An Open Letter to Men Who Exploit Women

Family smilingTo all who abuse others and think that’s OK:

I’m a woman.

I’m not an object.

I’m not a means to a selfish end.  

I’m not a thing you can use to satisfy your lust.  

I’m not something you can use then throw away.  

I’m not a possession you can abuse or push around.

I don’t exist to fulfill your selfish whims.

I’m not a trophy you can arrogantly flaunt.

I’m not any of these things, and neither are the women (or girls) you’ve harmed.

I’m a woman.

I’m created in the image of the living God.  

I was made to love and be loved.

Though I’m broken, my Rescuer died to make me new.

I have value and dignity because Jesus says I do.

I am worthy of respect because Jesus says I am, and He exemplified that respect for women during his 30+ years on earth.

I’m a woman.

I’m not a man.

I don’t want to be a man–I want to be me.

But I am just as valuable as a man, and I need you to acknowledge that truth.

I’m a woman.

I’m blessed with a husband who affirms my worth, guards my dignity, and treats me with respect.

He was my first date.

He waited over a month to hold my hand.

He waited over 2 years to kiss me for the first time on our wedding day.

I trust him.

I know that I’m safe with him and free to be myself.

We’re a team.  

He supports my dreams and finds a way to make them happen.

I wrote a book for our kids and felt like I should publish it–so he’s helping me publish it.

He’s working full-time, getting his Master’s in Business Administration part-time, and watching our 3 young children every weekend while I’m at work.

He helps me with the kids’ bedtime routine every night.

Every night, he finishes cleaning up the kitchen.

I trust, respect, and love him more than anyone on earth.

He loves me.  And by love, I mean he wants good for me and then does that good, even when it’s hard.

He’s not perfect, but I feel cherished, loved, and safe the vast majority of the time.

My story, however, is NOT the story of the women you’ve used and abused.  And that makes me so angry I could cry.

I’m a woman.

I’ve been protected, cherished, and loved my entire life by good men–by men very different from yourself.  And that blessing stems directly from one indescribably beautiful source: Jesus.

Jesus was the best man who ever lived, the greatest man who will ever live, and the only man who loved perfectly, then died to make that love possible in the lives of others, as well.

Let me tell you a story.

Setting: Israel in the 1st century A.D.

Characters: Pharisees (strict followers of Jewish law); Jesus; a crowd listening to Jesus teach; and a guilty woman.

According to Dr. Kenneth Bailey, in more traditional parts of the Middle East, a woman’s sexual conduct is tied very closely to her family’s honor.  If she commits adultery or violates and tarnishes the honor of her family, her family may kill her.  I’m relying heavily on Dr. Bailey (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes) for this re-telling.

There were a group of men called Pharisees who spent their lives trying to follow God’s laws.  They hated Jesus, because He showed them that the law is actually about loving God and loving people–not about keeping a ridiculous number of rules for daily living.  That meant all their hard work was for nothing!  And they hated him because He claimed to be the Rescuer God had promised long ago, the Messiah who came to make all things good and new again. 

On this day, Jesus sat down to teach in the Temple, and the Pharisees had planned a clever trap.

As Jesus sat down to teach, the Pharisees dragged a guilty woman into the Temple court and presented her triumphantly to Jesus and his listeners.

They boldly announced that she had been “caught in the act of adultery” and should, by law, be stoned.  Armed Roman soldiers were watching, tense and ready to arrest anyone who caused a disturbance.

What would Jesus do?

His followers regarded Him as both a prophet and teacher–to contradict the law would certainly discredit His authority and trustworthiness.  But to follow the law would cause His own arrest.  The Pharisees were undoubtedly smug and jubilant.  They had caught him at last!  

In response, Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dust, which was “legal” even on this Sabbath day of rest according to the Pharisees.  Jesus was subtly showing that He, too, was an expert in the law.

And then.

And then, Jesus gave the most brilliant, incredible response to their challenge with these words: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

With that one sentence, their jubilance evaporated.  This woman was guilty…but they knew they were guilty, too.  To claim otherwise would contradict the book of Isaiah, which says that we all, like sheep, have gone astray.

They had planned to discredit Jesus, but instead, each of them walked away, humiliated.  Jesus again wrote in the dust, refusing to watch and gloat over their public humiliation–He just wanted to save the woman.

And he did.

It takes two to commit adultery, and by law both participants should be stoned. The guilty man had been conveniently left out of the equation–the Pharisees just wanted to trap Jesus and the woman was a convenient means to that end.  After all, she was guilty!

Jesus brilliantly escaped their trap and saved a guilty woman.  He loved her and rescued her, and in the process, he made the Pharisees even more furious. Jesus transferred their hostility and hatred for her onto himself, at great cost to himself.  Jesus was brilliant and beautiful in His costly love and rescue mission.

And then he told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”  Though guilty, Jesus loved her and gave her a second chance at life!

I don’t know of any girl, myself included, who grows up aspiring to be an adulteress or prostitute.  No one dreams of being used and abused by men.  This woman’s life had spiraled down into one of self-destruction and pain…but Jesus gave her a way out.  He gave her a second chance, at great cost to Himself.

Jesus loved her and rescued her.

I’m a woman.

Though worthy of respect, dignity, and love, I also deserve wrath, judgment, and condemnation.

Why?

Because I’m part of broken humanity.

I share blame in the horrors people inflict on other people.

I, too, am prone to self-destruction and others-destruction.

I, too, am far from perfect.

I’m self-centered.  Self-righteous.  Arrogant.

I get frustrated with my children, impatient with my husband, and annoyed with most people.

I want things to be my way on my timetable.

I’d like to be queen of my own private island where everything goes exactly as I dictate.

I’m broken and in desperate need of a Rescuer.

I’m a woman.

And Jesus came to rescue me, just as He came to rescue you.

He came to end the evil we inflict on each other, to end the cycle of self-and-others-destruction that repeats itself over and over.

He came to rescue women from men like you.

I’m a woman.

I’m also a mom.

My sons will grow up knowing that women matter just as much as men.

My sons will grow up knowing that it is their duty to protect the vulnerable, not exploit them.

My sons will grow up knowing that they have value, dignity, and worth that stem from being made in the image of God.

My sons will grow up knowing that Jesus came to rescue them and restore their ability to love and be loved.

My daughter will grow up knowing that she has value, dignity, and worth that stem from being made in the image of God.

My daughter will grow up knowing that God created her to love and be loved; and that Jesus came to restore her ability to love and be loved.

My daughter will grow up knowing that a real man–a good man–will cherish and love her, not abuse or exploit her.

Jesus came to rescue us and make all things new.

I don’t want my daughter growing up in a world full of men like you.

But I know that her only hope, my only hope, humanity’s only hope is Jesus, our Rescuer.

If you realize that you’re broken, he’ll rescue and change you, too.

I pray it will be so.

Laura Richie

 

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