These stories of inappropriate sexual behavior continue to surface: Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin, Leon Wieseltier, Garrison Keillor, Roy Price, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, and the list continues.
The #metoo movement tugs at our hearts as we learn of people who have also suffered sexual misconduct. Even now the hashtag #churchtoo reveals heartbreaking stories of abuse in the church.
What lessons can we learn from the fallout? Let me suggest four simple principles to recognize as we seek to respond to these stories and the people sinned against sexually in any manner or place.
Recognize we all sin. None of these men are different than any one of us. Does that excuse their behavior? Absolutely not! Nothing excuses sexual sin against any person or in any marriage. As a long-term pastor and counselor, I have heard so many of these heartbreaking stories, which have left me angry, disappointed, and, at times, discouraged. However, we also must not fail to recognize that these men simply sinned, just as we so often do. It would be very easy to sit in a position of pride and pronounce damnation on each of these people while failing to recognize our own weaknesses and sinful flesh. Two verses help me keep focused on the ugliness and universal nature of sin. Paul writes both. “Therefore, let him who things he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Bottom line…we all contend with the sinful flesh and sometimes fail to honor God in our attitudes, words, and actions. Each of these men share in that same sinful flesh. Therefore, in humility, we recognize our own latent potential to sin as well.
Recognize there are hurting people all around us. Sin always leaves a wake. When someone chooses to sin such as all these and so many more, that sin always impacts the sinned against. There are single women, wives, mothers, and grandmothers who continually bear the burdens physically, emotionally, and spiritually of these acts. Children, parents, and friends also suffer. Similar to a tossed rock making ripples across a pond, men who sexually sin against others create a ripple effect that is real, significant, and often long-term. Therefore we must recognize there are those around us hurting. We must be ready to serve those same people with the energy God provides us. In the Bible, Peter challenges us to be ready to pray sincerely, love creatively, share generously, speak wisely, and act responsibility by God’s grace through Jesus Christ for God’s glory (1 Peter 4:7-11).
Recognize people need to do the next right thing. As we engage both those who have sinned and those who are under the burden of others’ sin, our agenda remains the same. We want to lovingly point them toward the next right thing. Often both the sinned against and the sinner allow the past to have authority in the present. In other words, they primarily respond to the opportunities and pressures of today under the influence of what happened in the past. As one who cares and desires to offer help, we must encourage them that for today, they need to do the next right thing. Being a slave to the past only continues to impact today and their future in highly negative ways. Instead, making a decision today for the next right thing puts them on a new road toward blessings from God and others as they pursue what best honors God in their circumstances. James reminds us, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Paul challenges us, “Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In every instance, the next right thing will both honor God and bless both the sinner and the sinned against as they put themselves in a position for God to honor their responses.
Recognize that God has placed us here for each other. For the body of Christ, God provides over 30 one-anothers commands in the Bible. From loving one another with brotherly affection (Romans 12:10), to showing honor (Romans 12:10), to caring for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25), to bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), to forgiving one another (Ephesians 4:32), to encouraging and building up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), the Bible instructs us to actively engage each other in profitable ways. God’s plan of care includes the way we actively respond to each other in the body of Christ. Our responsibility is toward each other. We cannot afford to passively observe waiting for someone else to give the word of encouragement, offer care, or seek to provide comfort. These are our responsibilities. Therefore, we must respond to the sinner and the sinned against in specific, intentional, and God-honoring ways. We do this by both understanding our responsibilities as part of the body of Christ and living consistent with those.
Would it be easy to just criticize? Sure.
Would it be possible to respond as if we do not have any problems? Absolutely.
Would it be tempting to compare ourselves with these to minimize our own responsibilities and justify not seeking to help? Yes.
However, we must think hard and carefully through these simple lessons and allow them to motivate us to love and good works toward both the sinners and the sinned against.
Join the Conversation:
How can you be more aware, sensitive, and caring toward those around you who have either sinned or been sinned against?