By: Maria Royall, Pullman
Of all of the things that have broken my heart over the past several years, the #metoo movement has been one of the heaviest. For years I had been fed statistics on sexual abuse and harassment that I never doubted were true, but I struggled to wrap my head around. I didn’t understand the breadth of the matter until #metoo took off. My timeline was flooded with posts from women I knew, and from women that those women knew, and so on. For me, this did exactly what it was intended to do- to give a visualization of the expansiveness of this problem. What started as a simple demonstration of the magnitude of sexual assault turned into a full-fledged movement - to empower women to speak up, expose the men who have used their power to harm, intimidate, or exploit those around them, and finally hold them accountable. However this movement has also brought to light a number of other realities - about men, women, religion, healing, and so on - that are worth unpacking. If we’re not careful, our responses in crucial moments like this can lead us down paths that are not healthy or helpful.
As Christians, Jesus is our ultimate example in all things. Hashtags weren’t a thing when he was around, but Jesus was aware of social matters, and the gospels reveal much about his character in response to them. If we are unable to be Jesus to those around us in times of such heartache, we’re missing it. We must ask ourselves in social movements like this how can we see Jesus and be more like Him towards the world around us.
Jesus brought comfort to the hurting. When Lazarus died and people he loved were grieving, he wept alongside them, even though he knew he would bring him back to life. Jesus was incredibly compassionate, both in word and action. He showed love to those that the world pushed aside, and that love was strong enough that people couldn't help but draw near to Him.
Jesus brought loving justice to a world that had little when it came to women’s rights. When a woman was caught in adultery and the religious men wanted to stone her, he sought a deeper justice by calling out their sins. Then instead of condemning her, he called her to repentance. Jesus introduced justice to the world, then flipped it on its head, claiming sole ability to give righteousness to his people. We must be aware of the weight of our sin, while at the same time living under the truth that Jesus is the one who makes us right.
Jesus is redeeming all things to himself. As believers who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, our mindset in this world should always be that of redemption. As we have seen countless times through history, Jesus can take any person, in any situation, and save them for His glory. We should always seek and believe God for redemption, no matter how egregious the hurt or sins. We trust His sovereignty to redeem all things in His way and in His time.
So what does this mean for the church when it comes to these conversations? How do we engage the hurting as well as the oppressor without conforming to the patterns of the world?
Listen well. It’s easy to walk into a conversation feeling like it’s a game we need to win. On defense, we have our own thoughts and beliefs that need to be protected; on offense, we think there’s something to be accomplished in correcting or fixing the other person. I’ve seen both men and women defend their friends in response to allegations. The person I know would never do that. People really believe that their friends and loved ones aren’t capable of evil. The truth is we are born sinful, and unless we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, we remain sinful at our core. How often do we sit down for tough conversations with the intent to learn? What don’t you understand about this situation? Is there a foundational belief that needs to be spoken into? Clear your mind, ask God to speak through you, and let the Holy Spirit be your guide.
Don’t shy away. These situations are messy and emotionally draining, but people need you in it with them. They need you present as a reminder of God’s unconditional love, whether they are victims in need of healing, or sinners in need of redemption. Survivors need to be shown that they are believed, loved, valuable, and wanted by their community. Offenders need to be held accountable. I’ve seen churchgoers and leadership try to excuse, minimize, and sweep away abuses- as if the advancing of God’s kingdom hinges on the ability of evangelists to keep a clean public image. If you claim to serve the God of the Bible, then you must know that He is deeply angered by sin and heartbroken by the way it affects His children. He does not want you to defend or hide sin for his namesake. He does want you to defend and support the hurting, as Jesus often did during His time on Earth. Psalm 34:18 says “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” If the Lord is near to the brokenhearted, then we should be too. Don’t assume that someone else is doing this for you. Get involved, speak truth, be available, and don’t bail.
Seek out and facilitate redemption in all things. Redemption is available for victims through physical, emotional, and spiritual healing- it is also available for aggressors through public repentance, the truth being brought to light, and forgiveness of sins. It can be hard to want forgiveness for people who have done something so terrible and harmful, but remember - our God is the author of justice. He is angry when the vulnerable and oppressed are taken advantage of, yet it is not the anger of this world. No one is outside of his saving grace. He is writing a story of redemption that began long ago and is in action today. The best thing that could happen is for God’s plan of redemption to be fulfilled in the lives of those on both sides.
The broken world needs light, justice, and redemption more than ever. God’s plan is for those things to come from him through the church. We are waiting for God to make all things right and all things new. And until that day, we are to be ambassadors of grace, compassion, justice, and redemption. Let us not be swayed by arguments of the world, but by the person of Jesus. Let’s acknowledge where we’ve gotten it wrong, and seek to move forward into the light.