This Monday (March 8th) is International Women’s Day. There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the treatment of women, particularly in the area of domestic violence and in the last weeks in relation to sexual assault at Parliament House. If these accounts weren’t distressing enough, students from private girls schools in Sydney have spoken up regarding the treatment they receive from male students from neighbouring schools. Some of the schools named are Anglican schools, and while not dismissing the horror of these reports this kind of behaviour tragically isn’t limited to them. The question many have been asking is how to prevent rape and assault of women by older and younger men alike, and how appropriate treatment of women and young women and girls can just be the norm. Solutions for better behaviour usually involve calls for better education in the classroom and better parenting at home. Yet these have been the so called solutions advocated for years and things don’t seem to be getting better.

Inner and sustained transformation leading to loving another as we love ourselves can only fully happen when we know the gospel and live in obedience to our saviour Jesus.

The feminists of the 60’s and 70’s must be wondering what’s gone wrong; how their message of equality and respect has failed to grip this generation. I have been mulling all of this over in the last week or so. I’ve listened to advocates like Melinda Tankard Reist who has been alerting us for years of the sexualisation of women in the media and advertising, as well as the impact of pornography on young boys and men. I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem with these issues is that it’s a complex web where there’s no one starting point and end point but just lots of intersecting issues all affecting one another. Porn; alcohol; parties; drugs; increased sexual activity in children at a younger and younger age; instagram; tik-tok; parenting; toxic masculinity; failure to understand consent; failure to provide consent because of alcohol, drugs, etc; coercive behaviour; same gender peer shaming, and on it goes. Where does it start and where does it stop?

Without wanting to oversimplify things the one word missing in all of the current discourse is SIN. Sin isn’t an excuse for this kind of tapestry of behaviours but it’s the Bible’s answer to finding a starting point. Of course even though we’re all affected by sin it doesn’t mean we’ll all engage in the worst kind of perverse wickedness. Yet we know as we read the first pages of the Bible that the dismissal of another’s human dignity, the abuse of another for the good of ourselves, exploitation of one another is a result of sin. Sin against God leading to sin against one another. I am deeply troubled and grieved by the various reports I’ve been reading in the media over the last week or so. I’m deeply troubled by other occasions when I’ve come across abuse of women in our church. As International Women’s Day comes to us again, let’s see if we can provide the better narrative: the narrative of the gospel, of a saviour who loves us and welcomes us; a saviour who took special care with women, who valued them; a narrative of the goodness and rightness of other-person-centredness. I agree education is important. Upskilling, teaching, training and awareness-raising are good. But inner and sustained transformation leading to loving one another as we love ourselves can only fully happen when we know the gospel and live in obedience to our saviour Jesus.