February 24-25, 2018
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Part 2: What would Jesus say to men?
This is week 2 of a three week series, #MeToo. You’re all aware of this movement that seeks to end abuse, assault and unwanted sexual aggression, and of the many well-known people whose wrongs have come to light. I said last week that I believe this is only the tip of the iceberg. This kind of behavior has been going on so long, and is so widespread that I expect many other well-known people—and countless unknown people—will be outed.
I did some research this week—it was depressing—I share it with you not to depress you, but to make you aware of the extent of the problem. Hard data is difficult to nail down because most abuse—physical or sexual—is not reported. So statistics vary—but it’s ugly no matter how you count it. Estimates for childhood sexual abuse vary from:
- 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested before they are 18 years old
- 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse
- 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.
That’s sexual abuse; childhood physical abuse or neglect is just as bad.
- 1 in 8 U.S. children experience neglect, emotional or physical abuse—80% of those are neglect.
- Approximately 5 children die every day because of child abuse.
And domestic or intimate partner violence is epidemic.
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.
- 70% of women worldwide will experience physical and/or sexual abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetimes.
The results of all this are staggering. Those who have been abused suffer from a host of physical, mental and emotional maladies. Because of that, they are far more likely to
- Commit crimes,
- Engage in risky sexual behavior,
- Drop out of school,
- Abuse drugs and alcohol,
- Be subject to depression and other mental illnesses,
- And those who have been abused are far more likely to become abusers, perpetuating the cycle of violence and abuse.
Why am I talking about this? I am a Jesus-follower. I believe that Jesus cares deeply about this, and has some important things to say to all of us. And I believe that Jesus can heal us. Last week, we looked at what I thought Jesus would say to women:
“Me too. I know what it is to suffer at the hands of the powerful. I understand.”
“That’s wrong. Unwanted sexual aggression in any form is wrong. I stand with you.”
“Let me help. Let me help you heal and forgive.”
I talked with a number of women and men after the services last week who quietly said, “Me too.” And I heard from many of you via email.
Today I want to tell you what I think Jesus would say to men about #MeToo.
- Time’s up.
This is what a lot of women are saying: “Time’s up. Enough is enough. We’re done being silent—we’re not going to tolerate it any more. It’s time for change.” I agree—and Jesus agrees! Time’s up!
But Jesus didn’t just jump on this bandwagon; Jesus has been saying this for centuries! I said last week that Jesus-followers are uniquely positioned to speak to this issue because we’ve been calling for sexual integrity and purity and love of neighbor for centuries. Not all Christians have lived up to Jesus’ standards—many have failed and we must admit that with sorrow. But the message hasn’t changed, and we’re saying what we’ve been saying for thousands of years: unwanted sexual aggression and all forms of abuse is wrong. Period. Every time.
So when Jesus says, “Time’s up,” He’s not saying anything new—He’s been saying this all along. It’s the call to repentance; it’s the first message that Jesus preached. I love the Message translation of:
Mark 1:15 “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”
Time’s up! It’s time to change your life. Repent! The word “repent” means to change your mind and behavior. Repentance is doing a 180. I was going this way—away from God, with all that entails. Now I’m going this way—toward God, following Jesus, with all that entails. Repentance happens when we first believe in Jesus and begin following—it is a decision to turn to God, to change, to go a new way and live a different life. But repentance is also a lifestyle. We are continually adjusting back to Jesus, making course corrections along the way. You can’t follow Jesus and stand still; you’re moving, growing, changing, constantly adjusting to follow Jesus.
The #MeToo movement is a call for repentance, a call for change—a call that Jesus has been making for centuries, and still makes today.
Luke 13:1–6 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Jesus is asked what He thinks about headline news: Pilate, the Roman governor, killed some Galileans as they offered sacrifices to God. It was sensational news: #BloodyPilate. Jesus brings up another current event: 18 people died when the tower in Siloam fell on them. #SquashedinSiloam. The people believed that those who died must have gotten what they deserved—they were sinners, and that is why these terrible things befell them. Jesus challenges this notion, and clearly says that these victims were no more sinful than anyone else. All of us need to repent! So if you’re thinking, “Sock it to ‘em, Joe—let the sinners have it”, you need to repent too.
In John 3, a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus came by night to visit Jesus. He was a Pharisee, a member of the strictest sect of Judaism, and was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. Here is a religious man, a devout man, a man of high standing. And what does Jesus tell him? Repent! Jesus doesn’t use that word, but says it this way: “You must be born again.” In other words, Jesus tells one of the most religious and righteous men in town, “You need a new life. You need to start over.” Wow!
If Nicodemus needed to repent, so do I. So do you. We need to change, and keep changing. We need to identify what is wrong and turn away from it.
And the wrong we’re talking about here is unwanted sexual aggression, and the source of it is the objectification of women: reducing women from persons made in the image of God to nothing more than sexual objects to be used for my own pleasure. That’s wrong. All those offensive comments and actions all start here: in the mind, in the heart. To stop the comments and actions, we need to stop the thoughts behind them.
Men, we must stop objectifying women. Each woman is a child of God, made in God’s image, with her own wonderful story. And God has plans for her, good plans, plans that don’t include you taking advantage of her. When you objectify a woman, when you think of her as a sexual object, you insult the God who made her and loves her. In fact, I think it ticks God off.
ILL: Years ago, when our first two kids, Andy and Jeff were still small enough to be pushed in a stroller, Laina was shopping with them. A man followed her for a couple aisles and then came up and said, “Nice butt.” She told him to take a hike. But when she came home and told me, can you guess my response? I was furious! I asked Laina if she got his license number, because I was going to find him and nice butt him!
I know…maybe not a Jesus response…but on the other hand, I think God gets angry when men think of women only as sexual objects to be conquered and used. I didn’t want that stranger thinking of my wife that way. I sure don’t want anyone thinking of my daughters that way. Am I right dads? Is that how you want men to view your daughters? You don’t want young men to view your daughter as a sexual object. And you should not view women that way either. Paul wrote this advice to young Timothy:
1 Timothy 5:1–2 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
Men, treat every woman with respect, as a family member, a mother or sister—and as a child of God.
What would Jesus say to men? He’d say, “Time’s up. It’s time to repent, time to change, and time to start treating women right!” And the change starts here—in our minds and hearts.
Second, Jesus would say:
- Man up.
It’s time to step up and act like men—like men who follow Jesus, men who love God. Man up!
I said last week that the problem of unwanted sexual aggression from men will have to be solved by men. Men have to stop standing by and being silent—we need to speak up when we see other men behaving badly. We need to stop looking the other way and act. We need to man up.
ILL: Years ago, a woman in our church tearfully told us that her husband was physically abusing her. She described how she was being treated—by a man who sat beside her in church every week. I scheduled an appointment with that man, and invited two other men—large men—from our church to the appointment. It was short and sweet. We said, “We know what you’re doing to your wife—that you are hitting her, abusing her. It’s going to stop right now. We’ll help you get whatever help you need to change. But the abuse ends now. And if we hear that you lay a hand on her, we will find you and will do to you what you did to her, only worse. Are we clear?”
If I were to do it over now, I would leave off the last part—the part about beating him up. I don’t think that violence is the best way to end violence—usually it only perpetuates it. That’s what we did wrong. But what we did right was we stood up, man to man, and said, “Enough.” I know that this kind of intervention won’t work in every situation; it’s not a cure all. But I also know that most men are deeply affected by what other men think about them, and when other men hold their feet to the fire, things often change. Men, #MeToo is mostly our problem and we need to fix it, and that won’t happen by being silent or passive. Man up!
1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
That phrase, “be courageous,” translates a Greek word that literally means, “act like men!” In fact that’s how the ESV and other translations render it:
1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (ESV)
Act like men! What does that mean? It means that we act courageously, we act to protect not harm, we act to serve not be served. There are plenty of stories in the Bible to illustrate this.
In Exodus 2, Moses fled for his life from Egypt to Midian. He arrived at a well just as a group of women came to water their flocks, but some men drove the women off. Moses stepped up and came to their rescue and watered their flocks. That word, “rescue” implies that more was at stake than just watering sheep. You had a group of women, alone, and a group of men who drove them off, possibly with threats of physical or sexual violence. Later, when the women reported to their father, they said that Moses “rescued them from the shepherds.” One man against a group of men. Moses didn’t know these women—he didn’t have a dog in this fight (or a sheep). They were strangers to him, but he refused to be passive and let them be mistreated. He risked his own well-being to defend the oppressed. He acted like a man.
Compare that story with the one found in 2 Samuel 13. This is immediately after David’s abuse of power with Bathsheba and her husband. Abuse leads to more abuse, and the very next story after David and Bathsheba is the story of David’s oldest son, Amnon, raping his half-sister, Tamar. What was David’s response to his son’s despicable behavior?
2 Samuel 13:21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. (But he did not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.)
He was angry—but he did nothing. He was angry—but he was passive. Even worse, in his passivity, he showed favoritism to his guilty eldest son over his assaulted daughter. David didn’t act like a man. And what happened next? Two years later, Tamar’s full brother Absalom took revenge on Amnon and killed him, setting off a long chain of trouble that finally culminated in Absalom’s coup against his father and Absalom’s death in battle. All of this disaster because David abused Bathsheba, then looked the other way when his son abused his daughter.
We need more men to act like Moses, not David. We need men who are willing to step up and defend women, not abuse them or look the other way when other men do. We need men who act like men! Or in the words of C.S. Lewis, we need “men with chests.”
We need men who will be like Jesus. Men, do you want to know how to treat women? Look at Jesus. In a world that discriminated against women and gave them few rights, Jesus brushed aside all discrimination and defended women. Jesus treated women with respect and dignity as the equals of men. Jesus included women where His culture excluded them: He had female disciples as well as men; no other Jewish rabbi did that. Jesus rejected the double standards of his day (and ours) that allowed men to divorce women but not vice-versa, or looked away when men were adulterous but not women. He defended both the sinful woman of Luke 7 and the woman taken in adultery in John 8. He welcomed and healed and affirmed when His contemporaries wanted to reject and kill. He acted like a man.
Men, let’s stop being passive and looking the other way when other men misbehave. It’s time to man up. It’s time to act like men, act like Jesus.
Finally, Jesus would say to men,
- Let me help you.
Men need healing too. One woman emailed me this week: “Men need healing—that’s forgotten sometimes in the (justified) anger of the #metoo movement. This isn’t an excuse for their actions or a pass for their consequences, but their need for healing is the root of the issue. I’m sure you’ve done the research; abusers usually have a history of trauma. Throw the prevalence of porn into the mix and we have individuals who are searching for control, hungry for power and devalue women. That combination is the breeding ground for abuse and assault. It’s how we got here.” So true. We all need healing, and Jesus came to heal us, to make us whole, to change us. Consider this story:
Mark 1:40–42 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Leprosy was a terrible disease. It not only destroyed a person’s body, but left them isolated from all social contact—alone—and that destroys the soul. The man with leprosy was a victim of this disease. He didn’t choose to be a leper—no one did. Nor did he do anything to deserve this. He was a victim. Sound familiar? People who are abused don’t choose it or deserve it—they are victims too—men and women alike. And what was Jesus’ response?
Jesus was indignant! He was angry—not at the man (it wasn’t his fault), but at what this disease was doing to the man: robbing him of the life God intended for him.
Look at what Jesus said: “I am willing. Be clean.” And He healed the man completely. I am willing! Jesus wants to heal you!
To all of you, men or women, who have been victims of abuse, Jesus would say, “Let me help you. Let me heal you.” If you’ve been abused, come to Jesus just like this leper and ask Him to heal you. He’s willing.
“Let me help you.”
Jesus would say that not only to the victims of abuse but to the perpetrators. If you are someone who has been abusive, physically, verbally or sexually, Jesus is saying, “Let me help you too. Let me help you change. Let me help you get healthy so that you can be the man I made you to be, and live the life I made you for. Let me help you.”
What would you say if I told you that Jesus can take the worst person you know and make them new and different? You’d probably say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Acts 9 tells the story of Saul. Like Nicodemus, he was a Jew, a Pharisee, very religious, very strict. And he believed that his mission was to wipe out the Christians—stop this new movement dead in its tracks by arresting, beating, and even killing Jesus-followers. He made it so dangerous to be a Christian in Jerusalem that most of them fled town, and when they did, he pursued them to other cities. He was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians when Jesus appeared to him in a blinding flash of light. Saul, the anti-Christian terrorist, the worst man of his day with lots of innocent blood on his hands, became a Jesus-follower, and eventually became Paul, the apostle, who wrote about half of the New Testament. He wrote this:
1 Timothy 1:15–16 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
What’s he saying? “Jesus changed me—the worst of sinners. If Jesus can change me, He can change anybody.” Friend: You are not too far gone. You are not a hopeless cause. You are not so bad that Jesus can’t change you. Come to Jesus—He is saying, “Let me help you.”
“Let me help you.”
Jesus is saying that to the victims, to the perpetrators, and to all of us who have stood by silently and done nothing.
I love the story of Peter. On the last night of Jesus’ life, when Jesus predicted that all of the disciples would abandon Him and run for their lives, Peter protested and said, “Not me, Lord. Never! You can count on me. I’ll die for you.” A few hours later, after Jesus had been arrested and dragged away to trial, Peter is asked by a servant girl if he knew Jesus. “No, I don’t know the man.” Three times Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Rather than standing up for Jesus, defending Jesus, being there for Jesus—Peter did nothing. He did worse than nothing—he pretended not to know Jesus at all.
One of the reasons sexual assault and physical abuse has continued is because men have pretended not to know. We’ve denied it, when we should have acknowledged it. We’ve failed to act and speak up when we should have courageously stood up. We need Jesus to help us—help us be courageous, help us act like men.
Jesus did that for Peter. About 7 weeks after Peter denied knowing Jesus, we find Peter courageously standing before thousands of people in Jerusalem—the very city where Jesus died and where Peter’s courage had failed—and he boldly tells everyone about Jesus. What changed? Jesus had filled Peter with the Holy Spirit! Men, have you asked Jesus to fill you with the Holy Spirit? Jesus wants to fill you with His Spirit, the Spirit that changes us from timid to bold.
2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Jesus says, “Let me help you. Let me give You my Spirit that will empower you to change.”
Before we pray, I want to finish with a brief story—my story. I have never been abused personally, nor have I ever been an abuser. But I lived with abuse as I grew up. My dad, who was a wonderful man when sober, was a terror when drunk. He was physically abusive to my mom—it was awful. I can remember nights as a child listening to the screaming, and praying that the violence would stop, that my dad would leave—or die. It’s a terrible thing when you wish your dad would die. There were times when my mother would load all six kids in the car and we’d flee town because dad had left home depressed or angry, and we knew it would be ugly when he returned. A few nights we all slept in the back of our car on a logging road. I could tell stories, but I’ll stop there. My dad never hit me, but he beat my mom, and those blows left marks on my soul, and my sisters’ souls—all kinds of marks. I have seen a counselor to help me, and recommend that. But the healing has been the work of Jesus. As I’ve brought my memories, my pain, my dysfunction, my fears to Him, He has gently and steadily been healing my soul.
So, as one broken man to another, as one who is being healed by Jesus, I’m inviting you to come to Jesus. Come to Jesus and let Him help you.
I’m going to pray, and when I’m done, we will have pastors and members of our prayer team up here—or you can text the number on the screen if you’d rather talk in private. Or you can simply turn to a trusted friend near you and say, “Would you pray with me.” Any follower of Jesus in room can pray with you. But come to Jesus. He’s here to help you.