What comes to your mind when you hear the word gender? I’m not a prophet, but I’m confident that an absurdly large number of topics come to mind, ranging from traditional 1950s-era “gender roles” (with the housewife in the kitchen and the male breadwinner) to gender dysphoria and contemporary gender fluidity. Similarly, what feelings come to your heart when you hear the word gender? While I’m still no prophet, I have a good hunch that I’m two for two now. I imagine an equally bewildering range of emotions come about. But no matter what you think about gender, fear and anxiety likely top the list. Everyone in today’s world is on an inward quest for personal psychological happiness and this often centers on our gender—causing deep levels of internal turmoil.
If you are a Christian (or not!), these widely diverging views on gender likely cause concern. They cause anxiety. They cause fear. There is a sense in which traditional cultural norms have been destroyed in the wake of the sexual revolution and those who desire to rebut the shifting cultural ground seek shelter. Typical Christian parents do not want their children in bathrooms or locker rooms with people of the opposite biological sex, no matter how they identify themselves. Nor do they want their children indoctrinated by Drag Queen hour at school. So, a reactionary fear rears its head.
But Christians ought not fear. As the Apostle John commands us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a). John’s claim here is universal in scope. There is no place for perpetual fear in the Christian life. The Apostle Paul similarly teaches us, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5b).
This leads me to what should come to our mind when we think about gender and what feelings should come to our hearts when we think about gender. I think both our thoughts and our affections should center in the same virtue: Love. Thus, gender is most fundamentally about love. This is what should permeate our thoughts on gender. When we think about gender we shouldn’t be worried, concerned, anxious, nervous, perplexed, or aggressive. When we think about gender we should be careful, patient, hopeful, joyful, gentle, kind, and self-controlled.
But it is not just our own intellectual and volitional responses to gender that are about love but gender itself.