If we follow faithless spies, our children will become prey
Children at risk
Last week a family in Cincinnati had their teenage girl taken from them by the state. The parents lost custody because they refused to call their girl by a boy’s name and give her hormones to make her like a boy. That “treatment” was recommended by doctors from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, but the parents refused because of their religious convictions.
The judge who ordered this girl taken from her parents also ordered that she be given hormone treatment—but only if a second opinion from an unrelated psychologist agrees with the first opinion.
The irony is that two years ago Cincinnati passed an ordinance prohibiting “any treatment that aims to… convert an individual who identifies with a gender other than the gender assigned at birth to the originally assigned gender.” In other words, any psychologist attempting to help a girl with gender dysphoria embrace her biological, God-given sexuality is breaking the law. They are legally forbidden from offering a second opinion that disagrees with the first.
Of course, Christians are disturbed by this case, horrified at the idea of the state taking their own children away because they are raising them in the faith. Parental rights are eroding. Is there anything that can be done?
Fight for your children. (A good start might be pulling them out of public schools if you haven’t yet.)
Fight for the souls of those being led to destruction.
Fight for the faith and by faith.
All of these are biblical commands. How have we been doing so far?
The Cincinnati law was big news when it was being passed two years ago. It was called “Leelah’s law” after a boy named Joshua who committed suicide when his parents wouldn’t allow him to “transition” to being a girl called Leelah. It was described in the papers as a “ban on reparative therapy” for minors. Similar laws had been passed in a few other places, but Cincinnati was proud of being a “national leader in LGBT rights.”Sadly, most Christians in the area were unwilling to fight “Leelah’s law.” Like the Israelites, when the spies returned from the promised land and reported how big their enemies were, we got scared.
Sadly, most Christians in the area were unwilling to fight “Leelah’s law.” Like the Israelites, when the spies returned from the promised land and reported how big their enemies were, we got scared.
One reformed pastor in Cincinnati turned to Southern Seminary’s Al Mohler, asking publicly for guidance on how to proceed. The silence was deafening. Here was a man who had bravely spied out the land. He knew the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. He reported on them accurately. But he had no faith for the people of God to fight.
Another leader, Heath Lambert from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) had already publicly joined his voice to those opposing “reparative therapy.”
His paper was cited by a different reformed pastor in Cincinnati as the reason he would not oppose this law, going on to say that reparative therapy is “problematic.”
First they passed laws forbidding us from calling transgender teens to repentance and faith and we responded, “But we agree with you! Reparative therapy is bad!” Then they started taking kids away from faithful parents that called their teens to obey God.
Why is this shocking to us? What did we expect?First they passed laws forbidding us from calling transgender teens to repentance and faith and we responded, “But we agree with you! Reparative therapy is bad!” Then they started taking kids away from faithful parents that called their teens to obey God. What did we expect?
Throwing dust in the air
However, the only actual argument against the chapter has been that Mohler and Lambert just oppose a particular secular kind of therapy known as “Reparative Therapy” proper.
But the facts are clear: Christians in Cincinnati and elsewhere looked to these men for guidance concerning these laws, and we were discouraged from fighting.
What exactly did “reparative therapy” mean in the context of this law? The same thing it always means when the LGBT crowd are involved—”any treatment that aims” people towards truth in their sexuality. The laws do not target a particular therapy, and they do not distinguish between change sought by psychotherapy or sanctification.
Every recent horror story about how bad reparative therapy is has Christian counseling at its center. Why? Because the secular therapists have already quit. Therefore it is no “secular therapy” that is under attack.
The law’s primary aim was always to get Christians to stop addressing these sins. Remember “Leelah” who the law was named after? He was not given some particular sort of secular therapy. He was taken to “Christian therapists” and, in his own words, “I only got more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.”
This is what the papers called “reparative therapy for LGBT youth.”
If you believe that men wearing dresses and trying to grow breasts are doing something wrong and should be called to “look to God for help,” then you believe in what the whole world calls “reparative therapy” today.If you believe that men wearing dresses and trying to grow breasts are doing something wrong and should be called to “look to God for help,” then you believe in what the whole world calls “reparative therapy” today. It’s the only kind of reparative therapy left.
The law against it is a law seeking to silence Christian witness.
And this is what Christians, following Lambert and Mohler’s leadership, refused to oppose because it wasn’t a “gospel issue.”
Justifying retreat in the name of holiness
But perhaps that’s exactly what we should do. We are supposed to fight, sure, but we fight for the gospel, not side issues. When the chips are down, like the Apostle Paul, we only know Jesus Christ crucified. Nothing else matters.
So is this a gospel issue? Here are a few things the Cincinnati law says:
- “the Council hereby finds that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming”—a denial that some sins are sinful.
- “sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons”—a declaration that repentance is harmful.
- “it is the desire of the Council to prohibit within the geographic boundaries of the City of Cincinnati the use of sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts with minors”—its stated goal is to prevent calling minors to repentance.
The law is a direct attack on the gospel. It’s a denial of the hope of the power of the gospel to change lives that every Christian knows. After all, “such were some of us.”
So why didn’t Christians fight? We justified refusing to proclaim the gospel by saying we wanted to have a “gospel-centered ministry.” We abandoned the children of the city to wolves seeking to devour them, leading them into bondage to sexual sin. We were too scared to say that repentance would bring life, not death.
We thought about how we would be persecuted if we opposed the spirit of the age. We thought about the pastor in Canada, oppressed for standing up to a totalitarian state on the issue of sexuality. We worried about how our wives and children would suffer if we lost our jobs.
We decided our God wasn’t strong enough or we couldn’t trust Him. We decided not to fight.
We can dress it up in holiness, but in the end we were faithless like the Israelites.
Fear—a great way to lose a fight
Not all the Israelites were faithless, though. Joshua and Caleb had faith. They told the people to trust God and fight, and that God would bless them.
The people responded by deciding to stone them.
What exactly were the Israelites afraid of? Their own words are clear:
“Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:3).
They feared their own suffering, of course, along with the suffering of their wives and especially their children.
And isn’t this exactly what we fear?
But the consequences of refusing to fight were disastrous for the Israelites. God punished them, saying:
“Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. ‘But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.” (Numbers 14:31–33)
God’s punishment was that for the rest of their lives they would see their children suffering because of their own faithlessness concerning their children.
When we are faithless, we should not be surprised when God uses the very thing we fear to discipline us.
If you fear the suffering of your children, and that causes you to compromise, you should expect your children to suffer as a consequence of your sins.
Learning the wrong lessons
First the Israelites refused to fight. Then, when they heard what God was intending, they said “we have indeed sinned,” and decided they would fight after all. (Numbers 14:40).
The second decision was as disastrous as the first. Why? Because they were just as faithless in fighting as they were in refusing to fight. When they finally fought, “neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses left the camp” (Numbers 14:44) and they were struck down by their enemies.
If we now go out to fight—not by faith, but simply as a way to avoid God’s discipline—we can expect the same results.When we are faithless, we should not be surprised when God uses the very thing we fear to discipline us.
Today we as Christians have perfected our fear of man into various strategies that do not require us to trust God, resisting His leadership and discipline. I don’t have time to get into all the ways we do this, but think about (for example) the articles we like to share precisely because they don’t rely on Scripture but instead rely on the weapons the world has said will work (such as statistics and science). Think about whether we send our children to Christian schools so they can be taught faith in God, or because we find our security in money and want them to have better future job prospects.
Yet … like the Israelites, if we attempt to go up without the presence of God among us and without His law, we will be destroyed. Will He fight for us if we are grieving Him with our sin? Will He fight for us if we are ashamed of His word, the sword of the Spirit?
Fighting in our own strength, we shouldn’t be surprised when we lose. Every. Single. Time.
Is there hope?
Yes, but only for those who humble themselves under the Lord’s discipline. Of all the Israelite men alive at that time, only Joshua and Caleb entered the land. Those two men were not afraid. They were willing to live and fight by faith, and God rewarded them.
It is not too late for us to fight. We haven’t been given the command to stop advancing with the gospel.
In every culture there are sins considered so strong that nothing could possibly affect them. There are people considered so much in bondage that they can never be changed. There are strongholds manned by men with such power and authority that nobody dares to gainsay them.Sinners in bondage so great that nobody in our country thinks anything can change it—the transgender and homosexuals—those sinners will be set free. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”
In the days of Jesus, there was a man with demonic power who could not be bound, even by chains. In Africa, there are witchdoctors using demonic power to threaten people and keep them in darkness. In America, our doctors and judges are doing the same, by the same demonic authority.
And yet, the gospel will prevail. Sinners in bondage so great that nobody in our country thinks anything can change it—the transgender and homosexuals—those sinners will be set free. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)
That’s the good news. To fight is to proclaim that good news.
Do you believe it? Will you engage in that fight by faith?
Your children will thank you for it.
If you want to braced and encouraged at the prospect of fighting (not to mention finally convinced of the goodness of fighting), listen to Toby Sumpter’s sermon The Lord of Hosts: The virtue of conflict. You won’t regret it.