General Repentance for Sexual Harassment and Abuse
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
What is known as the “sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church” in the U.S. has been well documented over the last 20 years. Twenty years is a long time to deal with revelation after revelation, and know that more is yet to come since the victims tend to not come forward for 20, 30 or even 40 years.
In addition to the problems in the Catholic church, other Christian churches have had similar problems as has society at large. We cannot ignore the news about the #MeToo movement along with charges against well-known people like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, along with many others.
It is time that we go beyond the anger, beyond the hashtags, beyond the counseling to look at a Biblical and prayerful response in the hope of bringing healing to all concerned. By proposing a prayerful response I am not in any way suggesting that there should not be a legal outcome for those who are guilty. They should be prosecuted. But legal justice is only one part of the process when the outcome we ultimately seek as Christians is healing and prevention.
I know it can be accomplished because God can do all good things. God will prevail. Our Lord never created a heart that could not be touched, or saw a sin that could not be forgiven, or met a person who could not be healed. As Christians, we are called to work with him to do whatever we can to bring an end to abuse and bring healing to those who are affected. We need to deal with this crisis of sin because those who have been hurt, directly or indirectly, deserve justice, because the churches need to be cleansed of sin and cleansed of any clergy who are still abusing people or covering it up, and because American society that has tolerated sexual harassment needs to change. Those who have not been directly involved in these matters still have a significant role to play in bringing about repentance and healing.
- Scriptural Examples of Repentance on Behalf of Others
The prophet Daniel saw the need. His prayer was heartfelt and humble, with fasting and sackcloth. He acknowledged the specifics of the wrongdoing and took ownership of it, even though the sin was not his personally. His repentance led to the repentance of the nation.
Ezra, priest and leader, was another man who repented on behalf of the people. He led a group of exiles back to Judah and Jerusalem. However, after their return from exile in Babylon, the people did not keep God’s laws. Ezra’s response was similar to Daniel’s (Ezra 9:3-15). He tore his clothing, pulled hair from his head and beard, fasted, and prayed. “I am ashamed . . . because our sins . . . .” This led to the people joining Ezra in confessing their sins, repenting and changing their ways.
- Repentance Today
Second, as baptized believers we are a kingly and priestly people (Rev 1:6, 1 P 2:9). Daniel, as a prophet in a time of exile, stood before God to repent on behalf of himself, his people and their ancestors. Ezra, as a priest in a time of restoration, offered a sacrifice of prayer and fasting on behalf of the people. We, too, share in the kingly and priestly and prophetic roles handed on to us by Jesus. These roles include repentance, prayer and fasting on behalf of ourselves and others (1 Jn 3:16, Eph 2:6-8). We have the authority and the responsibility to pray in this situation today.
- Prayer of Repentance
Ezra prayed, “O God, I am too ashamed to raise my head in your presence. Our sins pile up higher than our heads; they reach as high as the heavens” (Ezra 9:6).
Josiah was King of Judah. Although his words of repentance for his people have not been recorded, his actions speak to us. He tore down and desecrated the altars to the false gods. He ground the idols to dust. He forbade the priests who had been involved with the false worship to serve in the Temple. Then he “made a covenant with the Lord to obey him, to keep his laws and commands with all his heart and soul, and to put into practice the demands attached to the covenant, as written in the book” (2 Ch 35:31). The entire nation responded by making the covenant with him. The celebration of the Passover was reestablished and went on for days.
- What We Can Do
If we know someone personally who has suffered harassment or abuse, we should pray about whether to approach them and offer our prayers and condolences. The same with perpetrators. In either event, we can still pray for them and for their healing.
- The Gift of Healing Prayer
The Lord “judges in favor of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free and gives sight to the blind. He lifts those who have fallen; he loves his righteous people” (Ps146:7-8; see also Is 61:1-3 and Lk 4:18-19). The world is waiting to hear that Jesus heals and sets people free. Will you be a part of spreading this good news through prayer and repentance for yourself and others? Will you make that commitment today?
Your Sister in Christ, Alice Noe
© Manna Prayer Ministries, October 2018