This past week, our ministry co-hosted an open Q&A with parents and students about the #metoo and #churchtoo campaigns. We wanted to answer the questions: What is the Christian response to stories of abuse and assault generally, and the #metoo campaign in particular?
The Q&A was one of those rare moments when there was fire in my veins; words came easily and there was silence in the crowd as (I trust) the Holy Spirit worked. We began by acknowledging that in a room the size of ours there were likely three groups of people present: those who had been abused, those who had abused others, and those who had been wrongly accused of abuse. A Christian response must address all three groups of people, and all three are addressed in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was sexual objectified.
Jesus was sexually assaulted.
Jesus was wrongly accused.
And he underwent all three of these atrocities for us.
We don’t talk often about the fact that Jesus was crucified naked. But we should. It was an intentional compounding of the shame and humiliation of the cross. Being hung naked was a calculated aspect of his torture. Those in power were proving their dominance by displaying the sexuality of their victim. Though the Bible does not use these terms, Jesus was objectified and assaulted for us. His humanity was diminished by the exposing of his body for the pleasure of others as they gambled away his tattered dignity (Matt 27:35).
Why did Jesus do this?
Jesus did this to offer hope to all those who have been sexually assaulted and objectified. If you are the victim of sexual assault, you can look to Jesus and know that the shame you feel and the guilt that haunts you has been absorbed by a God who knows and cares for the victim and that restoration and resurrection await all those who trust in him.
Jesus did this to warn abusers that He is on the side of the victimized, that he shares their pain and that he will have justice on people who harm those he has died for.
But Jesus also did this to forgive abusers. When I initially sat down to write this, I found it hard to think about forgiveness toward abusers. But my wife reminded me that Jesus died at the hands of abusers precisely so he could extend grace to all those who have committed the worst of crimes. (Thank God for grace-loving wives!) Some of Jesus’ final words were “Father, forgive them.” This is the severe kindnesses of God (Roman 11:7).
This week, Larry Nasser was accused of sexually assaulting over 150 women and children and sentenced to 175 years in prison. One of his victims, Rachael Denhollander, spoke to him during his hearing and offered the same severe and gracious gospel Jesus died to secure.
“Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.”
Finally, Jesus’ death was one he did not deserve—he was innocent. Jesus died to comfort and vindicate those who have been falsely accused. Careers and reputations can be ended more quickly than facts can surface, and our reactive, sinful and outraged culture means there will be false reports. But false claims, kangaroo courts, lynch mobs and an outraged city did not prevent Jesus’ work of mercy and justice—let it not stop our work either. We must not grow suspicious.
Let all of us, victims, abusers and those falsely accused look to Jesus: the just and the justifier, sexually assaulted for us.
This article originally appeared here.