by Tim Wade
This is part 2. You can read part 1 here
I had mentioned yesterday that the state of Massachusetts issued a memorandum providing guidance concerning the implementation of An Act Relative to Gender Identity. I spoke about how this only encourages confusion for the students, and briefly laid out a response. In part 2 I want to talk specifically about the three groups of Christians who will be on the front lines of the discussion: Teachers, Parents, and Students.
Having spent 6 years teaching in a public school, I understand the difficulties inherent within the profession. Fortunately, I was never forced to teach any content or act in any way that violated my religious convictions, but I do understand the precarious situation in which teachers in Massachusetts now find themselves. For many, their jobs may be at stake if they do not comply with the new laws; and it may not be as simple as relocating to find a new job or finding work in a different profession. I do sympathize with these teachers. They are in desperate need of our prayers and encouragement. However, their responsibility as educator and role model demands that they speak truth to students and demonstrate truth in their actions. This means that a teacher cannot in good conscience enforce these new rules.
This does not necessarily mean that a teacher need sacrifice their job for their moral convictions. Christian educators should explain very carefully their position to administrators and respectfully request that they not be put in a position, be it coaching, monitoring restrooms, or explaining the rationale for the rules to students, where their convictions would be compromised. The teacher may even volunteer for extra duties in exchange for an exemption to these obligations. For sure, there are some that will call for teachers to resign or condemn them for remaining in a school in which these rules are in place, I am not of that persuasion. I understand firsthand that the children of teachers must eat too, and that there are ways to respectfully take a stand that does not compromise one’s integrity or faith.
Parents face an equally difficult decision. For many, the response will simply be to remove their children from the public school setting and place them in a private school or home school their children. While both are fine options, they simply may not be possible or preferable for many parents. In fact, I would urge parents in Massachusetts and elsewhere to resist taking part in an exodus from the arena of public schools. There may come a time for that, but I do not believe that we have reached that point. Instead, parents should talk to administrators and teachers to ensure that their students will never be put in a compromising situation. If that cannot be guaranteed, then the parent needs to consider options for removing their student from the school for the sake of their safety and their own conscience. However, administrators should be willing to listen to plans which might include allowing students to use individual facilities or allowing them to use facilities at a different time than other students. These different accommodations may mark students out for harassment themselves, but it is none the less a visible demonstration of their commitment to the principles of God’s word.
Along with these actions, parents must be faithful to teach their children the truth of God’s word as it relates to gender identity. Parents should encourage their children to remain faithful at school and explain to them that the harassment they face now because of their stand against worldly trends will serve them well in later years. Of course, parents must also gauge to what extent their children’s hearts are being affected by the teaching they are receiving in school and be ready to take whatever steps necessary to protect the hearts of their children if they are being turned away from God’s word.
It is our children who will face the most difficult day to day choices. For it is they who will either stand firm on the foundation of God’s word or wither under the pressure of worldly trends. Every day will be a battle. Students will be tempted to either cruelly ridicule their peers who seem to express gender confusion, or indulge in perverse thoughts of their own. Either response is unacceptable. While the endless possibilities of this law may be tantalizing, especially for young men, they must quickly recognize the ploys of the enemy and steel their resolve to maintain the covenant of Job with their eyes. Students should memorize scripture and develop accountability relationships with their classmates in order to stand firm in opposition to the new rules, even if it means facing ridicule from peers or teachers.
Opposition though, just for the sake of opposition does not win the lost to Christ. Therefore, while students must stand firm on their convictions, they must also be ready to befriend those students who express confusion over their gender. They must explain carefully that their opposition is not directed at them in a hateful manner, but is instead consistent with the teaching of scripture.
The task remains to come alongside teachers, parents, and students. Support them with prayer and encouragement drawn from scripture in the midst of difficult times. If a family desperately wants to enroll their student in a private school because their public school will not accommodate them, the church should assist them. If a teacher loses their job because their convictions will not allow them to enforce these new and egregious rules, the church should make sure their family is fed. As a body, we must rally behind our members who are on the front lines of a growing cultural battle. However, we must resist the mentality that calls us to trench warfare.
Christ prayed before his crucifixion specifically that God would not remove his disciples from the world, but that they would be protected from the evil one. This should be our prayer also. We should not be so quick to insulate ourselves from the world unless the safety and integrity of our children demands it. We must recognize that if we retreat from the public sphere, in schools or otherwise, that we are ceding that territory to the enemy. Our time spent in that sphere should be gospel focused. We are to love recklessly and evangelize zealously while maintaining our commitment to the word of God. If we cannot do that, then perhaps we should retreat, because time spent behind enemy lines is far too risky otherwise.
Tim Wade is an Associate Pastor with Ferguson Avenue Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia. He and Lauren, his wife of 5 years, have one child, Lydia Lucille Wade.
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