Recently Franklin Graham issued a call for Christians to let the shopping store giant Target know that they are not pleased with Targets move to make the presentation of some items in their stores gender neutral. Reverend Graham’s concern is that such a move disregards the biblical teaching that God made humanity as male and female and that this is one more step in political correctness run amok as it tramples biblical truth.
As I understand it what Target has said is that some items will no longer be separated into boys sections and girls sections. Notably the examples given were things like bedding and toys. So it seems that My Little Pony and Hello Kitty bedspreads and pillow covers will be sold right alongside Transformer and Guardians of the Galaxy sets. The sign on the aisle will say, children’s bedding or something similar and not Boys Bedding and Girls Bedding. In the toy section there will be Tonka Trucks next to Malibu Barbie’s Corvette Convertible and the sign will not say Boys Vehicles and Girls Vehicles but simply Vehicles. The result being if a girl wants to play with the latest yellow bulldozer and a boy wants a cool looking convertible they don’t have to walk down an aisle clearly not meant for them.
Help me out here but how does this violate the biblical teaching of male and female? What Reverend Graham seems to be missing, along with massive numbers of people who have jumped on the bandwagon is that much of what we consider to be biblical teaching on gender is nothing more than long-established cultural practices without any biblical warrant. Nowhere in the Bible does it make blue a boys color and pink a girls color and warn that if you mix that up you are denying God’s created order.
Are there issues related to gender that the culture is pushing that do violate God’s created order? Absolutely. The whole sex change industry is a case in point. Are there people who support that position who will applaud Target’s move? Certainly. But that does not make Target’s announcement a violation of biblical principles and does not make them a legitimate target, no pun intended, for verbal attacks and boycotting of their business by Christians.
There are a few things that this kind of campaign by Christians accomplishes. The least damaging is that people outside the faith see one more set of angry Christians making a big deal out of something that is a complete non-issue for them and as a result they further tune out what Christians have to say. At worse they get their hackles up over what they perceive to be another example of unwarranted judgmentalism on the part of Christians and it serves to confirm their revulsion for all things biblical. Additionally this teaches Christians that the way to change the world is by confrontation, boycott, petitions, and angry speeches. If there is anything in all this that is not biblical it would be that.
Jesus made it clear that we change the world through the power of the Gospel as we fulfill the Great Commission and through the power of loving God and neighbor, even enemies, as we fulfill the Great Commandment. Separating from the world was never an option. Berating the world is also not an option. Paul makes that clear in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 when he said to separate ourselves from immoral people, meaning those in the church who refuse to repent not the people of the world. He says the only way to separate from immoral people in the world would be to leave the world all together. That is clearly not an option. Rather we are to be about the ministry of reconciliation bringing the Gospel to a dying world. We are to get closer to them, not further away. We should expect them to behave like the world for they are of the world.
We must never forget that Jesus was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton by the religious separatists. He was accused of this because He got close to and hung out with and loved them. Rather than not shopping at Target, I am fairly certain that Jesus would shop there regularly. He would sit in the coffee shop and chat with people, ask them questions about what they are buying and offering them eternal life in the process.
Does this mean we never let the world know what is right and wrong, that loving people means accepting everything as good and wonderful? Of course not. Biblical love also involves speaking the truth but it is speaking it in a loving way, not a judgmental, “I am better than you kind of way”. It also means focusing on the big picture and what really matters. How boys and girls pillow cases and toys are displayed in a store is nowhere on the list of things that really matter in the sharing of the Gospel. What matters is, am I building a relationship with people who do not know Jesus so they can see the love of Jesus in me and can experience that love in their lives? Am I getting close enough to them so that they can learn that you don’t need to strive to be good enough to get into heaven but that you can have eternal life because you trust and love Jesus? I need to get close enough for them to see that I am not perfect and that I know I am not perfect. They need to see that I know my only hope in life and in death is in my beautiful savior Jesus Christ and they can have that hope too. That is why I will still shop at Target, have meals with people who do not love Jesus, get close to people who live messy lives, invite people who are far from God into my home, and love the enemies of Christ and His Gospel. I can do nothing less because at one time I was an enemy of Christ and His Gospel and some people risked getting close enough to me, in all my messiness and false beliefs, so that I could come to Him. If you are a follower of Christ that is your story as well. Let us never forget where we have come from and that we have gotten where we are only because of the grace of Christ.