Common reactions to the growing list of men accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, or abuse.
"I'm so disappointed."
"They're dropping like flies."
"I can't believe it. I would never have guessed . . ."
"Who's next? The Pope? The Rock?"
We should all be saying that such behavior is unacceptable.
We speak on behalf of the dignity of women.
We work to break systems of lewd perversion and abuse of power.
We press for a new transparency in workplace and society.
We stand for those violated and look for ways to provide healing and support.
While we certainly say all these things, I'm also looking for what no one else is saying.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus follows a pattern. He notes what everyone is saying: "You have heard it said . . ." (Matt. 5:21). And then he says something that no one has said before: "But I say to you . . ." (Matt. 5:22).
Our discourse over scandal can become mere gossip and gawking. I'm looking for what's below the surface. What is a God-view of these scandals that no one else is talking about? Where is Jesus speaking? "But I say to you . . ." Here are some things that come to mind:
We should not be shocked.
For the Christian, there are no surprises in the practice of sin. We know "there is nothing new under the sun." We join our Lord in knowing "what is in a man's heart." Sadly, scandal and corruption are expected in our world.
The Resident in All of Us.
Before we judge on the mountain of self-righteousness, we must be honest about the residential sin in all of us. The Christian faith is candid about the corruption of the heart. The Bible conveys an exceptionally low view of humanity. Even when we're at our best, our hearts are bent toward self. We want our own way. Let's not consign sin only to grossly demented acts. While it surfaces in different ways, we're all infected with the virus.
Thoughts and Glances are on Par with Actions.
When it comes to sexual sin, Jesus set the bar unattainably high: "Whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). In so doing, he convicts not only Harvey Weinstein, but every member of the male species. This was exactly his intention.
In Jesus' context, everyone could point a finger at King Herod for his adulterous affairs. But Jesus didn't use Herod as an example of adultery. He took aim at every person sitting at his feet for the sermon. For those who thought, "I haven't slept with another's spouse," Jesus expanded the definition of adultery and indicted us all.
His point is that sin is more than an action. It originates within. The heart is corrupted before the body. Intentions come before actions. Words and deeds come "out of the abundance of the heart" (Matt. 12:34).
Death is Necessary.
Eugene Peterson writes, "The great, great granddaddy of all sins is the denial of sin, the refusal to admit sin." Because sin is insidious and Satan is subversive, we must regularly die. Confession of sin is the antidote for the denial of sin.
"The Christian life is a series of deaths and resurrections." We confess. We repent. We don't wait to "get caught" to issue an apology. We take every day as an opportunity for admission and self-denial.
Forgiveness is Real.
Every follower of Jesus has come to rock bottom desperation where there's no other hope than the promise of Jesus. At the bottom of the pit, there is only one hand to grab.
I often say, "We are worse than we thought, and Jesus is better than we ever imagined." The cross comes into clearest focus when our need is most evident. Someone has to pay for our actions, thoughts, and glances. Jesus said, "I will." The scandal of the cross is that on it, Jesus paid for all sin - yes, the lewd, grotesque, abusive, manipulative, vulgar, and shameful.
I imagine that the powerful men accused of harassment will come up with various attempts to make themselves right again. Treatment. Profuse apologies. Public service as a form of penance.
One thing rarely spoken is forgiveness. Self-justification won't hack it. There's not enough piety and morality to make up for our scandals. We simply need to be forgiven. We need to be cut free from the bonds we have created. We need Someone to do and say things for us that no one else can: We need to hear these words:
You have been died for.
You are bought with a price.
Your sins are forgiven.
There will be more names of powerful men caught in shameful scandal. We will gawk and Tweet. But remember, what is it than no one else is saying?
Let us hear calls to repentance, yes. Even more, let us hear words that Jesus died to be able to speak. There is forgiveness . . . for them . . . for me . . . for you.
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