#MeToo and the Christian
Topic: Topical Passage: 1 Peter 3:7
This morning, we are going to take a break from Colossians, and I want to address an issue that has been stirring in my mind for several weeks, and I thought Father’s Day would be an appropriate time to address it. My title is, “#MeToo and the Christian.” If you aren’t familiar with #MeToo, it’s a social media hashtag that picked up steam last fall and has been used as a rallying cry against sexual abuse and harassment.
The movement began last fall after all sorts of allegations were made against Harvey Weinstein. He was a powerful Hollywood film producer, but multiple dark stories came to light about his abuse of women, including some high profile Hollywood actresses. And other dominoes began to fall. Matt Lauer was booted off the Today Show after multiple NBC employees made accusations against him.
And maybe the darkest moment was the trial of Larry Nassar in January. Nassar was a team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. He was sentenced to hundreds of years of prison time after over 265 women, including several high profile USA gymnasts accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior. The things he did, and the fact that he was enabled to continue such evil behavior for so long, shocked the nation.
But we might think, “Yeah, that’s terrible, but what do you expect from unbelievers?” But then over the past couple of months, #MeToo has brought to light a dark side of many churches and Christian institutions. In March, the Chicago Tribune ran a long article detailing allegations of sexual misconduct against Bill Hybels, who is the pastor of Willow Creek, and a major figure in church growth.
And in the last month the Southern Baptist Convention has come under the microscope of about every major media outlet over a series of allegations against high profile figures. The most significant figure has been Paige Patterson, and Patterson has never been known as some sleazy wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing. For decades he has been a central leader in the conservative resurgence in the SBC. There have been so many charges against multiple leaders that just this week at the annual meeting of the SBC, they passed a resolution affirming the dignity of women and denouncing sexual abuse.
It’s been painful to see all the secular news sources talking about perversion in the church, but it’s been especially painful to realize how often these things are happening in Christian contexts where more than any other women should be honored and protected.
For example, Beth Moore chimed in recently on some of the inappropriate behaviors she has experienced in Christian contexts, and one example she gave stood out to me. She states, “About a year ago I had an opportunity to meet a theologian I’d long respected. I’d read virtually every book he’d written. I’d looked so forward to getting to share a meal with him and talk theology. The instant I met him, he looked me up and down, smiled approvingly and said, ‘You are better looking than...’ He didn’t leave it blank. He filled it in with the name of another woman Bible teacher.” Of course, that’s nothing like what Larry Nassar did, but I was amazed that a Christian leader would feel comfortable saying such a thing unashamedly.
But maybe you are thinking, “Yeah, he shouldn’t say that, but these women need to stop being so sensitive.” In some circumstances out in the secular world you may be right, but they shouldn’t have to in the context of the church. There is no room in the biblical ethic for the kind of comment that Beth Moore referenced, much less the more serious abuses and mistreatments that have come to light.
And so today on Father’s Day, I want to challenge us to obey God’s design by honoring women in our hearts and in our actions and by not tolerating anything less from each other. With the rest of our time, I’d like to answer 4 questions in an effort to articulate what the Bible says on this subject and how we must respond. First…
I. What does the Bible say about the value of women?
- In particular, I want to highlight two clear teachings.
- Women are equal image bearers and equal recipients of grace. This ought to be obvious, but it must be emphasized because, the Bible teaches male headship in the church and the home. And complementarianism, as we often call it is a beautiful thing when we do it God’s way. But men have often been guilty of using the responsibility God gave them to abuse and take advantage of women.
- But God is very clear from the beginning that he equally stamped his image and his love on men and women (Gen 1:26–27). God is careful to say that he didn’t just put his image on the man; rather, both men and women bear the image of God. And in the church we are equal recipients of grace (Gal 3:26–28). The point of these verses is not to say that all of the differences between these groups have disappeared. Rather, the point is that Christ lives equally in all of us. We’ve all received the same grace, and we are equal before God. We can also see the value of women in the fact that…
- Women are vital participants in the church’s work (Luke 8:1–3). Mary Magdalene, a former demoniac, was a significant follower of Christ. And v. 3 adds that Joanna, Susanna, and other women were significant partners in Jesus’ ministry. In these verses Luke is emphasizing the fact that despite cultural norms Jesus loved these women, and he valued their partnership.
- And Paul followed the same pattern. Aquila and his wife Priscilla both made significant contributions to Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, and both of them helped to disciple Apollos (Acts 18:26). Notice also the strong commendation Paul gives for Phoebe (Rom 16:1–2). Clearly, she was doing a lot more than menial labor. Again Paul saw her as a significant partner.
- Application: And very few men are bold enough to say it, but all too often men like to think that we are on a different plane from “I’m the provider, and she just takes care of the kids.” Or, “We men do all the really important stuff around the church, and the ladies are just too emotional or too simple to contribute to important discussions or to take on significant ministry.” It is true that we have different strengths, but the Bible is very clear that we have the same value and worth. Women are not second-class citizens in the church or the home.
- Therefore, it is never okay to view women as sex objects based on our lust. To go back to the Beth Moore account, anytime a man views a woman primarily in terms of her sexuality instead of her heart, soul, and mind, it is a disgrace to God’s design and really to the redemption they have received.
- That’s not to say that God didn’t make women beautiful or that physical attraction is inherently sinful. But physical beauty is not a woman’s greatest value. We must honor women as equal image bearers, equal recipients of grace, and essential co-laborers, in our hearts in how we look at them, talk to them, work with them, etc. The second question I want to ask and answer is…
II. What does the Bible say about male headship?
- This is an important question to consider because when you read secular accounts of problems in the church, they almost always link the problems to our “archaic” commitment to male headship. And sadly, sometimes they are partially true. Take for example this picture that my aunt took of a truck. This guy has distorted God’s perfect design into something selfish and evil. But the biblical ethic leaves no room for using male headship as a means of belittling and abusing women, because…
- Biblical leadership is always about service (Mark 10:42–45). Jesus says that worldly leaders use their power to serve themselves. And folks that is exactly what a husband is doing when he uses his God-given authority to dominate his wife. It’s what a pastor does when he uses his position to pressure a woman into doing him favors. It’s what any man does who uses his superior physical strength to intimidate and harm a woman.
- And Jesus won’t have any of it. He says very clearly that biblical leadership is never about serving myself. It is always about serving those under me, which is exactly what Jesus did by becoming a man. He came to serve, and husbands, that’s your job too. In a similar vein…
- Biblical love is always about protecting the weak (James 1:27). This verse does not talk specifically about sexual abuse, but it does establish a very important principal that is all over Scripture. At the heart of true religion is caring for those who are weaker than us such as orphans and widows. This is so important to God that throughout the prophets he routinely condemns Israel for neglecting the weak. And it’s not a minor offense. God consistently calls this out as the height of hypocrisy.
- And so men, if you think that your strength and authority gives you the right to push women around, you have missed the heart of biblical love. If we use our strength or authority to do anything other than care for and protect women, we have rejected the core of God’s heart, and God hates it in the strongest terms. Biblical love means protecting and caring for the weaker. And if we aren’t yet convinced, the Bible applies these principles specifically…
- Men are responsible to serve and protect women. I’ll say up front that both of my proof texts specifically concern marriage, but based on the passages we have already studied I’m confident that the underlying principle is true across the board but especially in marriage.
- Ephesians 5:25 says that men are to love their wives like Christ loved the church. And he is not primarily talking about a mushy feeling because he adds that Christ gave himself for the church. Men, you are to sacrifice for your wife like Christ sacrificed for the church.
- And 1 Peter 3:7 is especially significant for our topic today. Peter acknowledges that women are typically physically weaker than their husbands, but they are “heirs together of the grace of life.” We are equal before God. Therefore, God commands us to “dwell with them with understanding,” meaning that we make up for their lack of physical strength. Again, God didn’t make us stronger so we could push women around; he made us stronger so that we could serve and protect.
- Application: Therefore, if you ever put your hands on your wife in a way that makes her uncomfortable or hurts her, God hates it. God gave you authority so that you could serve her, not yourself. It doesn’t matter what she has done or hasn’t done, you are responsible before God to use your power the way Jesus used his, to love and to serve.
- We must embrace the heart of 1 Peter 3:7. Guys, including teens and young adults, we need to be gentlemen. And parents, teach your boys to do the same. Build into them a vision and a heart to honor and protect women. Even if the feminists don’t like it, open doors for women. Offer to help when they are carrying something heavy, and never sit and pick your nose while they are doing manual labor.
- And if you ever see a woman being mistreated or know she is being abused, have the courage to step in. Christians more than any other group should despise abuse and stand against it. The third question I want to answer is…
III. What does the Bible say about sexual purity?
- We have to go here today because so much of the abuse women endure begins in the hearts of men and then slowly works its way out into more and more hurtful behavior. First, the Bible says…
- Lust is wicked (Matt 5:27–28). Guys, don’t let the familiarity of this passage dull its significance. Jesus says that we can’t be content merely to avoid adultery. We must root out lust in the deepest corners of our hearts.
- Now I want to be clear especially to the younger guys, that Jesus is not saying women are dirty. God has made women beautiful. The fact that you find a girl to be beautiful is a good thing. But attraction turns into lust when it becomes about me and about selfishly pursuing my own gratification. Attraction turns into lust when I stop honoring women as God’s image bearers, and I begin to view them as a means of serving myself.
- And Jesus is clear that this kind of lust is wicked, and it has no place in the heart of Christian. Therefore, guys, you need to watch your eyes and your imaginations very carefully. It is not okay for you to go around sizing up women’s figures. And there is no place in the life of a godly man for pornography or any sort of entertainment you watch to gratify lust.
- And chances are that there are men and women in this room who struggle with pornography or similar things. I would urge you to get help. There is hope for change in the gospel, and we have resources that can really help. And there are brothers and sisters in this room that would love to come alongside you and help you build godly habits. Don’t let your pride or potential consequences get in the way of getting right with God because nothing you could lose is worth more than walking with him. A second Bible truth regarding purity is that…
- Foul speech is wicked (Eph 5:3–4). Paul names a variety of sins, but I especially want to focus on the 3 he mentions in v. 4—“filthiness,” “foolish talk,” and “coarse jesting.” Folks, not only are these sins common in our culture; they are often celebrated. So often we are dull to the darkness of coarse humor and filthy speech because it’ everywhere.
- But God says that these things must “not even be named among you.” In other words, a Christian must not be identified at all with these kinds of sins. And folks, as it concerns our topic for today this means that sexual comments or flirtatious behaviors are evil. We must be holy in how we talk to women and in how we talk about women to each other.
- And if you find yourself defending your speech by saying things like, “She needs to stop being so sensitive,” you’ve got a problem. You are blind to the perversion of your own heart because love would never blame shift like that. We should care deeply about making women feel comfortable and secure. A third biblical truth regarding purity is…
- Taking advantage of a sister or brother is wicked (1 Thess 4:3–8). There’s a lot of significant truth in this passage, but I especially want to focus on 6 where God forbids “taking advantage of and defrauding (harming) his brother.” And why should we obey? “The Lord is the avenger.” God is saying that he has a special wrath for the sexual abuser.
- Folks, we should too. If you mistreat a woman, don’t make excuses. And if you see someone doing it, stand up to it. But it’s incredible how often people don’t. There are scores of institutions that have covered abuse for the sake of protecting the institution or supposedly God’s name. That’s absurd. You don’t protect God’s name by covering abuse; you dishonor God’s name. I pray that this will never happen at Life Point.
- But I especially pray that none of us will ever let our hearts wander down a path to where we are so dominated by perversion that we would justify such a thing. Men, it begins by obeying Jesus’ words in Matthew 5. If you don’t tolerate lust, you will probably never be seriously tempted to commit such a grievous sin. Keep your heart pure and get rid of anything that would compromise your purity. This brings us to our final question for today.
IV. What does this mean for us?
- There’s so much more that could be said, but I’d like to briefly emphasize 6 concluding points. First…
- We must provide gospel-centered hope to struggling men and women. Maybe as I was working my way through that last point, God convicted you about patterns in your life, or maybe you are discouraged by your inability to get victory. I hope you will see that there is hope in the gospel. God can change you. I’d love to talk with you about how to get you on a pathway to victory. Or maybe there’s something in your past that is devastating to remember. Again, God is gracious and forgiving. There are consequences to sin, but when we confess, he promises to forgive. Rest in his grace. And I hope you will also see that you are surrounded by friends who are just sinners saved by grace. Don’t believe Satan’s lie that you are the only one. Lean on the church. My second major conclusion is…
- We must stay anchored in God’s perfect design. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the secular media claim that the reason they have problems is because of complementarianism. “If women were in charge, this wouldn’t happen.” Except that it still happens all over the place even in places like Hollywood. Folk, God knows what he is doing, and God’s design is good. The answer is not to reject male headship; the answer is to fully embrace God’s design. Men, let’s be what God designed us to be. Third…
- We must work to make women feel comfortable. Men, it should be your ambition that the women in your life know that you are honorable and that you honor This requires that you intentionally treat women with respect. I think sometimes I’ve tried to stay so far from being flirtatious that I have ignored women. I’ve been challenged that doing so doesn’t honor them. I must show intentional, compassionate honor.
- But on the other hand be very careful that your interaction is far above reproach and that you never make a woman feel uncomfortable. One practical rule I follow is that except for on very rare occasions I never initiate contact with a woman. I let her do that and only to a limited extent. Don’t be touchy. Guys, we’ve got to work hard here to show honor and to communicate security.
- And I’d say to the single girls here to stay far away from any man who doesn’t honor you as a fellow heir of the grace of life. He doesn’t deserve the slightest attention from you no matter what else he has going for him. Find a man who honors you and loves you like Christ or just be satisfied in Christ.
- We must not tolerate abuse. We’ve seen today that protecting women and children is at the center of biblical love. We better never turn a blind eye if someone is abusing the weak.
- BTW, that means that if someone is breaking the law, we need to report it. God has not given the church the responsibility to handle criminal offenses. He gave the government that job. Of course, we want to be careful about reporting because false reports have consequences. But love demands that we care for the weak, and we better not ever run from the hard responsibilities of love. Fifth
- We must provide refuge for victims. This is another one where the church often fails. A woman is raped or abused, and a Christian responds, “If she would’ve dressed modestly, that guy would have left her alone.” Of course women should dress modestly, but the abuser is the one who should be condemned.
- Or a woman is in an abusive marriage, and we are so concerned to keep the marriage together, that we don’t stand up to the abusive husband or father. Folks, God hates divorce, but he also loves life, and he is the defender of the weak. If a woman or her children are being abused, she needs to protect herself and her children, and we better never make her feel guilty for doing so. We better stand up for them. If you are there, let us know because we want to help.
- I’m sure there are people in this room who at some point were victims of abuse. It might be that you continue to carry tremendous guilt or pain for what you endured. I want to say very clearly, that you are surrounded by friends, and we want to help you find refuge in Christ. I would love to do anything I can to facilitate getting you the help and encouragement you need. Let us help you carry your terrible load.
Folks, there is no place on earth where women, children, and anyone else who is weak should feel more at home and more loved than in the church. Let’s be a people of holiness and love that honors and protects ever person.