Like millions of others, I felt another gut punch recently. Another high profile person facing allegations of sexual misconduct, this time NBC personality, Matt Lauer. Really?! Another allegation? Him too? Gut punched. Another nice guy—I thought!—outed for sinful, selfish acts.
Apparently, according to a Google search, there have been more than 80 publicized sexual harassment allegations against actors, politicians, artists, athletes, musicians, corporate titans, and more. The media hasn’t categorized these acts as sin, but instead, have used a variety of words to depict these sexually-selfish actions since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October. Slow down and listen to the sound of these words. Harassment, misconduct, assault, degradation, rape, abuse, inappropriate and non-consensual touching and advances.
Do you fully realize the impact of these acts in the lives of those who have endured them? In my ministry, about 80% of the women who confess their personal struggles with sexual sin to me also confess the sexual sins of others done against them. These kinds of sinful actions inflict long-lasting damage in a woman’s life!
So even though the Matt Lauer story gut-punched me, I have celebrated and done my own fist-pumping over the past months as these allegations have exposed abusers. Exposing sin is important!
Accusations and allegations are one way to address these horrible experiences. When someone alleges the wrong acts of another, she is, essentially, confessing the sin of another; she is exposing, as Ephesians 5:11-13 says, the deeds of darkness, making them visible so that justice might be done.
I wonder how different it would be if some of these men would have come forward and acknowledged their behavior before the allegations outed them.
But although going public was, in perhaps most of these cases, the only way these evil actions could have been exposed, I still grieve that it had to come to that. There is another way, but it places the responsibility on the one accused.
Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Hmm, a sober promise and a sweet one alongside each other. Concealing, or covering up sin, leads to a lack of prospering, or God-honoring success and victory in this life.
Here’s the sweetness of this verse: confessing (honestly acknowledging) and forsaking (intentionally abandoning) our sin against another leads to God’s merciful, compassionate love and forgiveness pouring into one’s soul and life. An instant removal of sin’s consequences and scars? No. Easy, painless restoration? Again, no. But a soul right with God, free of guilt and shame and now enabled to take the next steps of costly obedience? Yes!
I wonder how different it would be if some of these men would have come forward and acknowledged their behavior before the allegations outed them? I know that might be expecting way too much; a great many of these sexual offenses were particularly dark and destructive. Behaviors like these live in the dark, they feed on power and control, and exposure to light is the very thing they avoid at all costs. These men and their behaviors deserve the harsh exposure to light for all to see.
But now I’m thinking of the women I work with. How much different, perhaps, would their lives now be if any of the men—many who were as involved in the church as these women were, men who identified as believers—would have come forward, on their own, and acknowledged their sin. I wonder how many, while continuing to live in fear of being found out, have, at some level, been moved by the cries of those they hurt. But they remain in the darkness because they fear what exposure will do to them.
And the Harvey Weinsteins and the Matt Lauers of this world give them evidence of what can happen.
But God offers a way out, a better way out.
There are consequences and scars from sin that will remain for all of us while we live on this earth. However, God’s way for the damage of sin to be healed (in both offender and offended) is to bring the sin into the light: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a).
Have you sinned sexually against someone? Have you pursued someone selfishly, without consent—touching, groping, kissing, sending unsolicited sexual images, speaking sexually derogatory words, manipulating someone into sex, forcing someone? Look, the excuse that many of these men gave that these actions were consensual is pure obfuscation; they pursued what they wanted on their selfish terms. They thought they could get away with it.
Dear man or woman: God is pleading with you to confess and abandon your sin and to be washed in his mercy. But you must “self-allege:” I am a sinner needing grace and Christ’s washing! I am feeling trapped by these behaviors; drawn compulsively toward them. You must forsake and renounce: I will flee this sin, seek the help I need, humbly ask for forgiveness, willingly seek restoration, and courageously entrust the consequences of my obedience to Jesus.
These faith steps will take courage. They will be costly and painful; they will feel humiliating. Your sin has also been costly, painful, and humiliating to those on the receiving end of your selfish acts. But God’s good news is for you! God’s grace and mercy are yours for the taking, yours for what God has wanted to lavish upon you all along: forgiveness and freedom which only comes by dying to self.
And death to self starts with confession.
Watch Ellen talk more about this on her accompanying video: Why is it best for you to confess your own sin? These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.
Ellen Mary Dykas
Director of Equipping for Ministry to Women
Ellen joined Harvest USA in 2007 as our first full-time women’s ministry staff. Ellen received her MA from Covenant Theological Seminary and a graduate certificate in biblical counseling from Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF).More from Ellen Mary Dykas