I was in the back of a beat-up Honda Accord with stained carpet upholstery and a nagging smell of smoke when I first read the New York Times article that revealed sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein dating back to 1990. We were stuck in traffic and my Uber driver had just turned up the volume to some sort of generic smooth jazz radio station. Trying to distract myself from both the traffic and the elevator music, I quickly turned to my phone for relief.
I clicked on my news feed icon, and there it was: Silence-breakers brave enough to call out an appalling abuse of power. With each paragraph highlighting yet another victim’s account, my heart broke and my stomach sank.
After I finished reading, I slouched down in the back seat and looked out the car window at the twinkling Manhattan skyline. I couldn’t help but wonder how many more women out there would be posting #MeToo in the coming days and weeks? And how many more women could post it, but wouldn’t out of fear and shame?
I sat there feeling like an exception in a world of sexual exploitation. I was thankful that somehow the lottery of a fallen world had fallen in my favor, and that I had never been the victim of sexual abuse, rape, or sexual harassment in my life. Immediately, I was saddened by my gratitude, reminding myself that I shouldn’t be one of the “lucky ones”. We should all be “lucky ones”. Safe ones.
The weeks that followed were inundated with the latest sexual scandals coming to the surface. But I don’t have to tell you; you were there. We watched it unfold together. I doubt we are finished watching it unfold. Politicians and CEO’s and celebrities and news anchors were all being exposed as sexual predators and abusers of power. Each new name left me more and more speechless.
It’s not the only time I have been dumbfounded over the last year. Government briefings, party bickering, relentless tweeting, new bills and breaks, have all left me at times baffled and most certainly praying.
We live in a scandalous world. And it weighs on us. It erodes our trust and cultivates our cynicism and elevates our fears. I have stayed up at night thinking about the people who knew young women were being harassed, but for DECADES said nothing because they valued their career more than those women. I have tossed and turned over things said and done for no other reason than to wield power, and wonder how many more casualties of this type of injustice exist in the world today.
I think about the reality that every time I preach the Word of God that there are both victims of abuse as well as abusers in the room. There are friends and family members whose lives have been destroyed by the unjust use of power, some living in secret shambles built on shame. There are also those who have been responsible for the demolition of someone’s innocence or success; and most likely they have reasoned their way into lessening the evil they have committed by downgrading it to a “mistake” or “indiscretion”, OR they are consumed with self-hatred spurred on by raging guilt. Jesus extends His grace and affection to both parties. Jesus died for and loves everyone in the room, everyone in the world. And as a flawed human being, but also a child of God, I must wrestle with this truth and commit myself to a clear path of love in the world we live in.
I must learn to hold dear to both Truth and Love. I must turn the other cheek in face of mistreatment, but not look the other way in the face of someone else’s injustice. I must hate evil while still loving the evildoer. I must stand up for what is right while also refraining from judging others. I must live with convictions while also living with compassion. To be frank, this seems utterly impossible but by God’s grace and the power of His Spirit.
It’s a wrestle we must all embrace if we are going to live sacred in a scandalous world. And our world desperately needs more of the sacred. Our cities and workplaces and neighborhoods and churches and families need more goodness. We are the ones meant to bring hope to the disheartened, faith to the disillusioned, healing to the wounded, and peace to the afraid. We are bringers of light, and when the world seems to be growing darker, then we must shine brighter. But where do we begin? Well, here are a few places I’ve been thinking about lately…
- We evaluate our priorities. We must ask ourselves, “Which do I value more: people or promotion?” If we value people over position, products, power or even our own short-term progress, then at some point it will be put to the test… We’ll have to refrain from throwing the co-worker under the bus. We will invest in someone who might very well surpass us in talent. We won’t view volunteers as minions that help us get our job done; we won’t see co-workers as competition that must be crushed; we won’t use friends and boyfriends and spouses to get us further along or make us feel good. We’ll have to value people for who they are- deeply loved and treasured by God, and treat them accordingly.
- We choose to be brave. The love of money may be the root of all evil, but fear is a close second. Fear silences us from speaking out against abuse, causes us to turn the other way while someone fudges numbers, traps us in inappropriate relationships, and makes us co-conspirers to corruption. We need to do what is right. If someone is being mistreated and abused, we must protect and defend. “Love always protects.” (1 Corinthians 13) When someone asks us to do something we know is blurring the lines of morality, then the answer is, “No.” Yes, you could offend someone. Yes, you could upset your boss. Yes, you could lose a client or a deal. Yes, you could lose your job. Yes, you could lose a relationship. Yes, you could lose popularity. But you won’t lose your integrity. That is worth more. And if you are willing to trust Jesus enough to follow His ways even when it goes against the tide, you will discover that He will work all things together for good in your life. (Romans 8:28)
- We seek the wisdom of God. We live in a reactive society. News breaks and man, does it break hard. Within minutes something can be shared half a million times. We can quickly post something out of anger or despair or hatred, and not realize our motivation until it’s too late. Some situations may arise that simply will not be handled appropriately if we react out of emotion and assume out of judgment. If we are going to honor God in our choices under pressure, those choices must be rooted in prayer, wisdom from God’s Word and godly consulting.
- We examine within before pointing the finger. We are all flawed. I know, it’s hard to admit, but it’s true. We tend to give ourselves more moral leeway than we do others. Case in point: when I am driving, I truly believe all pedestrians should hurry up when they are crossing the street. When I am a pedestrian I truly believe cars should wait patiently for pedestrians to fully cross the street before turning. Why do I live with such contradictions? Because I am building my traffic standards on what best suits me. We do this sort of thing all the time. We label someone a sinner while excusing away our own sin. But the call of the Christian is to look inward- to allow the love of Christ to address sin and idolatry in our own hearts, never to expose us, but always to heal us. Jesus taught us to take the plank out of our own eye before attempting to tend to the speck in another’s eye. (Matthew 7:5) In other words, living sacred in a scandalous world begins with the examination of our own hearts in a daily commitment to follow Jesus.
This was most certainly challenging to write, and made me do a lot of reflecting! Hopefully this is both challenging and encouraging for you, and it prompts time of reflection, prayer, and ultimately doing what is right. Let me know your thoughts below!