I recently read an article that sought to help the church understand how to respond to the recent news that Bruce Jenner considers himself a woman. I cannot even begin to tell you how much this article angered me. I don’t care that the author is misguided in his understanding of the feminist movement, I don’t care that he blames women’s liberation for men wanting to be women, I don’t care that he likens hurting oneself physically by cutting to wanting to transform gender, even though each of these arguments are dripping with illogical jumps and arbitrary evidence.
What upsets me is that he is writing on an influential Christian website so soon after the Diane Sawyer interview with Bruce Jenner. Yes, it’s the zeitgeist, and I understand how your website probably wants to tap into the page view potential, but it’s clear you are not seeing the people underneath the desires to change their gender. Unless they were familiar with RuPaul, it was almost an entirely faceless issue in culture for most Christians until Bruce Jenner had this conversation and became the figure-head, but in the church, it’s probably still faceless.
What I felt this article lacked was the compassion for the individuals struggling with gender identity. I’m not convinced you can explain it away by pointing to cultural phenomena. These are real people, real desires, and there is real confusion. And what’s more, we have a real enemy in the world, the flesh, and the devil who promises to kill, steal, and destroy, and whom we know is a liar.
What this highlighted for me was how timely Collin Hansen’s book, Blind Spots:Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church is. As I was reading, I caught myself wanting to commend this book to every discouraged Christian I have ever talked to. We all get discouraged when others don’t see eye to eye with us and the author helps break down the strengths and weaknesses of three different giftings. Before doing so he warns, “this is going to hurt.”
The three gifts the author identifies work almost like astrology signs once you see yourself in one of them. You may start to see the rest of the church in one of those three categories, and instead of thinking, you are a Gemini, you might think to yourself, he’s got compassion.
Here is a break down for you using the author’s words:
Compassion Maybe God has softened your heart with compassion for the broken, weak, and abused.
Courage: Or he has gifted you with great courage to stand with the truth.
Commission Or he has commissioned you with particular zeal and effectiveness to make disciples in all the nations.
After thinking about each of these gifts and the corresponding blind spots that come with them, I can hear every critical friend I have calling out a different kind of Christian in my head. Rarely do we support one another and appreciate each other for the unique ways they see the world and champion God’s truth. But it makes sense, because they are blind spots, after all. Now that we can recognize them, we can strive for the unity that ought to characterize the church that Paul talks about in Philippians. I can read an article by a man who has the courage to talk about transgender issues and how they affect the church, and instead of getting angry because I disagree with him, I can recognize that we are on the same side and both want to exalt God’s truth in a culture that will never understand it.
Hansen makes a similar point and warns his readers against blame shifting outside of the church. We are called to love others, but we so often do that while simultaneously blaming the politician, the dictator, the system, the police, or whatever manifestation we can find to amplify the injustice. Just like the apostle Paul, and the twentieth century author, G.K. Chesterton, two examples the author refers to, we need to look in the mirror before looking beyond: “When your compassion expresses itself in finger-pointing, you’re supposing your understanding of the world roughly corresponds to God’s.” So good luck with that.
The author is probably harder on himself as a self-identified courageous Christian than he is the others. You can probably read through this work in a few hours, but it will stay with you much longer. Reading this book was especially timely as the Baltimore riot updates crawl along the ticker and friends continue to name what they consider the problem. You really want to know what’s wrong with the Baltimore situation? I am. Once we recognize our blind spots, we can more readily work together with one another to achieve the unity we are called to. But first we need to look in the mirror and check behind us to see the full picture. If you are willing to be humbled, you are ready to read this book.
It was just released to the public last week, and you can buy it on Amazon here. I would like to thank Crossway for the advanced review copy and have decided to give it away to one lucky reader. All I ask is that you share this post on your favorite social network and leave a comment letting me know you did.
In the meantime, what do you think? Can you see yourself having one of these three gifts? Are you courageous, compassionat, or commissioned? Is this a helpful lens to view your faith through or do you think it has its own problems? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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