“The silence was killing me. And that's all there ever was. Silence. It was all I knew. Keep quiet. Pretend nothing had happened, that nothing was wrong. And look how well that was turning out.” J. Lynn
I can’t remember the last time that a Time magazine cover caught my attention, particularly in a good way. Yet, their “Person of the Year” cover did just that. Not only did it catch my attention, but I commend them for it.
This year’s person of the year are a group of women that Time called “The Silence Breakers.” Finally, after decades of the exploitation of those less famous and powerful, it’s coming out that Hollywood has had a long vile and hidden history of rape, sexual exploitation and harassment. While it’s true that a case can be easily made that the Hollywood culture has encouraged this dehumanization and exploitation with its movies and TV shows, but that’s drama and fiction, not real life. What is coming out is real life, true victimization, criminal and inhumane.
Personally, I think it will sadly be a temporary noise that will all be soon forgotten. The reason that I say that is because from what I can see, rappers and star athletes not only have long exploited women but continue to do so with little accountability. Add to that, the inherent hypocrisy of the Hollywood culture. That’s evidenced by two other recent magazine front covers – one with a picture of Harvey Weinstein condemning his actions and the other, right next to it, with Hugh Hefner’s picture applauding his life. It's the natural outcome of a culture with no moral compass.
While those in the limelight have long been purported as being nothing like the rest of us in that they wear clothes we can’t afford, drive cars and live in houses beyond our dreams, yet it turns out that—in the most painful and personal ways—celebrities are more like us than the public ever knew.
And when celebrities don’t know where to go for justice, what hope is there for the average person? What hope is there for the secretary who repeatedly fends off her boss who won’t take no for an answer? For the hotel housekeeper who never knows, as she goes about cleaning rooms, if a guest might corner her in a room that she can’t escape? For the high school athlete who doesn’t want to be a labeled a tattletale when his coach attempts sexual advances on him?
The Church of Jesus Christ must be that safe place! Our church must be that safe place. While we have little control over the Church universal, you and I are accountable for this local church body and family of believers.
Tragically, in some churches, because of the predator’s position or finances or power, it’s swept under the rug. That must never happen at Grace. How can we expect God’s blessing if we fail to live by God’s standards of holiness and integrity? Even if it’s the pastor, a church leader or the biggest donor in our church – if there is a violation of biblical commands or moral integrity, it must be dealt with.
Over the years I’ve told some spouses, that if I learn that they are physically abusing their spouse, their spouse will not have to call law enforcement because I’ll be making that phone call. But it’s not just the pastor who carries that responsibility, it’s everyone in our church family, because too often the pastor is the last to know.
As brothers and sisters, if we observe someone being sexually inappropriate, we need to confront them and hold them accountable. By that I mean, if you notice someone flirting with someone other than their spouse, or putting themselves in situations where there could be questions about their moral integrity, they must be held accountable.
Then, if someone confides in you that there has been sexual abuse, it must be dealt with. It’s not only sin, but it is criminal behavior. Periodically someone will say something silly like, “Well, I promised not to tell.” So if they’d confided in you that they were going to murder someone or harm themselves, would you keep it a secret? My practice is that if someone comes to me and says, “I need to tell you something but you have to promise not to tell anyone,” I respond, “I’ll try but I won’t promise.” What if someone tells me something that needs to be shared? I don’t want to be locked in by a foolish promise…and neither do you.
Sometimes it’s verbal abuse. If someone is demeaning or speaking cruelly to their spouse or child, they need to be held accountable. Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” And there is no place for locker room talk, even when those of the other gender are not present. Off-color jokes are never funny and God is always listening and will hold us accountable for every word we speak. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
As believers, it is vital that we are pure, respectful and kind in our words toward everyone. Just because we have the power to verbally brutalize someone like a spouse or child, does not mean that it can be justified. No one should ever be shamed, just because someone has the power or position to do so. If it happens, other believers should graciously hold the “shamer” accountable. Galatians 6:1 encourages us, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
It’s imperative that the Church be a place of safety. That begins with me and you. We’re on the front lines. We must trust God and have the spiritual courage to do the right thing even if it costs us, because some day King Jesus will hold us accountable for what we did or did not do.
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.