Tis the season for allegations of men treating women badly. From Harvey Weinstein to Louis C. K. to Roy Moore to Aly Raisman’s testimony on 60 Minutes, the last two months have seen a number high-profile men accused of unwanted advances, sexual harassment, and much worse.
To be sure, we should not presume guilt just because accusations are made. Of the dozens of allegations made public this fall, some have been owned up to, while others are still resolutely denied. This article is not about the specific accusations or the people involved, let alone about what should be done when athletes or politicians or media moguls have past sins uncovered. This post is about the bigger picture, about first things, about the principles that all Christians should agree on.
There are two things that should be obvious to all Bible-believing Christians.
First, men should honor women, not harass them; treat them as fellow image bearers, not sexual fantasies; and protect them, not perpetrate disgusting advances against them. That should all go without saying, but perhaps it has gone without saying for too long. As I’ve said before, underlying Jesus’s ministry was the radical assumption that women have enormous value and purpose. The clearest example is his mother, Mary, who’s called highly favored in Luke 1:28. Moreover, Jesus used women as illustrations in his teaching, mentioning the queen of the south (Matt. 12:42), the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:26), women at the second coming (Matt. 24:41), and the woman in search of her lost coin (Luke 15:8–10). He held up the persistent widow as an example of prayerfulness (Luke 18:1–5), and the poor widow’s offering as an example of generosity (Luke 21:1–4).
Jesus addressed women tenderly as “daughters of Abraham,” placing them on the same spiritual plane as men (Luke 13:16). His teaching on divorce treated women as persons, not mere property (Matt. 5:32; 19:9), and his instruction about lust protected women from being treated as nothing more than objects of sexual desire (Matt. 5:28). And in a time where female learning was suspect, Jesus made a point to teach women on numerous occasions (Luke 10:38–42; 23:27–31; John 11:20ff).
Every generation and every culture has certain sins it tolerates and those it doesn’t. No doubt, our culture and this generation tolerates a number of sins they shouldn’t. But if men coming on to women, and men leveraging their power over women, and men abusing women is de-normalized in our day, that would be a good thing. Whether we blame the pornography that objectifies women, the collapse of chivalry that sought to protect women, the sexual revolution that untethered erotic intimacy from marital fidelity, or simply the fallen human heart, the church of Jesus Christ must not be afraid to call sin sin and denounce iniquity for what it is.
Second, character cannot be compartmentalized. Of course, there is forgiveness. Of course, some offenses are worse than others. Of course, we do not demand perfection from athletes, politicians, or movie stars (or from pastors for that matter). But let us not be so eager to defend our team—whether that’s Team Democrat or Team Republican or Team Hollywood or Team Whatever—that we start defending the indefensible. Sin is sin. When repented of, it can be forgiven in Christ. When unacknowledged, it wreaks havoc in the soul.
I get that politics is often a binary game in the United States, which leads us to make less than ideal choices, but that’s doesn’t mean character is now magically irrelevant. We are whole people. Out of the heart the mouth speaks . . . and feet walk, and eyes look, and hands move. Who we are in private is never far removed from who we will be in public. Some sins can be kept hidden, but over time that measure of the man (or woman) will be found out.
So let us never excuse what we should condemn—in others or in ourselves. Sin is ugly, and no less so when committed by beautiful or powerful people. Father, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.