A friend of mine on The Patchwork Diaries asked me to help her out with a guest post for her annual series on Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Specifically, she wanted a Biblical perspective. Now, this is a very serious, very emotional subject that requires a more sober hand than the snark that pervades even my Sunday Message posts, so I asked a time period to pray over whether I was qualified to do such a post. But in my very first cursory research, I hit a verse that so convicted me, that I knew I was going to have to do this. And, I knew things would never be the same afterwards. But I'll get to that on the other end.
Sexual Assault comes up many times in the Bible. Everybody is familiar with the egregious example of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19; many may know about the very similar case of of the near-destruction of the Tribe of Benjamin in Judges 19-20. Both of these dealt with a culture of debauchery, an evil so great that- at least until the stories the last two New Years Eves in Germany- we would find hard to even wrap our minds around.
Many would be familiar with the story of David's son Amnon, who raped his half-sister Tamar in 2 Samuel 13; and there are other examples. I want to look at a few things in these stories, and a few others that you might not necessarily put into the topic.
First, Sodom and Gomorrah. Two things about this story jump out to me. First, these people had a total lack of respect or regard for anything and anyone. And that fits most predators well. But what allows for such a climate? Well, how about the attitude of Abraham's nephew Lot? For when the mob came to demand Lot's angelic guests, HE was ready to comply, sort of, by passing them his virgin daughters instead. This kind of societal attitude can only grow when good people give in to the morals of the evil around them. And God's opinion on the event? He let the mob spend their last hours on earth as blind in their eyes as they were in their souls.
Now, before you think societal attitudes didn't matter in this story, let's look at Ezekiel 16, wherein the prophet is told exactly why God destroyed Sodom:
49 Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.
The Benjamin story is nearly a mirror image, except it is a concubine who actually does get sent out, actually does get gang raped and murdered, and the payback comes from the rest of Israel rather than directly by the Hand of God. The one additional lesson in this story is that Israel had no luck eradicating the evil until they "inquired of the Lord." Get that? This is not a battle against a foe you can face down alone- and God is more than willing to help- IF you ask Him.
The story of Amnon and Tamar is also well known to many who have suffered assault by, as 3 out of 4 rape victims do, someone they knew. Tamar begged him not to do it, he did anyway, convinced he "loved" her. Afterwards, he saw her as garbage. Sadly there is no happy ending in this tale. She ended up "desolate", and he ended up dead. One more point pertinent here- Amnon acted after being "egged" on by a cousin. How many men wouldn't have the "courage" to commit the crime were it not for someone who, silently or verbally, encouraged the act?
But now let me look at some passages that tell a bit different story. If we learned anything from the recent elections, is that sexual assault need not always be physical, or carried out "all the way". It can be a grope, or a "locker room conversation." Here are some more examples in that vein.
Judah had three sons. The first born, Er, married a girl also named Tamar, whose story ends in the genealogy of Jesus himself. But for our purposes, we stop partway through the tale. You see, Er was evil, and God "killed him" before he was able to consummate his marriage. So Judah, as was his right, passed her on to the second son, Onan. In their culture, the brother had a duty to raise up children in his dead brother's name. But Onan was a piece of work as well, and he availed himself of the pleasure, but "spent his seed on the ground." And this is abuse of another shade- let's call it dereliction of his duty to his wife. He was willing to take what he wanted, but not to give what he was bound to. You'll find this story in Genesis 38.
Our next story is of Judah's sister Dinah. A foreigner from the city of Shechem "fell in love" with her, and raped her. He apparently did love her, and in his mind apparently the ends justified the means- just say no not being a consideration in the culture. After admitting the crime, he, his father, and their entire city were willing to do the penance her brothers demanded- they would all be circumcised. As the story plays out, though, the brothers attacked while they were recovering and killed them all. Takeaways here are two-fold- if you DO love her, the ends do not justify the means, and no means no even if; and, this sort of thing will rarely end well.
Two stories left. The first, and it may surprise you, is David and Bathsheba. The Bible narrative (2 Samuel 11) never really paints Bathsheba as unwilling; she seems all right with everything. But ask yourself- what would it have mattered if she wasn't? David was KING; he could do what he wanted. He could have raped her, had her husband murdered, and forced her to marry him, and she couldn't have said a word. How interesting, then, that in the narrative, she DOESN'T say a word.
An additional thought at this point: David, for all of being "a man after God's own heart", failed to set an example for his sons. He had eight wives and an affair. Of his sons, Amnon raped his sister; Absalom killed Amnon for the crime, revolted against his father, and slept with David's concubines IN PUBLIC just to rub his face in it. And Solomon? He had 700 wives and 300 concubines! And at the end of his life, all his great forgotten wisdom could teach him was how vain his life had been. Sexual sin doesn't rob your example; it just makes it a horrible example.
Finally, how about Jesus and the adulteress who was about to be stoned in John 8? Here's the thing here- maybe there wasn't an assault; maybe the woman was just as guilty as the men said. But the men were basing the stoning on Leviticus 20:10, where it says BOTH parties are to be stoned. WHERE WERE THE GUILTY MEN? Their society had assaulted women by making the "law" change until it was SOLELY the woman's fault. We were speculating on what Jesus was writing on the ground as they listed the charges against her- I'm betting it was a list of the men in the group who had slept with her, who would be called into the circle next. And I'll bet that, upon reading the list, they were the first of the group to melt away after Jesus told them to let the one without sin cast the first stone.
Okay, now we get to the personal hard part. As I said, I was doing a little research, I soon came to one of those "annoying" sites that name a Biblical subject and then throw any and every verse that can remotely be tied to to it. And the first of those verses damned me to the core:
Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Wow. And He's right.
I have bent to the mob rule. Not out of fear, but of how it flatters my pride. I've accepted things because they were "acceptable"- and because they made me look good, feel good. Guilty as charged.
I have joined in the "locker room conversations" and done inappropriate things, encouraged by those I surrounded myself with. Guilty as charged.
I have treated women as objects. I have been the leering one, the "objectifier". Guilty as charged.
I have been derelict of duty. If I have learned anything from David Jeremiah's series on Agape love, I have learned that I have NEVER really known the kind of love that I SHOULD have given to a woman- any woman for that matter. Guilty as charged, in every sense.
I have taken advantage, trusting that the ends justified the means. Take, take, take, and never knowing what to give, how to give, or even TO give. And really never caring. Guilty as charged.
I have used my power in a situation to get, or attempt to get, my way. Guilty as charged.
I have played the hypocrite in defending myself- to God and to myself- many, many times. Guilty as charged.
I have DEFINITELY set the bad example. The times I have let my son down in this regard have been an ongoing and constant thing. I can only praise God that God did a better job with him than I did. Guilty, guilty, guilty as charged.
I know I am not alone in this. You never raped a woman, groped a woman, whistled as she walked by? Good for you. Have you used your power, to watch porn and take advantage of women who would never be on that screen if not for men like us providing them a reason and teaching them that's all they're good for? Have you truly loved your wife as Christ loved the Church- do you even realize what all that entails? Have you just went along with the standards of the day, in your mind if not in deed? Guilty as charged.
Women, I hope you draw from this story one clear fact- God is there, He cares, and is waiting only for you to ask to start helping you in whatever healing you require.
Men, I hope you draw from this TWO clear things. First, that assault covers a LOT of ground, and it may well be that we are ALL guilty at some level. And second, if you are doing it to HER, you are doing it TO JESUS. And that should chill you to the bone. It certainly did to me.