After the numerous allegations of sexual assault against various men in power, people have begun to speak up. #MeToo is a trending topic on almost all social media platforms. It was designed to show the world that many people have been sexually assaulted and harassed, and that they’ve been kept silent for too long. Christians can’t bury their heads in the sand in these situations. But what do we do? And please bear in mind that I am a man with no experience of being sexually harassed. I cannot begin to fathom the pain that people are going through and how degraded they must feel. All I know is what we, as Christians, must do.
Understand the reality of God’s love
The first step is one of the hardest. How do we, as Christians, simultaneously condemn the actions of sexual predators while loving them as people created by God? We must remember to recognize that they were made in God’s image, but also that their actions are sinful. These are not people to be cast out of society, but people to be helped and healed while also protecting their victims. For example, the church should welcome the opportunity to help someone who has struggled with child pornography. However, and this is nonnegotiable, the church should help that person while keeping them far away from children. So, we must understand the fact that God loves even the worst of sinners (Paul, influential early Christian, identified himself as that) and love them as God does. While we love them, care for them, and help them through their problems, we must remember that every action has a consequence, and make sure that we are not giving a platform with which they can harm others. This, in itself, is a loving action to both the perpetrator and the victim. The victim is protected from the perpetrator and the perpetrator is protected from their own temptations.
Call sexual misconduct what it is
Last year, during the 2016 presidential election, several evangelical “leaders” jumped to defend a recorded conversation from 2005 which contained comments made by Donald Trump. They called his statements “simple locker room talk.” Ladies, please hear me: That is not just “men being men” or “how men speak,” or “simple locker room talk.” That’s offensive, degrading language. It glorifies touching and speaking to a woman in a way that she does not expect or consent to. And while most, if not all, men have been guilty of it to some degree and at some point in their lives, there is no excuse. Real men respect women. Christians respect women. Christ respected women. We, as Christians, must not make excuses when things like this happen. Again, mistakes happen. Everyone says things they regret. But we can’t make excuses for it. We need to call it what it is. Christians need to be on the front line when it comes to speaking up for those who can’t speak up for themselves. Proverbs 31:8-9 is very clear here: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Be present through healing
Healing is a difficult, painful process. But the Church needs to be there every step of the way. Again, I’m not a woman, and I have no way to understand how much being hurt by sexual harassment must damage someone. This process is a whole lot more complicated than I can possibly talk about. But I do know one thing: The church must be a place where people can go through a healing process. Responding with “I’m sorry that happened” is only the tiniest first step in the process. We must be present to help heal. We must listen, sympathize, empathize, and put ourselves in the shoes of others. We have to hear their stories and truly feel some of their pain. Then, we have to point to a greater hope. God heals. It takes time, and it’s very difficult for someone who has been through a traumatic experience to understand, but God does heal. And sometimes, He heals through us. So be present. Be loving. And be Christ’s hands and feet in the wake of pain.