Loving Bruce

Recently, the internet as been abuzz with the latest story of Olympic gold medalist and all-American athlete Bruce Jenner. Jenner, world-renown for his domination of the Olympic decathlon in 1976, became an American hero and a household name in the last few decades of the twentieth century. He became known as the face and personality for Wheaties brand cereal, “the breakfast of champions.”

In his recent interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC’s “prime time news magazine,” 20/20, Bruce revealed a dark secret that he says he has been hiding all of his life. He admitted to a lifelong struggle with gender identity. Although he had lived the last sixty-five years of his life as the epitome of masculinity, he felt that he had lived sixty-five years of deception. He had finally decided to end the struggle and begin adopting a female identity (which actually began in the mid-80s with female hormone treatments), and he was ready to make it public. 

Bruce is in a growing number of people who consider themselves “transgender,” a term that basically means that they don’t fit the gender they have been “assigned to,” whether through divine providence or through medical intervention. The transgender concept is more technical than this, but this definition covers the basics.

As can be imagined, his announcement has triggered a wide variety of responses from the public ranging from sarcasm and rage to sentimental tears of identification. All over the world there are people who are trapped in struggles similar to Bruce’s. They range from gender identity to sexual orientation and beyond. And the issues aren’t just a simple matter that can be fixed by saying a prayer or walking an aisle. These are serious issues that are wrapped up with the people’s identity and existence — seemingly their very soul, according to Bruce. How should believers respond to these realities? Let’s explore three responses that are already commonly seen in regard to the most publicly exploited sexual issue: homosexuality.

Typical Responses

The first is the self-defense response that lashes out against such individuals. We can see a prime example in hate groups such as Westboro Baptist Church (www.godhatesfags.com — Yes, the same church that says God hates both Jews and Israel, and pretty much everyone else in the world). Their voices are heard around the globe shouting, “God hates _________.” Just fill in the blank with your favorite religious, ethnic, or morally confused people group. Hate, however, is not the option for children of God.

The next response is acceptance. Acceptance is quickly becoming the trend within the church. There are actually two sides of this coin. The first side believes that things like homosexuality is a sin, but homosexual behavior shouldn’t be singled out as anything greater than pride or anger. Homosexuals engaged in homosexual behavior are covered under the blood of Jesus just like the rest of us. In response to the interview with Bruce Jenner, one pastor wrote, “I believe the Bible is clear; Homosexuality is a sin. But so are about 30 different things I did today. That means we all need the Savior. We all need the sinless one to our rescue.”1

The second variation of this response is that homosexual relationships should be accepted within the body of Messiah because everyone needs love and companionship. Therefore, we should view the heterosexual standard in the Bible as a suggestion, rather than an absolute standard. We should accept same-sex marriage and embrace homosexual couples as brothers and sisters in Christ and co-laborers for the Kingdom. This perspective is based on the claim that God is love, therefore He can love them just as they are, without any necessary modifications. It stems from the confusion between God and His love. We are quick to point out that God is love. But we fail to remember that not all love is God. Acceptance is not the option for children of God.

A Third Response

The third response, however, is one that tends to get swept under the rug. It is a response that neither slanders nor blindly embraces the lifestyle of those trapped within the clutches of the enemy. This should be the path of every believer. We cannot use the Scriptures as a means to back up our prejudices, nor to accept sinful behavior and lifestyles as part of a person’s “identity.” When the God of the Universe calls people out of the darkness and into His light, they are transformed. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). When the LORD delivered the Children of Israel from the hand of the Egyptians, he reminded them of their new identity and how they were redeemed not just to be set loose into the world, but to be distinct among the peoples of the earth:

Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:3–6)

The Creator commissions them to be holy as a reflection of His character on earth, saying, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). D. T. Lancaster reminds us of the seriousness of this commission:

The Torah says that when a religious person conducts himself without integrity, he profanes the name of God. The word profane is the opposite of the word holy. Holy means “set apart.” Profane means “common and ordinary.” When a religious person conducts himself no differently than the common, ordinary people around him, he makes God look common and ordinary too.2

The Struggle

Let’s face it. Everyone struggles with sin. We have not entered into a time when humanity is free from temptation. It’s a constant struggle to battle against our fleshly desires and beat them into submission (1 Corinthians 9:27). Bruce, who calls himself a Christian, said he was tired of the struggle, tired of feeling like a hypocrite, tired of living a lie. People in this situation misunderstand hypocrisy because of how the world has redefined it. Although the world is quick to point out hypocrisy among the religious, it defines self-hypocrisy in a different manner. The world defines self-hypocrisy as one who has internal struggles, and therefore feels like he (or she) can’t live up to other people’s expectations. Bruce felt like a hypocrite, not because he had a high moral standard and failed to live up to it, but because he was “not being honest” about his struggles. But this isn’t how the Bible defines it. The Bible never defines one who is seriously struggling to overcome as a hypocrite. The Bible defines hypocrisy as appearing to be living according to God’s standards, but secretly living in a way that is in opposition to them. Yeshua castigated many of the Pharisees — the ones in whom he had the most hope — for their hypocrisy. He needed them to be strong leaders to a generation that was disillusioned and had lost hope. Instead, he found their hypocrisy to be a stumbling block to his message of repentance. They knew the truth and taught it to others, but they failed to live what they taught.

Unfortunately, we don’t teach such things, because we believe that God is not like that anymore. He has “evolved” into a more docile and loving deity who has learned to tolerate sin simply because He can’t see it. The only thing He sees is the blood of His Son that covers each and every person who has made a confession of faith, repeated a sinner’s prayer, or assented to something abstract about the death and resurrection of Jesus and his vicarious atonement. In other words, the precious and costly blood of the Messiah has become a cloaking device for our sins and a perfume for our filth. Rather than continue with the struggle against sin, we justify it. When we cease to struggle, however, we have lost the battle. The true hypocrisy of Bruce is that he calls himself by the name of our Lord, yet has chosen to end the struggle and give in to it.

Created in the Image of Man

Whether we realize it or not, the adversary is a professional deceiver. In the Garden he approached Eve and asked her, “Did God really say...?” He continues to ask followers of Yeshua the same question: “Did God really say that this is wrong?” The Enemy also baited Eve by telling her that if she ate of the fruit, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). There are three components of this promise from the serpent:

  1. Your eyes will be opened
  2. You will be like God
  3. You will discern good from evil

These are the same three things that are being taught from many of our pulpits today in the hyper-grace charismatic movement. First, we are being told that our eyes will be opened to hear God’s voice, understand prophecy, end times, etc., when we follow a particular ministry. We will become like the prophets of old with divine revelation guiding our every step. Second, rather than claiming that we will be like God, this movement essentially teaches that God has become like us. His attribute of holiness is no more. He is apathetic to the disobedience and sin of His children, and He would rather make sure we are happy than burden us with any kind of guidelines for living a holy, godly life. Last, we are told that we have the ability to discern good from evil apart from any authoritative input from the Scriptures, because the Spirit living inside us is much more accurate than “a bunch of letters from two thousand years ago.”3

So, we see how this hyper-grace is pleasing to our flesh—it covers up the stains of sin that mire our lives. We see how we will become wise through accepting this theology, knowing the will of God, the heart of God, the freedom of unbounded love. So we accept it, releasing ourselves from personal responsibility, and then offer it to others so that we won’t feel guilty that someone else maintains moral and spiritual integrity. This is exactly what Eve did in the Garden:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

Our churches have been headed down this path for a number of years. Is it any wonder that we are in the predicament that we are? We are living in days where both God and love are being redefined. According to mainstream Christianity, there is a growing chasm between the God who is righteous and just and the God who is loving and compassionate. If God is love, then surely He can’t condemn anyone for sin. Victoria Osteen, wife of mega-church pastor Joel Osteen, says that we should not worship God because He wants us to, but that we should worship Him for ourselves. While this doesn’t sound too extreme, this statement reveals a core belief through which she views God. She, along with many others, have fallen into the trap of believing that God’s greatest desire is for us to be happy (please see below for more details). Therefore, if things do not make us happy, they must not be from God. Because becoming a female will evidently make Bruce Jenner happy, we have to assume that God is directing Bruce towards his goal. Unfortunately, to many Christians,— even many pastors and teachers — Bruce Jenner has now truly become a hero simply because of his pursuit of happiness.

The modern hyper-grace movement is really nothing more than sanctified Hedonism, or a type of Neo-Gnosticism, in which the physical body and our physical existence are viewed as being hopelessly enslaved to sin. According to this philosophy, the only thing that frees us from our chronic captivity is death or the “rapture.” This philosophy is supported by the foundational belief that God’s greatest desire is for us to be happy. But this is a very faulty, egocentric premise. God’s greatest desire is not for individuals to be “happy,” but that His kingship would be established over the entire world and all of humanity would live according to His ways.

Good News?

The same pastor who excused homosexuality and compared it to his daily sins also said, “And you can enjoy His extravagant love even right after you fall into your extravagant sin. Because this really is the Good News.”  But this is NOT the Good News. This is an adulteration of it and part of the root issue that has began crippling the body of Messiah in our stances against moral issues. We have to remember, however, that the Good News isn’t truly good if we remain held hostage by the enemy. The original, authentic Good News that Yeshua and the Apostles taught begins with “Repent!” The Good News lets us know that, through bowing to the King of Kings, we can be RELEASED from our sins, not just forgiven. Redemption is about the transfer of a soul from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light. We are called to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). Just a few verses later Paul reminds us of our former selves and how our transformation should be evident by our continuing to walk in holiness, being blameless and above reproach:

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21–23)

Can the pro-LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) movement claim these characteristics? The prophet Isaiah dealt with a very similar situation in his time in which the Israelites were only interested in self-pleasure and not desiring God’s rule:

And now, go, write it before them on a tablet

and inscribe it in a book,

that it may be for the time to come

as a witness forever.

For they are a rebellious people,

lying children,

children unwilling to hear

the instruction of the Lord;

who say to the seers, “Do not see,”

and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right;

speak to us smooth things,

prophesy illusions,

leave the way, turn aside from the path,

let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”

(Isaiah 30:8–11)

Make no mistake: Although there are hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors out there like this one who do not claim to be super-spiritual and justify their sins, there is still no justification for this type of theology or lifestyle. They are living a much more hypocritical life than the Pharisees, in that they claim to know both God’s grace and His unbounded love. If that’s the case, then this grace and unbounded love should be transformative. We should no longer be “sinners saved by grace” (a totally unbiblical catch-phrase that totally undermines God’s plan for and identity of His children), but rather a new creation, free from the entanglements of sin. 

Yeshua’s Good News was (and is), “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” However, you will never hear this from the pulpits of our “grace-driven” churches, because we can’t comprehend Yeshua’s gospel, and therefore feel it too much akin to the vile, self-righteous, verbal bludgeoning of the Westboro sympathizers. Our good news is propitiation, justification, forgiveness and grace. We can’t wrap our minds around the fact that repentance is really and truly “good news,” because we’ve been sold a cheap imitation for the gospel and our familiarity and affinity with the counterfeit causes us to reject the genuine artifact. Mark Twain is quoted as saying that it is much easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled. This is definitely the case when it comes to spiritual matters, and misunderstanding the gospel message is at the core of many deceptions within the body of Messiah.

Final Assessment

Does God love Bruce any less than a “normal” person? No. Should followers of Yeshua treat him and others like him with any less respect than the next human being? No. At the very least, we should feel pained for people, like Bruce, who have to deal with these issues. As followers of Yeshua, however, we have to rise above the wisdom and philosophies of the world. We have to be a people who are set-apart, unlike those of the world around us. When we lower God’s righteous standard and adopt an attitude of acceptance toward what the Scriptures clearly define as unacceptable, then we have brought God down to our own level. We have stripped him of His holiness and desanctified Him in front of the entire world. He has ceased to become God and has become merely an overseer or passive observer of humanity. He no longer has the authority to make the rules and define the terms. We have stripped that power from Him and set ourselves upon His throne. We don’t have to trade truth for love. They should go hand in hand. Does Bruce need love? Yes. Has Bruce fallen for a lie? Yes. Should followers of Yeshua work to expose these lies and help people like Bruce fight tooth and nail against their natural desires? Yes. The moment we resign to our flesh, we have lost the battle and brought shame to our Redeemer. Let’s work to bring the truth in love to a world that is lost and confused, rather than assimilating into its values. Let’s uphold His instructions with pride, rather than shaming His name by stripping away the authority of the Scriptures. Let’s be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Let’s pray for Bruce and others like him. To the Father be the glory.

  • 1. http://www.happysonship.com/how-god-made-bruce-jenner/
  • 2. D. Thomas Lancaster, Unrolling the Scroll, ed. D. Thomas Lancaster Boaz Michael, Sethe Dralle, 6 vols., Unrolling the Scroll, vol. 3 (Marshfield, MO: First Fruits of Zion, 2014), 508-509.
  • 3. A quote from Rob Bell in an interview regarding the acceptance of homosexual relationships among Christians.