Updated: Aug 15, 2018
Have you ever been afraid of a topic? So fearful that if you even broach the subject in conversation, the discussion could quite possibly take a turn you may not want to follow through with? Well, here goes...
The #MeToo movement has been something I have thought about throughout the past year. I must admit, when the hashtag first broke with Alyssa Milano’s tweet, I shied away from it. I shut down. Sometimes, that’s how I handle tough topics. I consider myself an extremely, strong woman, but this topic just seemed way too big to handle. I needed time to process all of it. It isn’t as if I was completely unaware of these awful things happening. It’s just knowing so many women have suffered this type of abuse in their past, can leave us without answers and renders engagement daunting.
When I was a young girl, I heard too many stories of girls who had been abused. Time and again, I found myself in a conversation, feeling completely incompetent of helping in any way. It was as if my psyche tried to protect itself. I would shut out the possibility of anything like this ever happening to me. I had never experienced anything like it, but hearing so many horrible stories made me want to hide away in my teen bedroom, unable in some ways to enjoy my youth.
Fast-forward to my mid-twenties and I’m happily married, thankfully never having to personally experience such abuse. My husband and I were in youth ministry and we heard a lot of stories. Young women who didn’t know their worth because someone used, abused, or mistreated them in some way. I also realized how awful these women felt because they were imprisoned by feelings of shame. In reality they had no reason to feel this way. It was the perpetrator’s fault alone and these poor women were not responsible. Yet, these feelings of shame nonetheless remained.
I was happy we were able to be a safe haven for some of these girls. Every church should be a place of healing and restoration for all who have been treated as anything less than worthy; as one made in the image of God.
When women are exploited, it should be aggressively condemned by all of us, especially within the church. Women have been targeted for exploitation by men for far too long. It’s not just society as a whole that has been complicit and quiet. The church has done the same in hiding sexual abuse and also devaluing women. Many times to protect powerful, charismatic leaders. It’s a problem across the board and all of us are a part of it. Unfortunately, we in the church remain silent because we just don’t know how to handle it and would rather it remain a taboo topic. If we want to truly be salt and light, we would learn how to engage our culture and speak truth, acknowledging it and looking for ways to prevent the mistreatment of women.
#MeToo demands a response from us all. It should break our hearts and turn us into the kindest of people. Becoming advocates and listeners are other ways to be there for women who have experienced some form of sexual violation. Opting for silence in this cultural moment is not the answer. Just having someone say they believe them may be the only answer to affirming someone’s worth. Learning how to have discussions without shutting down the conversation can be as simple as just listening and offering support and not being so quick to offer advice.
One of the ways my husband and I have been discussing the idea of ministering to women is by looking at the life of Jesus Christ. It is evident that Jesus did not stand by silently when women were being mistreated or victimized. He stood up for the marginalized, abused and broken. His heart of compassion for them was abundantly clear.
Stories of heroic women throughout Jesus’ ministry are depicted in the gospels, as are his interactions with them. Mary, Martha, Susanna, and Mary Magdalene were just a few who followed Jesus and helped support His ministry. His heart of mercy and grace was shown through his interactions with the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood, and the Canaanite woman of faith. Jesus seemed to go out of His way to minister to these women and never rejected any of them.
Jesus didn't treat women as inferior. Instead, he treated women with respect, recognizing their gifts and distinct qualities. This went against much of the culture of the day. He spoke with women in public, something also not done in that time. He showed compassion to the widow of Nain, when He called her son back to life.(1) He cured a woman who had been crippled for
18 years, laying hands on her in the Temple and saying, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity”.(2) When the leader of the synagogue became indignant that Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath, Jesus used a title of particular dignity for her, “daughter of Abraham” signifying this woman’s equal worth.(3) Jesus recognized the dignity of women in situations that seem by ritual law to demand judgment, for example, the sinful woman who anointed Jesus (4) and the woman caught in adultery.(5)
In my next few Faith blogs, we will look closer at some of these women and the way Jesus interacted with them. Many of these women made tough choices, even when faced with the possibility of suffering at the hands of men and the societal pressures of that time. “Because She Chose” will be a place where women, their choices, and where they lead will be explored. I hope healthy dialog and paths of communication can be opened. We, the church, must learn to love well. Let’s learn to love well together.
(1) Luke 7
(2) Luke 13:12
(3) Luke 13:16
(4) Luke 7:36-50
(5) John 8:3-11