Is Jesus not clear about sexual identity and gender dysphoria?

Question

A veteran Christian educator made this claim recently about sexual identity and gender dysphoria. In a nutshell, he is basically convinced that whilst the Old Testament and Paul are absolutely clear on the matter, Jesus is not. It was a brief phone call so I didn’t get to have him elaborate further. To me however, Jesus has always been clear on this. So, what could possibly be the basis of his claim?

Answer

We live in a day when modern views on sexual practices and gender dysphoria have created a lot of confusion among well-meaning followers of Christ. In the past, these subjects were of interest primarily to those who did not follow Christ, but today Christ's followers around the world can no longer ignore them. We have neighbors, friends and sometimes even family members who affirm the legitimacy of sexual outlooks that break with what we once considered secure and obvious Christian points of view.

Your question, however, is rather specific. It hinges on the idea that Jesus sometimes disagrees with the authors of Scripture, such as Moses and Paul, and that the perspectives of Jesus overrule the others. This distinction between Jesus and the Scriptures is misleading, but we hear it in many discussions among Christians. Yet, unlike the Christian educator whom you mentioned, faithful followers of Christ should never set Jesus against Moses or Paul. Their teachings are always harmonious.

Consider these thoughts:

  1. We actually have only a few of the teachings of Jesus in the four Gospels. He did and said too many things that it was impossible to write them all down. John 21:25 reminds us that "there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." In effect, we simply do not know how much Jesus elaborated on human sexuality.
  2. Even so, Jesus was a Jewish rabbi in first-century Palestine. Like other respected teachers in Israel, Jesus did not deny the authority of Moses. Rather, he insisted on the authority of Moses' moral teachings and he commanded his followers to acknowledge Moses' authority: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:17-19).
  3. Like other respected teachers in Palestine, Jesus also granted authority to a set of his apostles and prophets to explain and apply his teachings. Paul, for instance, insisted that his teachings accorded with the teachings of Jesus: "If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized" (1 Cor 14:37-38).
  4. We should never underestimate how strongly Jesus affirmed hetero-normative sexual practices and emotions. In the first place, Jesus affirmed Moses' teaching that sexual union is only to be within the bond of marriage between a biological male and a biological female. He did this by quoting the creation design for marriage that Moses described in Genesis 2:24: "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? (Matt 19:4, 5). By the way, Paul did the same as an apostle of Christ (see Eph. 5:31).
  5. It is also important to remember that Jesus affirmed Moses' teaching that the emotional dimensions of human sexuality are to be conformed to the ideal of hetero-normative marriage. Jesus alluded to the Tenth Commandment against coveting: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant (Exod. 20:17). He did this when he opposed the false teaching of his day that sexual desire was not to be conformed to God's law. In Matthew 5:28 he said, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Once again, Paul did the same in his role as Christ's apostle (see Rom. 1:27).

In summation, as faithful followers of Christ we should affirm that Jesus' teachings on the physical and emotional dimensions of human sexuality were not contrary to the teachings of Moses and Paul. Jesus faithfully affirmed the teachings of Moses on these matters and Paul faithfully affirmed the teachings of Jesus on these matters as well.

Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries who served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and has authored numerous books.