What the #MeToo Movement Is Missing

The problem with the #MeToo movement isn’t that it goes too far. It’s that it doesn’t go far enough.

Women across the country are crying out #MeToo when it comes to sexual assault by the hands of men. Sexual assault is wrong and I applaud them for speaking up. Followers of Jesus should be leading that charge (in particular, male followers of Jesus).

But there is an astoundingly prevalent and even more widespread issue that those who speak out against sexual assault are not talking about at all: pornography.

Looking at pictures of scantily clad or naked women is mental sexual assault. It is imagining doing things to a woman without her consent. It’s selfish, graphic, and objectifying.

Is it the same as sexual assault? No, but they are cousins. The man who looks at porn and the man who rapes a woman have the same heart–one driven by lust, power, and control. What is the difference between looking at pornography and sexual assault? Opportunity.

Do we really think that men can gratify themselves through a video or picture of a woman without that impacting how they interact with women in person?

Why aren’t the women crying #MeToo concerned about an industry that makes billions of dollars each year off of objectifying (mainly) women? Is it because women in porn get paid to be mentally sexually assaulted by thousands of men? Perhaps then I should be comparing it to prostitution.

The truth is, women are even more valuable than those in the #MeToo movement realize. They are made in the image of God Himself. He has crafted each of them to be His unique masterpiece. God thinks they’re so valuable that He sent His Son to die for them to redeem them.

If we realized the true value of every woman in the world, surely we should also discern that sexual assault shouldn’t be the last thing we speak against. It should be the first. 

 

Why What We Want to Believe About Kavanaugh Should Make Us Pause

I’m sure you’re familiar with the Brett Cavanaugh situation. He is President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He is a nominee that seeks to make decisions based on the intent of the original framers of the constitution. That makes him a conservative, and therefore supported by conservatives. Write in most protestant and evangelicals in that list as well.

He’s not yet confirmed as of right now, and has recently been accused of not one, or two, but three cases of sexual abuse of some kind from his high school and college days. Those accusers are Julie Swetnick, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and Deborah Ramirez.

Dr. Mohler’s Point

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has stated on his daily podcast The Briefing, that we all must admit that we don’t just believe Kavanaugh or his accusers, but that we want to be believe one of them. Dr. Mohler is exactly right. Which leads me to my main point: since it will be highly unlikely that the truth is ever clear on this issue from 30 years ago, followers of Jesus should avoid siding with either the accusers or Kavanaugh.

The If Game

If Kavanaugh is in fact lying and did these things, then he was not only a sexual predator, but he is covering it up for the sake of power. No philosophy of interpretation of the constitution is justifiable for that.

“But what if he gets on the court and is the swing vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?” That’s too soon. There’s no way to tell whether or not that would come before the jury or whether or not Kavanaugh would vote to overturn it. And yes, I welcome the day when Roe v. Wade is overturned.

But look at the flip side. Side with the women who have accused him. Believe they are right and that Kavanaugh truly is guilty of these crimes, and perhaps more. If that line of belief and thinking carries through and he eventually isn’t confirmed, and it turns out he’s innocent, then siding with the accusers is unjust. It truly would be a “smear campaign” to tarnish the reputation of an innocent man and to pervert the country’s process of confirming Supreme Court justices.

If Kavanaugh admitted to doing these things and expressed remorse and repentance, does that justify him being confirmed, particularly because of how long ago these alleged events occurred? Maybe, but he’s not admitting to them. He’s adamantly denying all of them.

It is unwise to side with someone because we want him to be innocent or because we want the accusers to be right. Why? Because just because we want to believe something doesn’t make it true. At least we must admit that when we side with a party in a situation like this, that we might be wrong.

Belief must be grounded in truth. Right now, from what I’ve seen, it’s impossible to know whether or not Judge Kavanaugh truly did the things he has been accused of. Someone is lying. Does that ultimately mean he should be confirmed? I don’t know. Perhaps?

The Most Important Part

But the reality that we might not ever know the truth should make us tread lightly in having great confidence (or criticism) in the character of a man we’ve never met and never will. It should make us hesitate to discredit (or laud) women who may or may not have been treated like no woman ever should as image-bearers. And ultimately, it should lead us to entrust things of this nature to a God of immutable wisdom and supreme justice, who knows all things and will one day make all things right.

Or, what if we had the power to say to both parties, “Since someone is lying and you can’t agree, we’ll just take the open seat away altogether.” I wonder which mother would allow the baby to live in that case.

My Dog Doesn’t Walk Me

We are now the proud owners of a 5lb puppy named Lola (she was a showgirl, but now she’s converted since I’m a Pastor). Lola is a mix between a shitzu and a bichon. She’s hypo-alergenic.

One pet peeve I have is when people let their dogs walk them instead of walking their dogs. Do you know what I’m talking about? Every time the dog wants to stop, the owner just stands there waiting for it. Every leaf it wants to sniff, every tree it wants to christen, every deposit it wants to make, there’s the chief of God’s creation standing there watching their 7-lb hairball do its bidding.

That will not be me.

I give a loud “SHHHH” with a firm tug on the dog whenever she tries to walk me (she has a harness so it doesn’t hurt her, but it does hurl her at times). And since Lola is only 5lbs., I don’t have to stop walking. So I don’t. It hasn’t taken her long to figure out that when we go for a walk, I mean business.

Lola is a really cool part of God’s creation. But she is a dog, and I am a human. And I intend for both of us to act like it. The world needs more dog owners that walk their dog instead of letting their dog walk them.

Why I Hate And Love Golf

Golf is stupid. But then it’s wonderful. And then it’s stupid again.

It’s stupid because it is very, very difficult to play well. Most people can’t even swing a club properly. And then most people who do swing it properly don’t make good contact with the ball. And then most people who do make good contact with the ball don’t actually hit it where it’s supposed to go. Seriously, there are so many invariables with the game that it can be maddening.

But then, every so often, the heavens align, and everything comes together. Good swing. Good contact. Good location. On the green in two. When that happens, you feel like Tiger Woods from 10 years ago. I. Am. The. Man. Fist pump.

But wait, now it’s time to putt. Three strokes later, and I still have a square on my scorecard.

It’s OK though. I get to try again at the next hole.

What Is That to You?

Jesus showed Peter that he was going to die for Him. Peter then noticed John and asked Jesus about him. Peter was implying, “What is your plan for John? Will he die for you too?” Jesus responded by saying, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

That is a word I need to remember and keep remembering.

I have a problem with comparing my calling and ministry with other pastors. It’s the old story of the grass appearing greener on the other side of the fence. I’ve asked the Lord before, “What about ______? Why is their ministry/church different than the one you’ve entrusted to me?”

The Lord’s word to Peter is a word to me: “What is that to you? You follow me!”

The Same But Different

Following Jesus is the same for everyone in some ways. We all walk by faith. We’re all called to die to ourselves. But each of our paths are also uniquely crafted by the Lord for us. He crafts the obstacles for me. They’re perfectly shaped to hit me at the right time and in the right place in order to knock off my rough edges. If another were walking my path, it wouldn’t hit them in the right way. You might say my path is customized for me.

Knowing that gives me freedom to walk my path toward Jesus and not worry about someone else’s path. The Lord is customizing my brother’s path too. That path is not mine to walk. My path is here in Michigan, with my wife, my children, this church, this community, this denomination.

Jesus is not telling me to be apathetic to the path of my brother and ignore him when he needs help. He’s telling me to focus on what He’s called me to do and not be distracted by what He’s called others to do.

“Lord, what about my brother? Have you called him to go through the same struggle you’ve called me?” Well, that’s not a question Jesus cares to answer. He’s called me to follow Him. And it will help me to focus on that.

Yes, I Do Take It Personally

First Thessalonians 2:8 says:

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

Sometimes people tell pastors, “Don’t take this personally, but we’re leaving.”

I used to think no one would leave the church I’m pastoring. Ha! How naive!

Now that I’ve experienced it, I can say with absolute certainty, I do take it personally when people leave our church for another. And if I didn’t take it personally, I’m not sure I would want to be a pastor.

Being a pastor is not a job. It is a ministry and calling. I moved my family 500+ miles away from our home, heritage, and families to pastor this church. We left everything we know to be here. We are literally investing our lives for the sake of this church. Don’t take it personal? I would rather you leave without saying anything.

The verse I mentioned from Thessalonians says the apostles shared their very lives with those they were ministering to. I’m not just trying to preach and teach the Bible. I’m trying to share my heart–my life with this church. I’m putting my soul into this ministry–into YOU, church member. I pray for you. I study God’s Word very hard for you. I endure frustration, discouragement, anger, loneliness, fear, and anxiety for you. 

It is personal.

Not the Only One

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. The rest of the body feels this way too, and they should. A local church is compared to a body in Scripture, and every person is a member of that body. How much would you want to punch someone after having an arm severed and then have them tell you: “Don’t take it personally.”

When someone leaves a church for unbiblical reasons (there are biblical reasons, mind you), something breaks or tears in the body, and it hurts. It’s personal. The people of the church have invested their lives into that member. They’ve paid their water bill, babysat their kids, driven them to the doctor, cried with them, prayed for them, and many times for years.

It. Is. Personal.

Leave if you must, but please stop saying that.

Sometimes Jesus Allows Pain

If you had been here, my brother would not have died!

Mary and Martha knew of Jesus’ power. They had heard what He did to feed thousands of people with a few fish and loaves. They were probably were aware of His healing a man who was born blind. That’s why they said what they did when Lazarus died after Jesus intentionally delayed coming to see Lazarus when he was ill.

Intentionally delayed? Yes, that’s right, and that’s key. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed away from him for two days longer (see John 11:1-6). Jesus intentionally allowed His friend Lazarus to die.

Why?

Did Jesus do it because He didn’t care about Lazarus or his sisters? No, for when Jesus saw Lazarus’ tomb, He wept. Not just got misty-eyed, but wept. After seeing Him cry, the Jews (not big fans of Jesus, if you remember) said, “See how he loved him!”

The reason Jesus allowed Lazarus to die wasn’t that Jesus lacked power and it wasn’t that He lacked love. Why, then, did He allow it? It was because those watching lacked faith.

That’s what Jesus said to His disciples: ” . . . for your sake I am glad that I was not there [that is, to heal Lazarus] so that you may believe . . .”

Of course Jesus’ disciples already believed in Jesus at that point (otherwise they wouldn’t have been following Him). But Jesus knew their faith needed to grow. 

Three Things To Learn

The story of Lazarus shows us three things to learn about how Jesus uses pain in our lives as His followers:

  1. Jesus doesn’t cause our pain, but He does allow it.
  2. Jesus feels our pain. He wept when Lazarus died, just like Mary and Martha. He feels the hurt of all of His sheep.
  3. Jesus uses our pain to grow our faith. Mary, Martha, and His disciples needed their faith to grow. And Jesus’ work through the death and resurrection of Lazarus was the tool to grow their faith. Before Jesus raised Lazarus, they knew He could stop death, but they didn’t know He could reverse it.

Jesus can prevent every painful event from happening to us. But He doesn’t. It’s not because He doesn’t love us, it’s because He loves us. He’s preparing us for something even better than painlessness. He’s preparing us for glory.

 

Not Friends With Jesus’ Followers? Not Friends With Jesus

I’m tired of people saying they love Jesus but either have a loose affiliation with or flat out reject any fellowship with followers of Jesus. That’s not true, and I can prove it to you by Jesus’ own words.

In John 15:12 Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He is talking to His followers at this time–not just anyone, which is very important. Then Jesus said in John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Let’s get this straight by turning these verses into an if/then exercise:

  1. If Jesus commands His followers in verse 12 to love each other . . .
  2. And if Jesus said in verse 14 that His friends do what He commands . . .
  3. Then we can conclude that if someone doesn’t love Jesus’ followers, they aren’t friends with Jesus.

I am tempted to jump to the obvious implication that if you don’t regularly attend church, then you should wonder whether or not you are truly friends with Jesus. But that is too easy of an implication because it still possible (likely?) that there are some who regularly attend church but that don’t love followers of Jesus.

You can force yourself to sit in a pew one hour a week and still not love Jesus’ followers. So while I do think local church attendance is part of how a follower loves other Jesus followers, I need to press this implication further.

If someone is characterized by any of the following:

  • Spends little to no time with followers of Jesus throughout their normal week
  • Holds on to resentment toward followers of Jesus
  • Is unwilling to serve or sacrifice for followers of Jesus
  • Is apathetic about the hurts or needs of followers of Jesus

Then that person should ask themselves if they’re truly a friend of Jesus. How could someone claim to be a friend of the King of kings and refuse to do what He says? They might identify as “Christian” in a kind of cultural way, but that term is increasingly different than a true follower of Jesus.

Thank God for Philip

Philip had been following Jesus for nearly three years by the time Jesus asked him what might have been the most gut-wrenching question he had ever heard. Jesus had found him on His way to Galilee and simply said, “Follow me.” Philip found Nathanael and took him to Jesus (John 1:43-46). He spent time with Jesus every day: following Him around, eating with Him, talking with Him, learning from Him.

He had heard Jesus talk about His Father countless times. Jesus did His Father’s will. He came from His Father and was sent by His Father. He was given authority by His Father. Jesus said “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19). He even claimed to be God on several occasions, using the famous phrase, “I AM,” when talking to the Jews (John 9:58). Philip heard these things.

But when Jesus said something similar in John 14:7 (“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also”), Philip replied by asking Jesus to show them the Father. That’s when the gut shot came:

“Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?” (John 14:9a).

A Lot Like Me

I feel like that at times. I’ve been following Jesus since I was seven years old. That makes 23 years. And sometimes I feel like I barely know Him. I ask Him questions I should know the answer to. I express frustration about things I should be having faith through.

But here’s the thing: Jesus still didn’t reject Philip. 

The question probably stung–as discipline does–but it didn’t destroy him. None of the wounds Christ gives His true disciples destroy. They only push us closer to the Lord. It’s a loving correction that we need.

A Lot Like All of Us

Philip is like all of the disciples. In that moment at the beginning of the upper room discourse, many of the disciples were confused and asking Jesus questions. He was about to die, rise again, and then leave them for a time. They thought His kingdom would be consummated directly after the resurrection. Jesus was telling them that He was doing something they didn’t expect, and it scared them. That’s why Jesus said on multiple times in chapter 14 of John, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” Philip wasn’t the only one having trouble processing what was happening.

But that didn’t mean Philip wasn’t following Jesus.

Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t mean having a perfect understanding of how God is working in all of life’s events. It means seeking to follow Jesus in the midst of those events. Sometimes we’ll ask Him questions we should already know the answer to. And there may be a small, healing wound as a result. The important thing is not whether or not we have questions. The important thing is this: who do we bring our questions to? 

True disciples bring their questions to Jesus. That’s why I thank God for Philip.

 

Why Social Media Isn’t For Me

I was on Twitter before Twitter was cool (is it cool now?). My old employer encouraged being part of cutting edge communication, so that meant we should all join in. I was such an early bird that my handle (@JacobRiggs) didn’t have any numbers after it.

Facebook used to be a site just for college students (remember that?). I was on it then.

Instagram has never been my thing. Me and tons of pictures at my fingertips with no accountability is not a good idea. I’m too much of a sinner for that.

When It Started

I started disliking Facebook first. It was the red numbers. I’m pretty sure those still exist. You know the notifications at the top right hand part of the site that tell you you’re important? Yeah, my addiction to those was the beginning of the end of my relationship with the Book Face (thank you Jim Halpert).

Maybe Facebook didn’t intend for this to be the case. Actually I doubt that. I think they craft the notification tool in order to keep people coming back to the site again and again. For me, that notification tool was a satanic tool. Over time I realized more and more that I was addicted to the praise of people. I needed it to give me self-worth. This materialized in countless ways that the Holy Spirit is still uncovering, but Facebook was one of those avenues.

So I just deleted it. It was hard to do (BTW, if you can’t stop, you should. Paul said, “I will not be enslaved to anything”). Once I went back, but that didn’t last long.

Twitter Too

I shouldn’t be too hard on Facebook just because it’s mostly older people now. After all, Twitter did the same thing to me. It felt great seeing something I wrote retweeted and liked by, oh, say, 12 people.

But Twitter also had another negative impact on me (although it wasn’t like this when I first started using it 10 years ago). I found myself getting upset about things that people in my real world were not upset about and didn’t even know about. There is an online world that can impact the real world, but it tries to suck you into it entirely. Many twitter users are robots. I was literally feeling anxious about something that isn’t even real. So I realized I had to say goodbye to Twitter as well.

Now, the Why

It was hard to say goodbye. It felt like a part of me was dying. The old connections I had on Facebook gave me validation, and I loved that. The retweets and likes on Twitter gave me hope that I could maybe be a real author one day, and I needed that.

But deep down that validation and “hope” was hurting me. And the way it was hurting me is probably cliche’ now, but it was true: anxiety. The red numbers on Facebook always made me want more and more red numbers. The retweets and likes on Twitter made me want more and more of the same. Sometimes I sought them so much that I would write things in a twisted way in order to get more recognition. The Bible calls that lying.

Only when God started showing me that He validates me did I find freedom to say goodbye. God cares for me. Period. Not based upon anything I offer Him or anything I’ve done, but just because He does. God sent His Son for me. 

Here’s Your Out, Or Maybe Not

Should everyone get off of social media? Maybe. Should many? Yes. There are other reasons people should leave immediately other than just how it encourages anxiety. It also enables and encourages many sins that send people to hell: gossip, lust, bigotry, hatred, slander, laziness, pride. The list could go on and on.

You might not resonate with anything I’ve written here and find yourself not addicted to them. After all, social media can be used in good ways. Our church has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. You might be able to use your accounts to catch up with family or laugh over a funny video with friends and talk (in person) about it later.

I steal a look at Facebook on my wife’s account sometimes to check our church’s page or organizations I’m interested in. But I’m still not able to engage in it with my own accounts in a consistent, healthy way. So I’m staying away. I’d rather lose 12 likes than have my whole body thrown into hell. It really is about that for me in part. And the other part is that removing this has been one of several factors in giving my heart peace and my mind soundness.

Enjoy laughing at the cat videos, ignoring foolish political rants, and arguing with strangers about what color that article of clothing is. For now, I’m happy to do without that, and increasingly OK without those red numbers too. For that, I’m very grateful to the Lord.