On October 25, 2018, Lord Peter Hain rose to his feet to address those assembled in the House of Lords, the United Kingdom’s upper house of Parliament. His speech lasted all of 37 seconds, but created a blast that would not have been exceeded had he detonated a nuclear device. Rather controversially, he had taken upon himself the responsibility of exposing what he saw as an intolerable “modern-day” injustice.
The purpose of his speech was to reveal the identity of a prominent U.K. businessman charged with sexual harassment, whose name had been previously concealed by the High Court. Lord Hain used archaic laws of parliamentary privilege—which protect Members of Parliament and peers from libel lawsuits for what they say within the House of Commons and the House of Lords—to circumvent the judges and go public with the person’s name. The businessman had been accused of gross sexual harassment of staff, and the uncovering of such allegations quickly led to others. In one case, a peerage—and thus a seat in the House of Lords—was offered in return for sexual favours.
So, 2018 in London appears to end on a similar note to where it began.
January 2018 started with identity, sex, and gender issues. Sexual harassment and exploitation charges by women against politicians, news personalities, and movie stars exploded in the media. Well-known men in positions of power—including Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers—were named and shamed, forced out of jobs, and saw their public standing shredded. Every section of society seemed to be included, as more and more abused women joined what came to be called the “#MeToo” movement.
Yet one magazine that highlighted these scandals among its January 2018 headlines also boasted about “The Best Sex Scenes in Movies and Television of 2017” in the very same issue. Most modern societies appear to be completely obsessed with sex!
But these problems are not new. Down through the centuries, feudal kings, bishops, and nobles have used their power and position to get what they wanted. And this behavior goes back even further, all the way to the beginning of mankind’s history as recorded in the Bible. The Book of Genesis alone recounts numerous situations that would be right at home with the ones that have been splashed across headlines and news channels over the past months.
From the time of Noah through the end of the book of Genesis, we are introduced to almost every form of sexual activity that has featured as part of the recent #MeToo movement: adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, rape, prostitution, and sexual harassment. Oftentimes the Bible uses euphemisms to describe these sins instead of the explicit language or “gutter talk” that is used today. But there are some exceptions: the rape of Dinah by the Prince of Shechem (Genesis 34:1-2); Reuben’s indiscretion with his father’s concubine, Bilhah, and the consequences (Genesis 35:22; 49:1–4); and the explicit references in Genesis 38 to Judah’s escapades with prostitutes.
Are these events just recorded as salacious tales, or is there a greater lesson to be learned?
The experience of Abraham, a central figure in the book of Genesis, provides part of the answer. He had a beautiful wife, Sarah, in an age when beauty was the preserve of royal palaces and kings. A man could lose his life if someone more powerful wanted his wife to grace a palace or harem. Abraham found himself in such straits more than once: first when the Pharaoh of Egypt took Sarah into his palace (Genesis 12:10–20), and also when the King of Gerar took her to be his wife (Genesis 20:1–18).
On both occasions, God intervened to protect Sarah and return her, untouched, to Abraham, despite the fact that Abraham had misled these rulers to believe that Sarah was only his sister and not his wife. When questioned about why he had done this, Abraham’s response was that he was afraid that he would be killed on account of Sarah, and specifically that the men in Gerar would kill him because they did not fear God (Genesis 20:11).
Like Abraham, we live in a world that has no fear of a Divine Being who might hold us accountable for our actions. We have chosen to become the arbiters of our own morality. We live in a society in which “fear” of God (i.e., a profound respect) barely exists. We like to think of ourselves as liberated—above all, from a God who presumes to tell us how we should live our lives.
Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph was a young man who faced sexual harassment from his employer’s wife. The result was that he was thrown into prison based on trumped-up charges of attempted rape, because he feared God and had refused to respond to her advances (Genesis 39:1–15). Joseph understood the sanctity of marriage and knew that it was not right to take another’s wife, no matter how alluring and attractive that idea may have been. He understood that to indulge in sex with her would have been wickedness and sin (Genesis 39:8–9). He was driven by the fear of God, an almost unheard-of concept in the 21st century.
The Apostle Paul picked up on these thoughts while addressing Christians living in Corinth, one of the most sexually active cities in the world of the first century. He focused the minds of the Church then, and does so today, on a fundamental point that is lost to many people. It is our Creator alone who has the right to establish what is right and wrong in the use of our hormones and drives—and we are told to honour (fear) God with our bodies by “fleeing from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18–20). Paul further emphasized this to the church at Thessalonica, adding that each of us should know “how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–4).
The #MeToo headlines highlight something profoundly simple: We don’t think as God does! Our “liberated” societies have established that sex is something for personal enjoyment, with the emphasis on “personal.” It’s for the self. And if we’re not careful, it’s all too easy for any of us to succumb to that way of thinking.
We need to be aware of what shapes our thinking and outlook in today’s society. Is it the news media and the entertainment world, with their “anything goes” mentality? Or is it the teaching that has been given to us in God’s word, His handbook for our lives? Do we give in to the libertine spirit and unbridled sexuality that characterize our world and have ruined the lives and reputations of so many people? Or do we approach others—including someone we are dating, or our spouse—in a way that reflects the “fear of God,” which Abraham had to learn and which Joseph practiced?
Continue to read this magazine to learn more about the importance of fearing God and how doing so opens the door to solutions for the problems we face in this world.