Commentary

Leave Her Alone

What Jesus has to say to both abusers and victims of sexual harassment.

At 7 am on December 6, 2017, Time magazine announced simultaneously across all its platforms that the women who launched the #metoo movement against sexual harassment—whom the publication called “The Silence Breakers”—had been named “Person of the Year 2017.” Echoing what has been on the daily newscasts for weeks now, Adventist Review wishes to share a biblical take on the topic, as written by Dwight Nelson, senior pastor of the Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States, on his blog “The Fourth Watch.” Nelson wrote his entry days before the Dec. 6 announcement.—Adventist Review Editors

The list of the high and mighty who have been recently named in sexual harassment charges is stunning. From politicians to entertainers to media icons—it seems America now awakens each day with some new hitherto undisclosed revelation or charge of sexual abuse or harassment. Women victims, who have long been shamed or cowed into submission and silence by powerful male perpetrators, have found new voice and courage to speak out. And men, who once lived with wanton disregard for the women they mistreated with sexual abandon, now stand before the court of public opinion, their sexual libidos in full display. Even the secular press now touts sexual accountability, justice, and morality.

However, this sudden outbreak of sexual disclosure should hardly be unexpected, given the ancient prediction: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2, 4, 5 NIV). Perhaps the operative word from Scripture for today's headlines should be: “‘How the mighty have fallen!’” (2 Sam. 1:27).

But what would Jesus say to the girls and the women who have been wounded and shamed by workplace or campus sexual abuse or harassment? Remember Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) at the feast of Simon, the healed leper? There she was, kneeling beside Jesus, sobbing as she splashed expensive perfume over both His head and feet. Here the book Desire of Ages draws the veil aside with a disclosure, not unlike the headlines of late. As it turns out, “Simon had led into sin the woman he now despised. [Mary] had been deeply wronged by him” (p. 566). He (who was her uncle, no less [Daughters of God, p. 239]) had led her to the shame of his own sexual sin.

So when Jesus responds to the hisses of disapproval for Mary’s outpouring (from the nearly all-male) dinner guests around that table, He speaks cryptic but forceful words still addressed to every male abuser: “‘Leave her alone’” (John 12:7).

The church and this faith community stand beside all victims of unwanted sexual abuse—for there is no place in either Kingdom or church for this predatory immorality. If you are a victim of such abuse, then seize the new freedom that many victims are now sensing and speak up regarding your woundedness. Find a spiritual counselor you can trust, and share your story of pain.

Does Christ forgive sexual sin? Of course, He does. Desire of Ages responds: “You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite one away. He does not tell to any all that He might reveal, but He bids every trembling soul take courage. Freely will He pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration” (p. 568).

But can Jesus heal the victims of sexual sin? The story of Mary offers a resounding Yes. Desire of Ages promises: “The plan of redemption has invested humanity with great possibilities, and in Mary, these possibilities were to be realized. Through His grace, she became a partaker of the divine nature…. The souls that turn to Him for refuge, Jesus lifts above the accusing and the strife of tongues. No man or evil angel can impeach these souls. Christ unites them to His own divine-human nature. They stand beside the great Sin Bearer, in the light proceeding from the throne of God” (ibid).

And where better to stand than beside the One who can both heal our wounds and forgive our guilt? No matter the headlines — abuser or victim — the light shining from Calvary offers hope to us all.

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