This. Where do I even begin?
How do I write about this? How do I think about this in a way that glorifies Christ?
Dale and I have had countless conversations about the #MeToo movement and all of the pain it brings. My heart has been burdened for all the women I personally know who can say #MeToo. Women I see everyday. And I never even knew. Women who have pushed the pain down as deep as they can. Women who never felt they could verbalize how they were sexually abused, harassed, or assaulted. Women I call friends and family who, much like myself, would normalize demeaning daily encounters as a simple fact of being a woman.
It wasn’t the celebrities or news articles that resonated with me, but the personal stories from women I see day after day. One thing I know is that #MeToo has opened my eyes to the ways I have inappropriately normalized and brushed aside my own stories.
Tolerance is not always a good thing.
For those of us in the church, there are some important lessons we need to learn from #MeToo.
1. Women matter, and so do their stories.
Of course women matter. We all know that. But actions speak louder than words.
Part of showing women that they matter is caring about their stories. Not instructing them to be silent about the ways they have been wronged. Allowing women to have a place to share their stories. For the body of Christ to genuinely care enough to walk alongside them in the healing process.
When Jesus walked the earth, the culture in which He lived saw women as second-class citizens. But in the midst of that culture, Jesus valued women.
Jesus routinely interacts with women with compassion, empathy, and care. He cares about the suffering of the bleeding woman, the shame of the woman caught in adultery, the lost woman at the well. He loves them all. Deeply. In every encounter Jesus cares for these women and the stories of their lives. We must follow the example of our Savior by not only saying women matter but caring about their stories.
2. Abuse is never acceptable, even when it comes from people you thought you could trust and respect.
When God created humanity, He made them man and woman. Both equally bear the image of God and hold intrinsic dignity from the Creator. For this reason, abuse of any kind should never be tolerated. It demeans the image bearers of the Creator God.
Even more importantly, the Church should be the greatest advocate to fight for those who are treated as anything less than totally dignified. We should always side with those who are vulnerable more than siding with those holding power. Always. Regardless of the cost.
God called Israel to this very thing throughout the Old Testament – to care for those who are culturally marginalized and taken advantage of. The woman. The child. The slave. The foreigner. Jesus sets the very same example for the Church. Our hearts should be broken for those who are being taken advantage of. We should never accept it.
“What were you wearing?”
“Maybe you invited it.”
These responses are simply not acceptable. We must never say such things to victims of abuse, harassment, or assault. These responses suggest that maybe the offender isn’t at fault. Maybe it was just a misunderstanding. Too often, because we can’t bear the shock that someone we trust and respect might be guilty of something so heinous, we end up siding with the oppressor rather than the victim.
Now, I am all for modest dressing. But the clothes a person wears do not make abuse, harassment, or assault acceptable. There is no excuse.
3. Sitting back and doing nothing is no longer an option.
If we are followers of Jesus, then our desire is to become more like Him everyday. And if that’s the case, then we need to care for the things Jesus cares about. And Jesus cares deeply about protecting, healing, and caring for women who have been sexually abused, harassed, and assaulted.
It’s far easier to sweep it under the rug. To pretend this isn’t something the Church is plagued by. But it is. For years, the Church has had the cultural privilege of denying this truth, because we would rather not risk the scandal of dignifying the stories of these countless women.
But sitting back and doing nothing is no longer an option. It never was.
Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. As these precious women finally feel safe to share their stories, we need to respond in love. Real love. Sacrificial love.
Our hearts should genuinely be disturbed at the fact that while the culture around us is championing justice for these women, many within the Church have sought to justify the actions of those who have perpetrated this abuse. If we really belong to Jesus, why do we look less like Him than those who don’t know Him at all?
The Church needs to be the single largest voice and advocate for the marginalized – for the women in their own congregations and communities who can say #MeToo.
4. There are certain things only Jesus can heal.
I’ve heard it said that God will never lift up the woman at the expense of the man. And there’s wisdom there. It’s easy for us to swing too far on the pendulum as we seek healing. But as we see and feel the depths of the pain and injustice toward women, that doesn’t mean we should begin bashing men. Male and female are equally made image bearers of God, dignified, loved and cared for by God. Intended to be partners, not adversaries.
We will never see true restoration and healing if we aim to respond in our flesh. In anger. In fear. In hatred. Respond we must. But we must respond in the grace and strength of Christ.
It’s only as we seek Christ and His wisdom that we will begin to find healing. Healing as a people. Healing for those victims of such injustice. Only Jesus can heal.
May our hearts break for the things that break the heart of our Father. May we not lie silent as God has called us to fight injustice. Yes, we need to care about women and their stories, not tolerate abuse, and do something about it. But all of this must first be brought before the feet of Jesus.
Only when we seek Jesus can we be part of the healing process in the lives of individuals and in the setting of our culture.