The Epidemic of Abuse

We’ve all been stunned by revelation after revelation of sexual misconduct and sexual abuse by those in powerful positions in a variety of industries including entertainment, politics, and media. The stories being unearthed are horrifying, and in some cases graphic and even grotesque.

As I’ve listened to this narrative unfold, I’ve been struck that in many ways the media is focused on the wrong thing. The heinous sexual exploitation of women is not the core issue. Rather, it is the symptom of something much more corrupt that finds expression in the exploitation of others, and in this case, women.

What is really at play is the abuse of power. Without exception, each man had risen to a place of power in his industry or career. And each chose to use that power for self-indulgent purposes, with women paying the price for their personal gratification.

While we are shocked by these revelations, perhaps we shouldn’t be as what we are witnessing is the natural bent of power. This is something Jesus warned about over 2,000 years ago, as recorded in Matthew 20.

In this scene, Jesus has gathered his disciples around him after learning that some of his disciples were jockeying for the most powerful positions. He begins his mild rebuke with this statement,

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.”

Jesus immediately calls out the fact that the natural bent of power is to lord that power over others—to use it for self-promoting purposes. In fact, the word in the original language of the New Testament for “lord it over” literally means, “exercise complete dominion over”. That power says, “Because I’m the one in power, you will do as I say.” And in the case of these entertainment, media, and political leaders, that was to provide them with sexual favors at the cost of the dignity and sanctity of these women.

People with this kind of power do these things because they can. And because the only thing that matters to them is their personal gratification.

But Jesus doesn’t leave us there. He goes on to describe what it looks like to use power in the way that God designed power to be used. He says,

“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

God designed power to be used in service of others, to meet their needs, not the needs of the one wielding the power. And Jesus takes it one step further. The most powerful must see themselves as indentured servants, “slaves” of those under their authority, even sacrificing to see them grow and succeed.

Imagine if each of these men in such powerful positions had used that power in this way. The dignity and sanctity of these women would have been protected. They wouldn’t have been seen as objects to be used, but rather people of such infinite worth that those in power would have personally sacrificed for the benefit of each woman.

The message to men in power should be abundantly clear. That power has been granted to you for the good of those you serve—who are those under your authority—and not for your personal gratification. Until there is this shift in thinking, I fear only more stories of shattered lives will be written.