Dear Ben and Archie*,
You may have noticed the many stories in the news about how lots of women have been hurt by men. Women like Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins, and many others. It’s been sad to watch their pain.
We live in a fallen world in which people don’t always live in a God-pleasing way: a world in which men all too often mistreat women. It’s awful. It’s shocking.
As you know, we live in a fallen world: a world in which people don’t always live in a God-pleasing way; a world in which men all too often mistreat women. It’s awful. It’s shocking. It’s not right. But in a sinful world it’s not surprising.
While there are many good men in your lives—at your school, at church, in your family—some men do things that hurt women, which makes God angry. In fact, many, if not most women could tell you about bad experiences they had with men, where men disrespected them. Perhaps these men said dirty and inappropriate things to them. Or harmed them emotionally, physically, and even sexually. What we’re seeing in the media are many women who are rightly saying ‘enough’ to this sort of treatment.
As males, we’ll probably never experience the same sort of degrading treatment that so many women experience. And so, I’m writing to make you aware of what your female family members and friends are up against. And how you should respond, especially as males.
The most important thing you should do is look to Jesus as your model.
Look carefully at the way Jesus treated women.
Remember that you belong to him, as you’re part of His family (1 John 3:1-2). And so, follow his example. Look carefully at the way he treated women. He spoke to them with respect, tenderness and care (John 4:7-30). He respected his mother, and made sure that his mother was cared for by his beloved disciple after his death and resurrection. He had good friends who were women (Mary and Martha). He respected the dignity and accepted the ministry of women that society treated as outcasts (Luke 7). He went out of his way to visit and heal a little girl (Luke 8).
At a time when women were considered inferior to men, Jesus shocked his culture by treating them with the same dignity and respect as men.
This shouldn’t surprise us, as God created women in His image, equal to men (Gen 1:27). God has stamped women with the same priceless worth, status and dignity as men. And what’s more, Jesus gave his precious life for women, so that the door to eternal life might be open to them, just like to men (Gal 3:28-29).
If you look to Jesus and his example, you’ll know how to rightly treat the women and girls in your life.
What might that look like in practice? Here are some thoughts. There’s much more that you can and should do, but this will get you on the right track:
Understand and celebrate God’s good design for sex.
I know, it’s the last thing you want to think about right now. But Ben, as you’ve noticed, many of the boys around you are starting to talk and think about sex. In one sense, it’s part of growing up. But it’s important that you know God’s good design for sex and live according to his good design, if you’re going to treat yourself and the females around you the way Jesus treated them.
Sex is like an extraordinarily precious and expensive sports car that you wouldn’t lend out to just anybody … if you use it according to the Designer’s instructions it will work really well
You see, sex is not a recreational toy like a computer game, that you can play with whomever and however you want. Instead, it’s like an extraordinarily precious and expensive sports car that you wouldn’t lend out to just anybody. In fact, sex is so special, that it’s only designed for one relationship: the relationship between a husband and wife. Like anything, if you use it according to the Designer’s instructions it will work really well (1 Cor 7:3-4). It will bring much joy. But if you use it in ways contrary to the Designer’s instructions, then you’ll harm yourself and others (1 Cor 6:18-20).
Sadly, our culture sees sex—and women—as objects for pleasure. This upsets God because that’s not how he intended people to live. And God sees the harm this causes, especially to so many girls and women. Seeing sex as a recreational toy is the norm in our culture today. You would have seen it in much advertising, music videos, and movies. Oh, and most tragically, in what’s known as ‘pornography’, an ‘industry’ that objectifies women and (yes, tragically) girls. It promotes violence against women, destroying their lives, and the lives of those who ‘use’ it—mostly men.
Avoid movies, songs and images that degrade women.
Instead, pursue what pleases God. Fill your mind with thoughts that respect and uplift other people and honour God, rather than degrading them (Phil 4:8).
Be a safe place for the females in your lives.
If you treat them as Jesus would have you treat them, they’ll feel respected and safe around you.
Listen to their stories.
As you grow up, more and more females around you will have stories of how they’ve been harmed in various ways by men. Never minimise this or brush it away. Their pain is real. They deserve to be heard. To listen is loving (Jas 1:19).
Use your God-given advantages for the good of females.
While you have nothing to be ashamed of for being male—nor need you apologise for it—know that being male comes with certain God-given responsibilities. At the very least, use the advantages you have as a male to protect and empower the women and girls in your lives. This is especially the case in your family, at church, and at school. It’s not enough just to make sure you don’t do anything to hurt them. Don’t turn away or stay silent if others are doing so when you could make a difference.
Work to change our highly sexualised culture.
As you have opportunity (Gal 6:10), be a model of godly purity when it comes to sex: Don’t laugh along with the dirty jokes in the playground. Be open and unashamed about following Jesus in his view of women, and of sex. And work with organisations and people that are pushing back against our pornified culture. Remember that behaviour ignored is behaviour endorsed.
I realise that following Jesus is a high calling, especially in a culture that wants to drag you down. But you have a choice. Know that Jesus gives you the strength to walk in his footsteps, including in the way you treat your fellow image-bearers, the women and girls in your lives.
Become men of courage. Be gentle and strong. Be like Jesus.
With much love,