Gender is a socially constructed term that categorizes people by real or perceived physical/sexual characteristics. The word transgender is a relatively new term that encompasses a multitude of gender identities and expressions inclusive of those identities and expressions that most closely resemble the eunuchs we read about in the Bible.
Eunuchs are people who, for various reasons, live a different kind of sexual reality. Some eunuchs are that way because they are born with ambiguous genitalia. Some eunuchs undergo genital modification and are made eunuchs by others. Some eunuchs make the conscious choice to alter their own physical realities out of a desire to live more congruently with a higher reality.
In Isaiah 56, the prophet lays out the terms and conditions for living in covenant with God. He begins the chapter by saying that to choose what is right brings pleasure to God. In verse 4, the prophet says that even the stranger and the eunuch, who were traditionally looked down upon by the people of Israel, are free to live in covenant with God. In verse 5, the prophet proclaims that God’s way of righteousness and covenant is extended to all and their reward will be their reputation and legacy.
In Matthew 19, Jesus tells us that there are some people who are born eunuchs, who are made eunuchs by others, and who choose to be eunuchs for God’s sake. It should be noted that in the first part of this chapter, particularly, Jesus also addresses the issue of divorce and offers a word for all those who are able to receive it:
Marriage—like any covenant—shouldn’t be entered into lightly. If you want to be married, and you follow the way of Christ, then you will enter into marriage for the sole purpose of honoring God—not for any other selfish reason and, as a result, divorce will not be something that you consider easily. There are some people who cannot or should not marry, or who want to postpone marriage, and for them, their commitment to honor God happens in covenant with the church. In the same way, those who have made themselves eunuchs, who were born eunuchs, or who were made eunuchs by others have the opportunity to honor God through the separation from their physical selves and by adopting the way of Christ.
In Acts 8, the Spirit spoke to Philip—a great missionary for God—and sent him to a place in the desert where he found an Ethiopian eunuch sitting in his chariot reading a passage from the prophet, Isaiah. The man asked Philip to explain the passage to him. Once the passage was explained, and understood, the man received the good news of Jesus Christ, asked to be baptized, and went away rejoicing.
Through the passage of biblical time, we see the progression of acceptance for those who were born eunuchs or who became eunuchs. In the Old Testament, the prophet, Isaiah spoke against the previously held views and laws that restricted eunuchs from being part of the holy congregation of Israel by declaring that all who seek after righteousness will receive it. Jesus described the lifestyle of a eunuch as one that isn’t for everyone but is indeed the case for some. And in the early days of the church, a eunuch with a great deal of social power was baptized into the beloved congregation of God and it’s no coincidence that he is found reading words from the prophet, Isaiah.
To honor God fully with our lives requires the balance between our mind, soul and body, and this balance can only happen through and in the Spirit. For some, this balance is more easily achieved; and for some this balance is a delicate dance that is achieved by bringing the totality of our physical selves under constant scrutiny and subjection as we aim for congruence. The existence of someone who is born with a gender identity that is outside the status quo is just as real as the existence of someone who undergoes any kind of physical alteration or separation to become aligned with a different, higher or more appropriate reality.
We are not the bodies we wear; our bodies are temples for the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. And once our physical bodies die and we ascend to a different reality, the bodies that we wear will return to dust. For those who seek righteousness and covenant with God, we cannot be discouraged by those who discriminate against us out of ignorance or by the religious people who use the name of God, and silly posturing, to try and isolate people from the promises of a reality with God. The Spirit is freely given to us all to do that which inspires the very same Spirit to flow freely from within us.
Righteousness is a state of being that follows the way of Jesus. And while it may not be socially acceptable to be anything other than what is popular, God has always and will always honor the lives of those who seek to honor God.
God IS still speaking… Are we listening? Are we living? Are we loving?