Treating women with honor

When I was a kid I remember evenings when our family would watch the news on TV with Walter Cronkite. These days a lot of parents have their kids leave the room when the news comes on, at least during the time when the presidential election is discussed. The discussion has often been inappropriate for young ears. We hear the recording from 11 years ago of one candidate bragging about how he is able to force himself upon women. We are reminded about how the other candidate’s husband treated an intern and we hear many accusations on both sides of disgusting deeds.

As I hear these stories of men in power, using their wealth and position to treat women poorly and satisfy their lust, I think of female friends I know who have been abused and mistreated by men. Some have suffered physical abuse, some sexual, some emotional, some mental, some spiritual.

We are told these immoral words and actions were spoken and done many years ago. Some of my friends were abused many years ago, but the memories haven’t gone away and the pain is still there.

Some of the language and deeds have been described as just locker room banter, the way guys talk, the kind of things “good ol’ boys” do. Let’s call it what the Bible does: sin. It is treating disgracefully women who are created by God, loved by God, of great value to God. Women are not to be looked at by men as objects but as people who are precious and priceless.

Talking about and treating women as sexual objects is wrong, no matter the political party of the one who does it. Some political leaders in the past have treated women shamefully and still been effective, but their behavior was still repulsive. Mistreatment and abuse of women is not excusable just because it is done by somebody we agree with politically and admire for other things they have done. It is not excusable because their opponent has done things that are worse. Mistreatment of women should anger and upset us men, no matter the political position of the man who did it. We are called to honor women and speak up in their defense and try to take steps to defend them. It is sad and tragic that so many women are living lives full of fear. It is heartbreaking that so many have painful memories that still haunt them and hinder them from experiencing the joy and peace God wants to give them.

Leaders taking advantage of women is sadly not a new thing. In the Old Testament we read of King David, lusting after Bathsheba, another man’s wife. He slept with her. She got pregnant. He had her husband killed and thought he got away with it. But then the prophet Nathan confronted him: “You are the man! … Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?” (II Samuel 12:7, 9).

David repented of his sin. He didn’t blame circumstances or say Bathsheba shouldn’t have been looking so beautiful and should have been wearing more clothes. David didn’t talk about how bad the other kings were. He confessed to the Lord: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge” (Psalm 51:3-4).

God forgave, even the ugly sins David committed. Jesus values each person so much He went to the cross and took our punishment upon Himself. Because of Christ and the cross, we can find forgiveness, even though our sin is as terrible as David’s was.

David’s prayer of repentance also includes rejoicing in God’s forgiveness. “… wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity” (Psalm 51:7-9).

It is easier for me to write about how bad it is to mistreat women than it is to write about how forgiveness is offered to those who have hurt people I care about. But God is far more gracious and forgiving than I am and far more gracious and forgiving than I can fully comprehend. I rejoice that forgiveness is offered to those who have committed terrible sins like David did, because it means forgiveness is offered to me as well. My sin is as bad in God’s eyes as David’s was. But the same amazing grace that was showered upon him is offered to you and me as well.

In the Lord’s great compassion, grace and love those who have been mistreated and abused have hope of healing. It can take time, a lot of prayer, a lot of time reading the promises of God and a lot of sharing with caring friends, but hope is found in the kind, gracious and loving way our Lord treats us. While some people treat other people terribly, the Lord treats us as treasures He wants to take care of and hold close for all eternity.

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