I spoke with a Christian parent recently who described a discussion with their believing teen about the Bible’s prohibition of homosexual behaviour as sin. Sadly, the teen’s response was one that I’m finding more and more common among Christian youth today.
“Shouldn’t people have the right to be who they are?”
As our culture drinks deeper and deeper from the waters of individual rights, identity politics, and the complete erasure of sex and gender distinctions, more and more Christian parents face challenges like this one from their own kids. These echo the social justice concerns of their generation.
The question I always get from parents is, “How should I respond?” For that, I take my lead from C. S. Lewis:
It is critically important to examine the assumptions within a question.
I really struggle with giving tactical responses to these kinds of objections, because the problem isn’t so much the question itself, but the false assumptions contained within it. We must help our kids to see the error in the assumptions held within the question itself. Unless we do, giving a direct answer will just make us look, in their eyes, like we’re against personal rights and approve of a God who wants to deprive people of true personal freedom.
The response, then, needs to address the assumptions they hold, not the question itself. To do that, we need to learn the art of asking good questions.
Here are what I see as the two most important assumption-revealing questions to ask in response to this particular objection.
Question 1: “Sure…but who are people supposed to be?”
The answer God gives us comes from Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image,
In the image of God he created him;
Male and Female he created them.
We’re made to be God’s image bearers. That means that we’re created for the purpose of “imaging” God. As John Piper puts it,
[God] makes humans in his image to image something, namely, himself. So our existence is about showing God’s existence or, specifically, it’s about showing God’s glory.
Who a person really is then, is one of God’s creatures created to bear God’s image. Since he’s our Creator, it’s God who determines this. We’re meant to be who God means us to be. Further, he made this very clear by sending Jesus who shows us that as God’s image bearers God meant us to be his children.
And how are God’s children meant to live? 1 John 2:5-6 spells this out plainly:
This is how we know we are in [Christ]: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
The culture’s assumption about people is that their “true” selves are who they decide or believe they are. However it’s worded, this leaves the determination and living expression of our identity up to us.
So long as your kids hold any part of that assumption they will be unable to see God’s truth. The first step then, is to allow God’s Word to correct their assumptions about who people really are.
Question 2: “Who Is God?”
I’m not going to write an answer when the New City Catechism does such a good job:
God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He’s eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.
If this is true (and it is), it follows that I owe absolutely everything to God. There’s nothing I have or am that’s good that I can’t attribute to his grace. There is no part of my life over which I can say “this is mine”. All that I am, all that I’ll ever be, and all that I’m meant to be is because of him, is for him and belongs to him.
This is why Paul writes about Jesus as God’s Son and the one through whom God created the universe in these words:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him (Colossians 1:15, 16).
The reason that most people take offence at the idea that they must change their lives to conform to God’s expectations is that they don’t know who God is. As Paul points out in Romans 1:21-32, the root of all human sin and corruption stems from mankind’s failure to acknowledge God as God. And because of this, objections like the one we’re dealing with carry weight because they fail to acknowledge God by asking the only question that really matters: “Shouldn’t God have the right to be glorified by his own Creation?”
Since the answer is “yes,” the objection contained in the initial question (challenge) above dissolves, since our rights as creatures are necessarily subservient to God’s rights as Creator—as they should be.
Christian children and youth are under tremendous pressures today, because of the unrelenting cultural agenda to embrace all forms of human diversity (i.e. behaviours) and eliminate any room for making moral judgments about any particular lifestyle.
There’s no “right” or “wrong” in our society any longer; only “differences.” It’s no wonder then, that they’re beginning to eschew the Bible and gospel of Jesus whose message includes things like sin and judgment.
The problem is that they don’t confidently possess a knowledge of who God truly is. The only antidote to this trend is to expose them to the truth about God’s holiness as revealed in the Scriptures and embodied in Christ.
Simply put, we need to know who God is.
Originally published May 9, 2013, updated Sep 29, 2020.