Sermons can be an effective place to open safe ground for the exploration of culture and gender identity issues. Topical sermons can be developed from Genesis accounts of gendered creation, especially sensitive treatments of the Adam and Eve story as an expression of organic connection between male and female.
Matthew 19:12 is a starting place for a sermon on the topic of intersexuality, or the biological reality of individuals whose anatomical sex is not clearly differentiated. Jesus’ teachings regarding wholeness can always be powerful resources for pastoral preaching.A pastoral response to individuals with any form of gender dysphoria needs a strong foundation in a biblically based understanding of natural law and our creation by God as only two distinct genders, male and female.
There must be a holistic biblical understanding of both the gravity of sin’s effects and the message of redemption from sin. During personal interactions the pastor will understand that the child struggling with sexual identity is indeed dealing with a grave disorder, but he will also understand that the deepest need of such a boy or girl—as it is for every person—is to know that he or she is beloved by God. Jesus’ love and forgiveness are always one’s greatest needs. It is important that along with the pastor and counsellor, the parents talk to their child about their feelings and needs. When the parent comes alongside the child going through this chaos and confusion, they are effectively able to support the child experiencing an unpleasant arousal, thereby fulfilling an immediate response to the child’s need.
This restores the attachment cycle between the parent and the child, developing mutual trust and love. This love and support when shown by the entire church community also helps in healing and restoration of the sorrow, confusion, frustration and shame. Another method of pastoral care is through healthy discussion between pastor and the child. In this widely diverse culture, the church must not shy away from talking about and understanding different perspectives on matters of sexuality. It is important that pastors equip and train themselves not to ‘fix’ the situation as soon as possible, but be comfortable talking and discussing the child’s feelings and thoughts with an open and non-convicting fashion. While not celebrating non-biblical expressions of gender or sexuality, there may be healthier practices a pastor can use to help the child by showing compassion toward those exploring the faith. Yarhouse, in his book talks about how situations get complicated for some people if there is no family bathroom in the church (Yarhouse 158). Pastoral care for persons struggling with sexual identity does not begin with arguments about what is or is not moral.
Christian pastors are called to help an individual struggling with sexual identity to understand the biblical view of human sexuality and to distinguish between his or her feelings and actions based on those feelings. The persistent idea of loving the sinner even in the midst of specific sins is essential. More important for pastoral care, however, is the development of genuine Christian friendship based on the friendship model that Jesus practiced (Luke 7:34). Loving pastoral care for the individual involves providing a spiritually nurturing, encouraging, and accepting safe place to someone who may well have suffered from trauma, mockery, or bullying.
In accepting the struggling individual, a relationship of interpersonal trust develops. Within that relationship there will be opportunities for Christ’s love to be made known.