But they (Simeon and Levi, sons of Jacob) said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute.” (Genesis 34:31, ESV)
 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:1-4, ESV)
Let me start by saying that I am a fan of the Today Show, generally watch it most mornings when I wake up. So I was shocked this morning when the news about Matt Lauer broke, since the crew is in my bedroom most mornings. But now, to be honest, I am actually more of a fan of the show and NBC because there was a quick and clear response to something that all of us should know is wrong. The firing of Matt Lauer for some kind of sexual misconduct will have a huge impact on them financially and in terms of perception. Of course, we do not know details, or at this time even know anything about what happened. But our culture is having a moment where it is saying that the use of sex in the context of power is awful and will not be tolerated. For Christians, this should be the prophetic equivalent of a three foot put in golf, but for some reason, recently, I believe many have missed the hole.
As I listened to Savannah Guthrie this morning, my heart was hurting for her, and the others around the room as they had to break the story. She started reading from a script, but it was when she went off script that, at least for me, the moment took on a power that was moving. She said
We are heartbroken, I am heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner, and he has been loved by many, many people here. And I am heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have stories to tell. We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for somebody with the revelation that they have behaved badly. And I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important, it is long over-due, and it must resolve in work places where all women and all people feel safe and respected.
As my heart was moved, I also had some angst in my soul, wishing for a voice that was this clear coming from many in my Christian tribe. As people of the Bible, it was leaders from evangelicalism in previous times that were clear that God’s design for our sexuality was a gift from Him. We were quick to speak on scandals and maintain a prophetic and consistent message about marriage. While I would agree that in the previous generation there were many whose posture toward the culture and failures was less than loving, the message was incredibly clear and consistent. I knew God’s design was for our good, that marriage and sex were amazing gifts, and that any sexuality outside of the confines of marriage was not only wrong but would lead to destruction. As I have pressed the Gospel deeper into my own soul and into the lives of people in my church, I have also realized that every single one of us is sexually broken in some way, with the effects of the Fall running deep and often leaving devastating results. Our sexuality is a glorious gift that creates a deep oneness in marriages, but as with anything among God’s good gifts, the greater the glory of the gift, the deeper the impact on us when those gifts are unmoored from God’s glorious design and purpose. I too have areas where the issue of my depravity run deep and my need is not reform but redemption. But the pathway to redemption for me and for the culture is the clarity of God’s Word about sin, brokenness, and my inability to rescue myself.
Couple our sexual brokenness with other forms of idolatry, and the potential for the devastating impact grows exponentially, especially when the idolatry is coupled with power. For far too long our culture has looked away when people, often men, used positions of power or the mere fact of physical strength to intimidate, flirt, and push themselves on women sexually. Our culture is having a moment, and I agree with Ms. Guthrie that this reckoning is needed and long overdue. Sadly, at this moment when the culture is actually having a moment of sobriety about the power of our sexuality and the deep impact our fallenness has, it seems that we are fumbling the ball because of the desire for political power.
Listen, I know that the freedom to vote and the right to choose our candidates is a great thing, and this means sometimes those who follow Jesus have to make difficult choices between fallen people when they go in a booth. But when the issue of political power causes us to somehow go silent on an issue that is so clearly wrong, and even move toward justifying sinful actions and celebrating a person because of their party and views, well then, we have a problem and the outcome is that we in the church will completely lose our prophetic voice. And this scares me as a follower of Jesus, because it is at this point where we are really just like the false prophets in the Old Testament, who could clearly call out the sin of other kingdoms and peoples, but would ignore the absolute crass idolatry of their own king and leaders.
I have been reading Genesis in my time with the Lord in the past couple weeks, and recently read Genesis 34, which is the story of the rape of Dinah, one of Jacob’s daughters. The story is one of those bizarre, way out there Old Testament moments, and I will let you go read the whole story, but two of her brothers go all Old Testament on the person who did this horrible act and on the larger tribe who enabled sexual exploitation, abuse, and rape. While I don’t recommend their actions, the motive of their heart in the text is right on. Furthermore, these sons are angry with their father because their sister was a victim who had been deeply harmed, but dad was more concerned with how he looked and how it affected him than the deep pain of his daughter. This story caught me in the gut. At the bottom of the pile of all this stuff going on in our culture are women whose lives have been wrecked by men who used power to force them to do things they didn’t want to do, and in some cases steeling their sexual innocence. These women are victims of power based injustice, and the posture of those who have been rescued by the Gospel of grace should always be to feel the pain and seek to, “Rescue the week and the needy.”
In the end, each situation is messy, and full of issues. Of course, there are times when the accusations are false, and a person’s life and career can be destroyed by this sort of false accusation. And it often is very difficult to know who to believe. But in all cases, it ought to be easy to say that if the accusation is true, then the person is completely wrong and sinful and should be held accountable. So, what I am trying to do in this post is create a little clarity, at least for us at Genesis about the voice for justice that should flow from the Gospel in us. So let me be clear.
- Rape is wrong, it is always wrong, and those who force themselves on a woman should be brought to justice.
- The sex slave trade is awful and we should stand clearly against it and call our legislators to take all actions necessary to see it end.
- It is wrong for anyone to use a position of power to flaunt their own sexuality or coerce any sexual response from another person, or use power and future position as a way to force themselves on a person sexually. We should never justify a person who has done this, and should hurt with victims whose lives have been impacted by these moments and events.
- It is never OK, in our culture, for an adult to pursue a minor to develop a romantic or sexual relationship. I know there is a little bit of a grey area here as to what ages this ought to apply, and I don’t have the answer, but when we hear of a soccer coach in his late twenties running off with a seventeen year old girls on his team, well, we should not have any hesitation in our knowing that this is a travesty. And it is also a travesty when those who claim the name of Jesus try to justify such a relationship by comparing it with that of Joseph and Mary.
- It is always wrong to use others solely for our own sexual gratification. This includes the use of pornography (see the sex slave trade part, as most who are in porn are part of that industry), the pursuit of a prostitute, or even the idea of a one night stand. Even when the relationship is consensual, those of us who know Christ should have clarity in knowing that God’s purpose for sex does not include the use of people.
I realize that every situation and accusation has its own nuances and issues. But as Christians, we should never ever be in a position where we cannot say the things that I have said above, with clarity and the conviction of Scripture supporting us. At any point where we waver, not only are we in danger of losing our prophetic voice in the culture and among our people, but we will end up denying the pain of people who have been treated in injustice and wickedness. We are not maintaining the right of the afflicted and destitute, and our churches will not be a safe place for broken people to find Christ.
I believe we are being watched closely right now. And the voice with which we speak will speak volumes. Like I said, all of a sudden the world actually agrees with the Christian ethic on this issue. We can’t fumble. We are being watched.
- The world is watching us, to see if we really believe what we believe, or only believe it when it won’t affect our positions of power.
- Women are watching us and wondering if our churches are a safe place to be honest about being hurt, abused, and broken.
- Our daughters are watching us to determine if we will defend and protect them from predators and wicked people.
- Our spouses are watching to see if they are truly safe and loved.
- Our neighbors are watching to see if the Gospel has reached deep enough in our souls to truly change us sexually and give the offer of hope.
Final thought here on this. A prophetic voice is only prophetic if we also remind the world that there is redemption. So for anyone who is a complete sexual failure, join the club. But also realize that the story of God is filled with redemption stories of God taking sexually broken people, forgiving their sin at the cross, and restoring them to experience the joy of God’s design for life and sexuality. The consequences of our failures may go deep, but grace can run deeper. But this happens when I am honest about my sin and depravity, repent, and trust in the cross of Christ for salvation. This is what we proclaim, and the offer for all people, both victims and perpetrators. And we cannot lose this message in the moment, so we need prophetic clarity!