I am writing this on Wednesday, September 26, 2018, the day prior to the presentations of Judge Kavanagh and Dr. Ford before the Senate Judicial Committee. The reason I say that is because I do not want any of you to feel this is a reaction to the statements being made at that publicized hearings or the anticipated political and journalistic spins that will inevitably fill the airwaves and printed pages of the US and the world. So, please hear me out.
The phrase, “Me Too,” has become so familiar in this past year. In its purist form it refers to the awful tendency of men exerting their power and influence over a vulnerable person, often a woman, who is less powerful. On the surface the behavior is seen as a drive to obtain instant gratification, often sexual in nature. The reality, it is about the abuse of power. It is a violent, selfish act that scars another human being for the rest of their life.
Some of the names highlighted by the “Me Too” movement are familiar to us: Bill Cosby, Henry Weinstein, Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Roy Moore, Dustin Hoffman, Judge Kavanagh, and the list could go on and on and on and. Even though within our legal system the accused are “innocent until proven guilty,” the accusations have proven to be career ending and scaring for these and other men.
As many of you know, I look to the scriptures to find my reference point to provide a biblical perspective on such circumstances. One of the most familiar “Me Too” moments in the Bible is that of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. Powerful, successful, and influential, David took a break from fighting war. During his R and R he took an evening stroll on the roof of his palace and saw Bathsheba bathing. He then used his power to arrange an encounter. The text does not describe her response, but, it is difficult to say “no” to the most powerful man in the nation. Bathsheba may well have said, “Me Too,” in our time in human history.
David, like so many men, denied it happened. David, tried to create a major cover up. David lied. David oversaw the murdered Bathsheba’s husband (Uriah the Hittite). Ultimately David paid huge consequences in his political leadership and his family life. But, different than many of the men in our present day “Me Too” spotlight, he repented, confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness. Psalm 51 recounts his confession.
So, where has society gone wrong? More to the point, where have men within society gone wrong? Let me share two thoughts.
First, I must turn to Genesis 1 and 2. God created man and woman for a special relationship. In Genesis 1, humanity is made up of male and female. There is no true humanity without a respectful balance between the two. If one is diminished, the whole is diminished. If one demands more power, the whole is broken. Probably the greatest loss is that we lose the image of God in which we are made. The essence of this first part of the creation story is that together, male and female, operating as God intended, gives an insight into who God is.
Genesis 2 presents another image of creation: Adam was created first and Eve was created second. For many over the millenia, this image has been interpreted as man is therefore more important than woman. However, to discern the true nature of this created relationship we need to understand the word that is used to describe the purpose of this partnership in creation. Listen to how The Complete Word Study Dictionary describes the word, “Helper or helpmate” as used in Genesis 2:18.
ʿēzer: A masculine noun meaning a helper, one who helps; help, aid. It refers to aid or assistance that is given, whether material or immaterial (Isa. 30:5; Dan. 11:34). It is often help from the Lord who helps His people (Ps. 20:2; 121:1, 2; 124:8). He is called the shield or protection of Israel’s help (Deut. 33:29). It indicates persons who give help: the woman created as Adam’s complementary helper (Gen. 2:18, 20); the Lord as Israel’s help (Hos. 13:9); the Lord as Israel’s chief Helper (Ex. 18:4; Deut. 33:7; Ps. 33:20; 115:9-11). The name Eliezer means God (is) my helper (Ex. 18:4).
The woman is not to be an instrument controlled or manipulated for the man’s pleasure (or abuse), but a gift from God to assist in the work God would have them do as they reflect God’s image. “Me Too” reveals the abuse of God’s intended order.
Second, I must point to how Jesus treated women. In an age where women were treated as personal property at best, Jesus treated women with dignity and respect. Throughout the Gospels we see women allowed into the private space of male dinner parties (Matthew 26:6-13). We see women being major financial supporters of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:1-3). We see women being allowed to sit at the feet of the master during times of teaching (Luke 10:38-42). The first commissioned evangelist after the resurrection was a woman, Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18). In an age when women were 2nd class citizens, Jesus treated them with great respect. Jesus was not on the “Me Too” list.
As Christians we are called to “Follow Jesus Christ.” We at First Presbyterian Church have made that the 2nd line of our mission statement. When we fall short in our following (and we always do), we need to be quick to repent. When there is true repentance we need to be quick to forgive.
In the New Testament Letter to the Church at Colossae, The Apostle Paul wrote great instructions to guide Christian behaviors then and now. He said:
Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people (male and female. Peh), holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
May our “Me Too” be all sides of this equation. “I TOO” have been abused. “I TOO” have abused. “I TOO” have confessed my wrong doing. “I TOO” have repented of my past sin. “I TOO” have forgiven when my abuser. “I TOO” have made the decision and commitment to Follow Jesus Christ, the one who set the example for how I am to live in relation to God and to others.