What is it? I imagine the answers to that question are too many to count. It depends on whom you ask, right?
When I served as an Officer in the Marine Corps, we knew in no uncertain terms that any unwanted remark or contact with a female Marine was considered harassment. The woman got to define it, so we had better keep things clean. A very similar definition prevailed at GE when I worked there as a Materials Manager.
And yet I heard comments made by men about women, or specific female co-workers, that were not clean. Not in the least. But those comments were always made only in the company of other men. Behind the backs of those women. It was gossip, sometimes of a sexual nature. Sometimes I confronted it. Sometimes I ignored it. Sometimes I just found a way to walk away and find something else to do. But it was fairly normal and commonplace.
And no evangelical, Bible-affirming Christian is at all shocked by this behavior! Honest women I know tell me that women often do the same thing! They, too, talk inappropriately about men behind their backs. And in high school locker rooms all across this land, crude talk and jesting is rampant. This is how sinners live and move and have their being. Sinners sin. Our thoughts are not pure. Our lips are unclean. And sometimes we use our bodies to sinfully violate the body of another person, whether that’s a punch in the nose or touching when that touch is not wanted.
So I have been, like all of you, watching, with massively mixed up emotions, the latest rampage of firings amid allegations of sexual harassment. At this rate, there literally will be no male news anchors left on TV in a year! And we might not have any men left standing in public office either.
Please do not misunderstand me. I do not endorse any inappropriate talk about anyone. I denounce any sexual activity outside of marriage. Period. I decry any unwanted sexual advances or contact. Sin is sin. It is ugly. Never justifiable. And followers of Jesus, of all people, must affirm and embrace these truths!
“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which is out of place; but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:3-4).
My concern here is not to defend any sinful or inappropriate talk or behavior. Rather, my purpose in writing is to say, “Every man in any position of influence or authority in this Nation right now is walking on pins and needles.”
Because we ALL have sinned in these ways. At some point in our lives, every single one of us has sinned in ways that our society now defines as “harassment.” Some of these allegations reach back 25-40 years. Does any one of us really want all our stupid, hormone-afflicted behavior as teens or college students thrown back up in our faces?
If the allegations are true, whether they are 30 years in our past or just a few months ago, we should confess them as sin before God and seek His forgiveness as well as the forgiveness of those we hurt or offended. I have personally promised God that each time I encounter someone from my past that I know I sinned against I will do this very thing. I want people to know I am genuinely sorry and thanks to Jesus I am not the man I once was. And, praise God, He has blessed me to maintain pure relationships for decades now. I give Him all the glory, for apart from Christ I am nothing and can do nothing of spiritual beauty (John 15).
And if a crime has been alleged, such as sexual assault, we need to withhold judgment until a fair trial is conducted. I am deeply disturbed by the direction of our culture and media. We are as Americans no longer innocent until proven guilty. No! Especially not if the allegations come from a woman against a man. We expect that man to quit his job immediately, even if he is denying all the allegations. Long before a trial. We have already crucified him. And even if the man admits to inappropriate talk or advances (but no legal crimes were committed), we still know he will get fired from his job and disgraced. And so I say again, no man then is safe! Because we have all sinned in these ways and if we’re not allowed to genuinely repent and apologize and seek forgiveness without losing our livelihood, well, I have no idea how our society and economy will sustain this insanity.
And frankly, I wonder why we assume only men harass women. If you think the stigma on a woman making public allegations against a powerful or influential man is strong, consider the stigma when the gender roles are reversed! When is the last time you heard a man make public allegations of harassment against his female boss? And it happens. Our military now has to deal with male-on-male and female-on-female harassment and it is devastating. Surely we are not naive enough to think only men are guilty of these sins? Surely we do not think it impossible for a woman to advance in a career through sinful means? Surely we do not think only women tell the truth and all men are liars?
Or do we? And if all women tell the truth, what about those labeled trans-gendered?
The spiritual ramifications of this ongoing saga are crucial. Even in the church. Will we hold our pasts against each other? Or, as those who humbly confess our sins and plead the blood of Christ as our only hope of forgiveness and reconciliation with God and one another, will we embrace one another as the Redeemed Family of God? Is the Cross of Jesus Christ the great leveler of all playing fields, or not?
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
What is most disturbing in all of this is the complete lack of any gospel consciousness or biblical language to help us process and deal with it. Not one dismissed news anchor has called his behavior “sin” to my knowledge. God has not been mentioned. The forgiveness of sins available only in the righteous life, substitutionary death and powerful resurrection of Jesus Christ is never invoked.
Instead, we just send offenders away in shame. Much as we have shut away and silenced victims in our society for far too long. We are losing our sense of hope! Of forgiveness! Of reconciliation! Of restoration!
O dear friends, our nation needs the Gospel.