1st Samuel 16:7, Acts 10, Bible, Bible interpretation, Christian, clean and unclean animals, Cornelius, Gender Identity, Gentile, God, Gospel, Holy Spirit, Jew, Jewish Christians, Life verse, magnifying God, New Testament, no respecter of persons, persona, Peter, public identity, salvation, Scripture, Seeing as God sees, Transsexual
Surely we have time for one more Christmas song:
“Said the night wind to the little lamb, ‘Do you see what I see …’”
It is important to see things the way God sees them. A key question in the consideration of how God sees transsexuals is how does God see people in general?
Many Christians have what we call a life verse. My life verse (But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. – 1st Samuel 16:7) was chosen long before my transition, and when I was not expecting that I would ever transition. A significant reason for choosing it was that I longed for people to see the real me inside, not who I appeared to be on the outside. I was not a hunk or a fine dresser. I dressed the part for business, especially when jacket and day was part of the required uniform for a stock broker. But otherwise, I was not especially concerned with my appearance.
I spend much more time on appearance now. I discovered I have a knack for women’s clothing when I was in my mid-30’s. I enjoy putting together outfits for the occasion: meeting a client, going to church, attending a support group meeting or party and so on. On the other hand, men’s clothes are boring, and I made it worse in male mode because I avoided wearing anything that might reveal my inner secret. In retrospect, it is easy to see my conflict in this area: wanting people to see the real me while desperately hiding it at the same time.
The most important thing is that God always sees the real me, sees who all of us are inside, no matter what we look like on the outside. Deep down, that was always very comforting to me and that was also a part of choosing my life verse. Nothing about me is hidden from God, including all my faults and imperfections. Yet, He still loves me anyway, and He also knows that my love for Him is genuine. Being genuine, being authentic, is an extremely important motivation for me, more now than ever before.
I was under no illusion that all of the Christians in my life would accept my decision to transition. The only thing that took me aback was their accusations that I was twisting the meaning of Scripture when I included verses like 1st Samuel 16:7 to provide a Biblical basis for my position that my transition was acceptable in God’s sight. I shake my head when I think of this verse and many other verses in the Bible that indicate that God says the unseen spiritual things are more important as a basis for judgment and a warning from Him about our tendency to not see things the way He does. On top of that, their responses had so little in the way of Scripture to back their position.
I have posted responses to various objections that Christians raise and will continue to do so from time to time. But what the Lord says is more important to me and that is what this post will focus on. Scripture interprets Scripture. So let’s look at other verses that give further evidence of how God sees us in terms of identity. Are they in agreement with 1st Samuel 16:7?
There are two primary actors in Acts 10: the Apostle Peter and Cornelius, a Roman centurion (a Gentile) who is highly regarded by the Jewish people and who fasts and prays to God. When we first meet Cornelius, we are told that an angel visits him, telling him that God accepts his prayers and good works. The angel instructs Cornelius to send messengers from Caesarea to Joppa and ask Peter to come to him.
Shortly before the messengers complete their long journey, Peter is waiting for his midday meal. He has a vision in which God, three times, tells him to take and eat of the animals that God presents to him, even though they are unclean under the Mosaic Law. God tells him (verse 15), “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” God is setting the stage by which Jew will no longer be separated from Gentile and the parts of the Mosaic Law that symbolized separateness (such as clean and unclean animals) would no longer apply.
While Peter is still pondering this vision, the Holy Spirit tells him that the messengers are looking for him and he should go with them to meet Cornelius. Arriving, he finds that Cornelius has gathered many other Gentiles to hear Peter’s message. Peter is starting to get it: These Gentiles want to hear the Gospel and God wants them to receive it. Here is Peter’s reaction at this point (verse 28):
“And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
Peter understood. God is opening the gates of Heaven to all the nations of the earth, as was foretold. It is the last part of his statement that is most significant for the purpose of our discussion. Peter realizes that with the walls of separation having been taken down, it is no longer his responsibility or right to judge any other people based on their identity. By extension, if it is true for an Apostle of Christ, it is true for all. We are still called upon to examine the actions of other people, but their identity is not important.
At this point, Peter asks Cornelius why he was summoned. Cornelius explains the vision he received a few days earlier. Then he tells Peter that he and the people he has gathered have submitted themselves to God so they can hear the message that God is commanding Peter to tell them.
This clinches it for Peter. His response is even more emphatic in verses 34 and 35:
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
At this point, Peter begins to preach the Gospel message, and before he finishes, God confirms that He is accepting these Gentiles who have assembled to hear Peter. The Holy Spirit descends upon them, similar to what happened a decade earlier to Christ’s disciples at Pentecost. To the astonishment of the Jewish Christians who accompanied Peter to Caesarea, a large group of Gentiles have been saved in their midst. They cannot deny that these Gentiles have been brought into spiritual fellowship with them and they have the right to water baptism. The course of Christianity had forever been changed.
Let’s take a closer look at the phrase “respecter of persons”. The fact that God is not one is important in understanding how God sees us. If He is not a “respecter of persons”, then what is He?
This key phrase is translated from a single Greek word: prosopoleptes. This is the only time it is used in the New Testament. According to my Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, it means someone who discriminates. God does not discriminate. But He doesn’t discriminate based on what?
Not all discrimination is bad. A person with discriminating taste knows that a filet mignon prepared by a master chef at his best is superior to a Big Mac. A teacher who can discriminate between ordinary and superior work by the students and grades accordingly deserves praise; a teacher who discriminates on the basis of skin color or some other type of identity needs to be retrained or fired. Which type of anti-discrimination applies to God?
The word “person” is derived from the Latin word “persona”, which means “mask”. A mask conveys an identity to others, whether true or a disguise. Therefore, we can interpret this phrase that God does not discriminate, He does not show partiality, based on external identity.
In the Old Testament, the children of Israel started with a spiritual advantage. But God still punished the wicked among His chosen people, while Gentiles who loved Him and followed Him (like Ruth) found favor with Him. Once the Messiah came to the world for all nations, the slate is wiped clean and everyone from every nation starts at the same spiritual place. No nation, race or gender is favored over another.
No wonder those assembled Gentiles responded to Peter by magnifying God (verse 46). Can you imagine what it felt like to know that something precious you longed for but thought was impossible was now given to you, too? I don’t have to imagine it. I know: twice, in fact. My Christian identity is now secure and my female identity is now very public.
Because of the length of the post and the time it was taking to complete it, I will close the post here, with more verses to be examined in the next post (coming soon).