sanity itself begins to look suspect.
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