Read 2 Samuel 13:1-22
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.” (Amos 5:24 NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 58: Tamar. The last few months of 2017 went down with a barage of sexual harassment and/or misconduct charges against many prominent and powerful people. People in the upper eschalon of Hollywood, movie stars, politicians and others were outed as having wrongfully forced themselves (in one manner or another) on others because they had the power to do so. Thus, the #metoo movement was born, where countless women across social media shared their experiences with having been subjected to sexual harrassment/assault/misconduct.
What’s more, it didn’t stop with the secular world. Not long after #metoo exploded into our collective conscience, so did #churchtoo. In this social media tag, many Christian women recounted their experience with such abuse within their churches. Some of the sharing was of actual sexual abuse, and some of it was not of abuse within the church, but how the church helped to shame and silence victims of such abuse. Both are egregiously wrong and shameful.
Of course, with such abuse came push back over the length of time between the accusations. “Why did she wait 20-30 years to bring this forward,” skeptical/cynical people countered. Yet, at the heart of this is a fundamental sin we find ourselves falling into. We forget that victims almost always remain silent because they feel shamed by others around them, shamed by the very act of sexual abuse itself, and intimidated by the people who preyed upon them…people who are often in positions of power and authority. Would you report being abused if you knew it was going to cost you even more abuse than the original abuse itself did? Be honest.
Unfortunately, the #metoo and #churchtoo movements are not pointing to anything knew. Sexual abuse and misconduct happen all the time. The citizens of Sodom wanted to rape the male guests of Lot…and Lot was going to offer those evil people his daughters in the place of his guests (#themtoo)! Rape and sexual assault is reported all throughout the Bible and none in more detail than in the case of Tamar, who was raped by her half-brother Amnon.
Perhaps, looking at the account of Tamar’s rape will help us understand why female (and male) victims often remain silent. Tamar reported her rape to her brother Absolom who became, naturally, very indignant over the assault. He wanted justice for his sister, though he told her to be quiet (probably for he safety), and brought the accusation to his father, David, the King.
What did David do to Amnon, his firstborn and heir to his throne, to punish him for his crime: NADA. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The Bible says he was angry, but remained silent and did nothing to punish Amnon, his firstborn. What that betrays is the fact that David played politics and put power above justice. #tamartoo. This, unfortunately, is an evil that women have had to endure from time immemorial.
The question for us is this: are we going to allow these patterns to continue? Are we, as God’s people, going to follow after Abraham, Lot, David, Hollywood, Wall Street, Capital Hill, the White House, some church leaders, and others who have either sexually abused people and/or dismissed, silenced and shamed victims of sexual abuse (or any abuse in general)? Is our immediate, knee-jerk reaction going to be to defend the accused over and above the vicitm?
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that, in today’s hyper-sensitive and “quick-to-judge, jury, and destroy” world driven by a rabid media and social media, we need to be careful to let the facts of each case come out before making any final judgments toward anyone. It’s not justice to “burn a witch”, as it were, only to find out he or she wasn’t a witch. #salemwitchtrials.
With that said, we can’t allow justice to be obstructed by instantly calling the accusers liars and not allowing for the due process to work out on both sides. We can comfort people who are claiming to be victims, and work toward their healing, while not skewering and seeking the immediate demise of the accusers and their families. But we must not silence victims and perpetrate evil. We must defend the weak and take all accusations seriously. These are tough times to be navigating, for sure; however, God is just and always on the side of the oppressed, no matter who the oppressed is. #soshouldwebe.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Absolom named his daughter “Tamar”, presumably in honor of his sister, whom he cared for and took into his own home following her rape. How can we bring honor, care and healing to victims rather than shame, apathy and irrevocable harm?
Lord, let our hearts be filled with justice and let that justice quell our cynicism, perceptions and quickness to judge and persecute (victims or otherwise). Prepare me, O Lord, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. Amen.