The world is spiraling to her demise once again because Target has publicly announced that anyone may choose to use the bathrooms and dressing rooms in their stores according to the gender with which they associate. As of this morning over 700,000 people have signed a petition to boycott Target, vowing never to shop there again while the LGBT community and those who support a progressive society are attempting to make up for the loss by shopping there in excess. Did we not just go through this a few years ago with Chik-fil-a? I would like to pose a simple question for Christians to consider in responding to the hype:
Why are surprised that the world is acting like the world?
This is not a new issue, folks. I started college in 2001, and not only was my dormitory co-ed, so were our bathrooms. This sheltered Christian girl who was not allowed to go to dances or wear a two-piece swim suit was dropped off by two terrified parents at a state university and after settling in my room and saying goodbye, I walked down the hall, into the doorless bathroom to see a guy standing at a urinal. Shocked and embarrassed I blubbered, “Oh excuse me, I am so sorry” and ran from the bathroom to check for a gender sign. There was no gender sign. So I waited for him to leave and then I went in. I never really got used to that.
I am now a 32 year old, married and five month pregnant woman. Every time I leave my house to go on a run, to go to the grocery, or to grab a coffee with my girlfriends I get cat called, whistled at, approached, and I have even been grabbed and touched by complete strangers on the sidewalk and in stores. This does not happen because I am some striking beauty, this is simply the reality for all women. This is the culture in which we live. The culture that tolerates, the culture that sexualizes, the culture that abuses children and women. It is so normal, in fact, that my girlfriends and I have mastered the art of ignoring people and the topic rarely comes up in conversation. It is what it is.
We have also mastered the art of knowing our surroundings and being wise. If a man is lingering, you move on. If a person approaches you in a parking lot, you quickly enter the car and lock the door. We know that there is safety in numbers and that it is wise keep your cell phone visible so a potential threat knows you can contact the police if needed. Some carry mace. I know how to align my keys through my fingers to make a powerful punch and the sweet spots to kick. It is all just common sense nowadays.
Because of the vigilance women and mothers must have over themselves and their children, we are keenly aware of the risk bathrooms pose. This, again, is not news. It is illegal to monitor bathrooms with surveillance, thus it is one place that a person is guaranteed privacy to relieve himself, and also the one place a person is guaranteed privacy to abduct, molest or harm another person. Most mothers would never consider allowing their young children to make a bathroom run unsupervised and many mothers of boys will open the men’s bathroom to make sure it is vacant before allowing their sons to enter. This has been normal parenting for years.
Enter: the target scandal. Target’s intention is to publicly state that someone who has made the transformation from one gender to another may now utilize the bathroom according to their new or associated gender. Seeing as there is no way to police or monitor genitalia before allowing admittance, it is left up to the individual to choose which gender with which they associate. Thus a man who is only starting down the road as a cross dresser and is still physiologically a man may enter the women’s restroom. This new policy has been clearly exemplified by countless people filming and documenting themselves asking target team members to explain the new policy – one such film is going viral today of a man guaranteeing himself permission from the manager to use the women’s bathroom.
Is it uncomfortable? Absolutely – for the vast majority of the American population – except in those cases where someone has successfully completed the transformation and we are unaware that they have changed genders. Is it unsafe? Yes. But bathrooms have notoriously been unsafe environments for years. Does it make the bathroom more dangerous? This is a difficult question to answer, because Target has now made themselves complicit in the utilization of bathrooms by all genders, thus if a child is harmed by someone of the opposite sex in one of their bathrooms they will be held accountable on a much different level than a company that maintains normal gender differentiation. And people will be much more on guard in the bathrooms at Target, making them more difficult targets. Time will tell.
While weightily considering the safety and sociological implications of this decision, let us now consider the Spiritual aspect. First of all, we must stop being surprised that the world is acting like the world. We are all sinners, it is our very nature to sin, and apart from Christ that is all we can do (Rom 3.10-12). As Christians we rely on the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and to help us live righteous lives as an act of love for Jesus Christ. But the world does not love Jesus, and therefore has no incentive to obey Him. We should not be shocked when sinners sin – even within the Church. None of us will reach perfection or true holiness until we are free from our flesh and in the presence of Jesus.
Secondly, we must remember that fighting a non-Christian’s sin is like putting makeup on a corpse. Jesus said it makes people into “white washed tombs” – pretty and clean on the outside, but just a pile of bones on the inside (Matt 23.27-28). Not only is it fake, it is worthless. If a transgender person learns to accept his God-given sexual identity and even enters into a heterosexual marriage, he is still condemned to Hell apart from knowing and being forgiven by Jesus Christ. This is true for every human being who has walked the face of the Earth, regardless of your sin of disposition. Pride, lying, theft and deceit and will eternally separate one from God every bit as much as homosexuality. Unless we have been forgiven and saved by Jesus, we will all go to Hell.
Thirdly, we must remember that we – as Christians – have been placed in the world as a witness, as a city on a hill, as a testimony to the grace of God with one simple battle plan: Make disciples of all nations (Matt 5.14, Matt 28.18-20). In order to make disciples, we must be interacting with the world around us and proclaiming salvation to those who are not believers. At the same time, we have been sternly commanded to be in the world but not of the world.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
– Rom 12.2
We can maintain a pure mind by meditating on Scripture, praying and spending time with God – our true treasure. We must not love the world or the things of it:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
– 1 John 2.15-17
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
– James 4.4
To love the world and the things in the world means that we do not love God and have made ourselves to be His enemies. This is terrifying. Thus Jesus prayed for His disciples and continues to intercede for us:
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
– John 17.14-18
Fourthly, if we understand that Jesus has left us in the world intentionally, to make disciples and to be a part of His plan for redemption, we must recognize the fact that we cannot accomplish this if we isolate ourselves from non-believers. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10.17).
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
– Rom 10.14
Thus we are left with a balance to uphold: We are called to holiness and we must seek to obey God. We do not love the things in the world and we look differently than the world because of our beliefs and habits, yet we must consistently and wisely interact with the world in such a way that we are proclaiming the Gospel, the lost are being saved and they are learning to obey God as well. It will accomplish no good for the lost to obey God until they understand the Gospel and come to Him for salvation.
Lastly, there is perhaps the most difficult piece to this puzzle: removing from the Church those people who embrace sin and will not obey God. Scripture teaches us clearly and painfully that if a person claims to be a Christian but will not obey God (on any sin), then we are to remove him from the church (Matt 18.15-17). This person is considered a non believer and the most dangerous kind because they understand intellectually the Gospel and the Word of God, but they manipulate and distort it:
“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”
– 1 Cor 5.9-11
So what does all of this mean about Target? Target is most certainly not a Christian based company. In fact, throughout the years they have been a progressively liberal company. As we are deciding where to buy our groceries, clothing and household goods, do we judge each store based on their moral and ethical codes? Do we only shop at companies that are openly run with Christian morals? Or do we go to comfortable places, expecting them to not rock the boat? I would be willing to bet that the owner of Walmart has some policies and ethics with which we disagree…
Do we consider our daily outings as opportunities to engage the world, meet non believers and share the Gospel? Or are we simply going about our chores and hoping to be comfortable and left alone?
Every decision parents make is a calculated risk for their children. Do we pay big bucks to have them in an exclusive school? Do we separate them from the world to protect them from bad influences? Or do we send them to the public school to be a light? Do we take them downtown to meet the homeless and serve at soup kitchens to share about the love of Jesus? Or do we take them on play dates with Christian friends who are closely supervised by their Christian moms? I would argue that a balance is best, all unified by continual teaching about the love of Jesus and His expectations of believers.
The Bible does not say “Do not shop at Target”, and the Bible also does not say “Shop at Target”. This is a decision that we as believers must make based on our commandment to make disciples and also to be holy and protect our children and ourselves. We must be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matt 10.16).
Let us also be careful to not overreact. The world is sinful and is going to remain sinful. We will not change that by being hateful and mean. We can and must stand up passionately and continue to speak the Truth, but we must do so in love. We should also be intentional to weigh the implications and risks, making sure to teach our children how to maintain integrity and obedience to God while actively loving and making disciples of those around us.
So pray about it. Ask God what is best for you, your family and for those people you might meet at Target. Continuing to visit Target with the intention of putting employees on the defensive while being filmed serves no greater good: this decision was not made at the store level and at best they have been given a few talking points to parrot to concerned customers. Instead, let us be concerned about their souls. Let us be ready and prepared to offer jobs or help find work for those employees who decide they can no longer work for such a company. If you believe the allowable risk to be too great, then shop somewhere else or confront Target on the corporate level based on the safety issue alone.
Let’s not make fools of ourselves. We are all fighting a variety of sins in our lives, and we must humbly acknowledge the fact that God is in the process of sanctifying us. It is our joy and our honor to proclaim that grace to people who do not yet know Him, and if we taint our testimony with ugliness we are not only pushing people away but we are in fact in sin ourselves.