As I sipped my coffee yesterday, I pulled up the news on my phone and saw the latest shocker: Matt Lauer fired from his job as one of the anchors of NBC’s Today Show. Harvey, then Kevin, then Charlie… a head-spinning series of downfalls of prominent men, especially in the world of politics, entertainment and media. Both female and male victims have gained collective strength through one another’s willingness to come forward with accusations, triggering the #MeToo movement across social media platforms. Watching the news last night, Cedar and I wondered how many men in power are shaking in their boots in light of the latest accusations. What in the world is going on? I hesitate to wade into these waters because the issue is so HUGE, but this issue isn’t merely a social/cultural thing. It’s reflective of spiritual decay and it involves each one of us if only because of the truth that Paul shares in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” In other words, there’s nothing especially unique going on in the hearts of these accused men. There are heart-level dynamics that affect each of us. That’s important to consider, lest we scroll pages and flip channels, while ‘tsking’ away with self-righteous hearts.
First, I’d like to say this: this is not a disease. This is not a wave of irrationality: “I don’t know what came over me!”. This is not something that is solved by checking oneself into a treatment clinic for sexual addiction (as a handful of these men have done, along with the publicity to make sure everyone notices this step). That implies that something afflicted them, and it perhaps seeks pity/compassion for the condition. No, if there’s any disease, it’s called SIN, and if there’s any pity, it applies to all of humanity, while not absolving any guilt.
Second, it could happen to any of us. Do you believe that? If not, be careful: you underestimate your deadliest enemy called SIN. A member of GRC recently shared with me his conviction that he would likely have fallen into serious sexual sin long ago, except for the lack of opportunity and, of course, except for the preserving, protecting grace of God. That’s what I call a “healthy self-suspicion.” It gives proper respect to the power of sin, and keeps one’s guard up. It’s why I’ve rigorously stuck to what used to be called the “Billy Graham rules” (but recently have been referred to as “Mike Pence rules”). I’m not exactly sure where those men draw lines, but mine looks like this:
- I won’t meet a woman alone, even out in public.
- I’ll only counsel a woman if it’s in the office when other staff are present (or in my home when Cedar is around).
- I don’t drive alone with one woman (which includes driving home babysitters, back in the day when we needed them!)
- I hug a woman, it’s in a very public context like the foyer outside the sanctuary on a Sunday morning or in front of her husband. (And it’s more like a bro-hug, although if you’ve ever hugged Oscar Naranjo, that description doesn’t apply!).
You can call these practices ‘prude’ if you like. But I believe it’s wise to do whatever I can to lessen the chances of falling into temptation, false-accusation, or even accidental touching. The glory of the name of Christ, which I take upon myself as a follower of Christ, is at stake. And as a pastor, so is the name and reputation of Grace Redeemer Church. For men, especially those married, I strongly commend similar practices in your life. If anything, let the news headlines make you more sober-minded about the reality and power of sin.
But what’s going on with this rash of scandals? There’s nothing new under the sun. Since I’ve run out of room, I’d like to continue this next week by trying to unpack what seems like such abnormal behavior, but is just the not-so-surprising product of mixing pride, lust and power. The vast majority (all?) of men struggle with the first two while the third provides the opening/opportunity to a few. And those who give in, create immense destruction in the lives of their victims.
Sobered, and more vigilant than ever,