On April 19th the retailer Target published their company policy that they "welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity."
The response to that policy from many in the Christian community has been to boycott Target stores and take their business elsewhere. But is this the right stance to take?
When I think about Jesus in his early ministry, one of the things that he did was to travel through the town of Samaria. Traditionally, if Jewish people in the first century had to travel somewhere beyond Samaria they would simply go around it - even if it was an extreme short cut to travel through it. Why? Because the Samaritans were a sinful and idolatrous people. They were a mixed race whose faith in Jehovah had been tainted by the culture and bloodlines of the Assyrians. In short, they weren't conservative. Jesus, on the other hand, was compelled to travel through Samaria to Galilee. There in that town is where, in John chapter four, he met the sexually immoral woman at Jacob's well and showed her mercy and dignity. That's also where she left rejoicing as she ran back to her pagan town and told them about the Messiah, to which many came to faith in Jesus. The principle: Jesus didn't boycott the sinful communities.
Now, I do want to be sympathetic to the concerns of people. The response that I have heard the most is that people feel that they now cannot trust that going to the bathroom will be a safe place for themselves or their children. To that point I simply want to offer a few thoughts.
1. Transgender people have been using the restroom that they wanted to before this policy was released.
2. People who are predators will prey no matter what the "rules" are.
3. I wouldn't let my children go unassisted in the restrooms anyway.
4. Any impropriety will still be illegal.
5. We would now need to boycott companies like Disney (Yes, that means no more Frozen or Star Wars), American Airlines, Apple, Starbucks, and the list goes on.
Now, do I think their is an argument to be made about single stall family bathrooms being what makes the most sense to people who identify as something other than their biological sex? Yes, I do. But that is not the issue at present.
To make headway for the gospel in the 21st century is going to look differently than what it has looked like in America's recent past. This may very well be the season in which Babylon is our whole new world and culture. But do you know what Jeremiah was commanded to do in the midst of Israel's Babylonian captivity? He was commanded by God to:
5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,[a] 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:5-9
We are to seek the good of the city! We are to eat their produce and be right in the middle of the culture, but we are not to believe their priests.
Faithful Christians throughout history have not sought to make a perfect Christian utopia on this earth (Well, maybe they did with the monasteries, so we could start that up again if we got real serious). Faithful Christians, rather, should know that our task is to be right in the middle of the infection like preserving salt of the earth should be.
Faithful Christians should know that being a city on a hill doesn't literally mean a Christian only city that no one can miss, it means that our fortitude in Christ is such that we can distinctively shine even in the dark. And it means that Samaria is exactly the kind of place we should travel through.
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Jesus, Acts 1:8