Lessons from the Kavanaugh Hearings October 14 2018

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

In the last blog, we were reminded about praying for those who may be causing us difficulty, drawing from the statement by the young Liza Kavanaugh. The hearings are over now, but a lot of bitterness remains over what occurred. The fact that this level of tension still exists not only highlights the depth of the political battles, but also demonstrates that issues such as the treatment of women and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty are both high profile concerns in American society. And these two issues intersected with one another in a big way during the Kavanaugh hearings.

One take-away from the hearings might be that highly charged political decisions are not a good time for a reasoned discussion on either sexual assault or the presumption of innocence. In fact, this is the wrong venue for a lot of topics, as the underlying seriousness tends to get lost in the rhetoric, and claims that are potentially false or exaggerated tend to diminish the importance of the topic for those who have actually been impacted on either side. It is difficult to tell in these environments how much the arguments stem from sincerely held principles or are merely attempts at political persuasion.

As you know by now, the BCF blogs do not wade into political debates. Rather, these high-profile settings and current events can be opportunities for us to 1) see how relevant the Scriptures are to everyday life, and 2) see how God tells believers to behave and respond in life situations. These situations can also turn into opportunities for us to demonstrate the love of Christ, even though expressing that kind of love can sometimes be misunderstood or taken as mere political opposition. Let’s face it. We are seeing an increasingly intense clash of world views, not just in the U.S., but in other countries as well. One of the great paradoxes of life is that the truths of God that the world largely rejects are the very truths that can give society hope.

One of the things the Kavanaugh hearings has reminded me of is that sexual assault, molestation, or intimidation are serious concerns that both the church and we as individual believers should pay attention to. As indicated in the last blog, many families have been affected by this in some way, whether reported or not. Movies, TV shows, the internet, and media in general take advantage of human temptations to sin in the area of sexuality. And it’s interesting to see how the purveyors of these explicit media are some of the same ones decrying the times when real-life humans fall to those temptations.

Jesus set an amazing example for us in His treatment of women, which broke tradition for first century thinking:

  • In John 4:27, about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, the disciples “were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman,” particularly one from Samaria. But Jesus’ interaction with her is a wonderful example to us of compassion and forgiveness.
  • When Jesus was in the home of Simon the leper, He chastised the disciples for failing to recognize the good deed a woman had done to Him by anointing Him with oil (Matthew 26:7-10)
  • When Jesus was on the cross, He made sure that His mother would be in good hands, by having “the disciple whom He loved” take her into his home (John 19:25-27)

Jesus’ concern and compassion for women clearly comes through. Paul followed Jesus’ example in the New Testament, by acknowledging many of the women who had been instrumental in his ministry, and he summed up his message about the equality of men and women in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Women are not always treated in this way. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were approximately 323,000 victims of rape or sexual assault in 2016, both those reported to the police and not reported (as assessed through surveys). The great majority of these involved women assaulted by men. It was estimated that about 25% of the incidents were reported to police. What actually happened to Dr. Ford we may never know, but clearly, sexual assault remains a serious problem. And with annual statistics of this magnitude, it is likely that most families have been affected by this in some way, whether reported or not. I was on a jury for a civil case just a few years ago involving sexual molestation, and it was indeed grievous to the family involved.

This is sad, but should not be surprising, because humans have this characteristic called a “sin nature.” Paul goes to great lengths to explain this in the first several chapters of Romans, 1) that they (i.e. we) are without excuse (Romans 1:20), 2) that “there is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10), and 3) that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23). The Bible describes all too graphically how this played out in real life, from the murder of Able by Cain, to the sin of David with Bathsheba and the subsequent plot to kill her husband Uriah, to the adulterous sin within the church at Corinth, and so on.

Men, when we start to think that we are not susceptible ourselves, all we need to do as a reminder is go back to Jesus’ reminder in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Jesus obviously set a high standard, one that we can never meet in our own strength. This is why Jesus could say to the men who wanted to stone the adulterous woman “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). The guilt of men in that audience was obvious from the words that followed in verse 9: “When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.” Perhaps this is an acknowledgement that the older ones had become more aware of their propensity to sin.

So what is the point? Perhaps we cannot solve the societal problem of sexual assault, but we can be responsible for our own walk with Jesus in this area. I Corinthians 10:13 is the familiar verse that reminds us of the hope that “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.” And there is also the promise in that verse that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

But we often forget the verse immediately prior: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (verse 12). Or in the words of John Bradford in the 16th century, “there but for the grace of God go I.” None of us is immune from temptation to sin. And in verse 14 we read: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” In other words, don’t see how close you can get to the temptation without sinning. The statement full of hope (verse 13) is sandwiched between these two verses of our responsibility.

We have given examples of ways to “take heed” and to “flee” in the series of blogs on addiction. You can find these in the blogs dated October 27 and November 10, 2017 and the two blogs in February 2018 (February 4, February 19). This experience has also reminded me that Vice President Pence made a statement long before holding his current office that he would not go out to a meal alone with another woman other than his wife. A lot of people made fun of the “Pence rule,” but hopefully, his critics can now see how his personal precautions are not so foolish.  It is a practical application of I Corinthians 10:12. There are other ways to get business done and advise female employees in their careers without leaving the appearance of impropriety. From the beginnings of BCF, we have similarly stressed the importance of team counseling/discipleship for multiple reasons. For one, it is a great example of how to train/disciple others; but it is also for protection of all the individuals involved. You can learn more about team counseling in the BCF Level 2 course on Biblical Counseling/Discipleship.

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Steve Smith