In late 2017 the doors blew open on a long-hidden Hollywood scandal: Harvey Weinstein’s repeated sexual assaults. Since then, women around the world have testified to sexual assault and harassment via the hashtag #MeToo, and in the Christian community, #ChurchToo. These hashtags have furthered an essential conversation about the mistreatment of women in the workplace, and sometimes in the church.
The Time’s Up movement took advantage of the need for this conversation. The movement encourages men and women alike to take action on behalf of harassment and assault victims. It mobilizes people to prevent these behaviors wherever possible. But at the end of the day, Time’s Up is a secular solution to a spiritual problem. As believers, we know there is a deeper motivation to the Harvey Weinsteins of this world: sin. Harassment and assault happen because sinful, selfish men put their own desires above the dignity of women. As Christians, how should we respond?
Remember God’s Heart for Women
God’s original design for men and women was nothing like what we see today. He designed men to honor and protect, not dishonor and abuse. He designed women to bear dignity and beauty, not live in fear and shame. Because of sin, these original intentions have been warped and misused. But God’s heart for women has not changed! Even in a fallen world, He stands by us as our foremost advocate.
- God defends women: “But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You.” (Psalm 5:11)
- God honors women: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)
- God wants women to know Him: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!” (Psalm 137:9)
In this conversation around harassment and abuse, remember that it is sinful men, not God, who cause this pain. God is the restorer and redeemer of such abuse, and He will call to justice those who commit it. When such things happen in the church, we know this is not a representation of true Christianity, but a complete departure from God’s heart.
Remember Why Harassment Happens
Second, remember why harassment happens. Our culture believes evil behavior arises from how people are socialized. As Christians, we know that evil behavior is our natural bent apart from Christ. Without Him, we have no understanding of true goodness, nor can we honor people the way they deserve. While for many people that will never lead them to act abusively, it still prevents them from knowing the true definition of love. Love must be defined objectively, by Someone outside of ourselves. God is that objective standard.
When people live apart from God, they do not understand love. Their primary motive is to please themselves—even when it hurts another person. Harassment happens when selfish men put their own desires above the dignity of the women around them. It is selfishness taken to the extreme.
This does not let these men off the hook. To the contrary—they are accountable to God for their actions! But knowing why harassment happens helps us battle it accordingly.
Where do we go from here? What can we do to battle a problem that is both physical and spiritual?
Because this is a spiritual problem, we must start with prayer. Before you roll your eyes and skim past this, hear me out: Prayer is how we invite God’s power into a problem we cannot conquer on our own. Sexual harassment and assault offends God. It angers Him. We must invite Him into our fight to defend victims of assault. Ask Him to show you how you can help. Ask Him to bring healing. Ask Him to bring confidence to victims who need to speak out and get help. God is a Defender and Deliverer of those captive and in pain.
Next, take a step of faith that God wants you to do something. Here are some practical things you can do:
- Know the value of women. Recognize your own value as a daughter of God and the value of your sisters. If someone has a story to tell, hear them out. Learn to embrace your Christ-won value and to discern between what is truly complimentary and what is superficial male attention leading to harassment.
- Refute blame-shifting arguments. It’s sad that these arguments occur in the church, but they do. Even if a woman is dressed “immodestly,” a man does not have a right to harass her. Don’t blame-shift; listen to the whole story. If the harassment is happening from an authority figure, find a safe person to report the incident to. If it continues, more women will be hurt.
- Provide support and healing for victims of abuse. Gather women to pray for her. Find counseling for her if she is willing. And simply be a friend.
For more reading on sexual abuse in the church and what you can do, read this post.