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This has been a very painful week for the church with the publication of Guidepost Solutions investigation into the cover-up of sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention. As most of you reading this newsletter are pastors and ministry leaders, I wanted to use this post to write from the heart and say that this Guidepost report deeply grieves and troubles me. While I am not a sexual abuse survivor myself, sexual abuse is a part of my family’s story and also my wife’s family. The harm it causes is staggering. That harm is multiplied greatly when we consider that all sexual abuse involves abuse of power. The harm of abusing power to silence the voices of victims is unspeakable.
As a student of science, I take seriously the credible statistics that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have been sexual abused in their lifetime. As a student of the bible, I take seriously the numerous stories of sexual abuse committed by those in positions of power, stories where power is used wrongfully for sexual harm. Abram and Sarai and Hagar (Gen. 16). Shechem and Dinah (Gen. 34). The tribe of Benjamin and the daughters of Shiloh (Judges 21). David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11). Amnon and Tamar (2 Sam. 12). The scribes and the Pharisees and the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8).
That last one may be unexpected, because it involves consensual sex. However, the consenting male is conspicuously absent, and it would seem that the tendency for men (and here, men in power) making women more responsible for sexual sin and letting men off the hook is nothing new. Men had all of the power in that culture. But Jesus dethroned them with a simple statement: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).
Lest we misapply what he says here, as if no sinner can confront another sinner, we should focus on what he is doing with these words. Whether or not they properly interpreted the law, these leaders abused God’s law by using it to deceitfully test God’s Son. So rather than reply to these abusive leaders on their own terms, Jesus takes away their abusive power by inviting them to be aware of their own sinfulness. And to their credit, the scribes and Pharisees humbled themselves and accepted Jesus’ rebuke.
As a man who is in positions of power - as a father, husband and counselor - I am humbled by the example of the Jewish leaders here. They get a bad rap (justly so, e.g. Matt. 23), but if these Christ-rejecting Jewish leaders allowed his words to convict them, how much more should we as regenerate followers of Christ?
Quotation from Diane Langberg
“Pain is the only protest in the human constitution that something is wrong. It is the only thing that raises its voice against existing abuses. If you jump to silence pain, you will fail to find the wound. Pain is the Martin Luther of the human framework; it plasters the wall of the city with the announcement that something is wrong.”
PCA Study Committee Report on Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault (see link at the bottom of the article for the actual report). This report was begun two and a half years ago by my denomination, and in God’s providence it was released just a day after the SBC Guidepost investigation. May we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches (Rev. 2:29).
See book recommendations at the website for the PCA Committee on Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault.
Where do you need to pursue repentance in the area of sexual sin and oppression in your own life, your family, church, and community?
Praying for and laboring with you,