Mallory spent time in her sermon this past Sunday illuminating a reading of the story of Bathsheba and David that, in my experience at least, has been largely overlooked. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet you can check it out here.
This story is presented to us in scripture as a troublesome chapter in the story of David so it’s only natural that many of us have trouble reckoning with the depth of David’s sin here–he sexually assaults Bathsheba. When we think of this as only David’s story then we fail to consider Bathsheba’s perspective and the harm she experienced at his hands. This effectively reduces her to being a backup character in what is one of the most traumatic experiences imaginable. In doing so, we miss an opportunity to reckon with ungodly perspectives and habits of power from the story that are still common in our society today.
Not only is this still happening in our culture at large, but it seems to happen frequently in the church! Each of you can probably think of several church leaders who have been credibly accused of sexual assault or some sort of abuse of power in the past handful of years alone. Many others have abused their power without those stories ever coming to light.
The church’s initial reaction to reports of abuse is often the same — to defend the leader and question the story of the survivor(s). It is hard for us to fathom that someone God has used positively in our lives could be capable of such terrible harm. For example:
- “God chose David to be king of Israel and he slayed Goliath, there’s no way he could have raped Bathsheba.”
- “Pastor X’s ministry is doing so much good, he couldn’t have sexually harassed or assaulted that woman!”
This logic is painfully familiar and it only furthers the harm done to survivors and to the people of God. It also illuminates an ungodly habit of power that has sadly become fully ingrained in the church. When we elevate those in authority to a level beyond reproach we alienate survivors and are complicit in enabling further abuse. This logic of power, how it works, and what it’s for, will always lead to the dehumanization of the least of these because it dictates that any threat to a church or church leader’s influence must be snuffed out for God’s good work to continue. This logic makes God complicit in abuse of all kinds and must be rejected outright.
This was not God’s plan — it isn’t supposed to be this way. God isn’t worried about his church’s cultural influence being undermined. Instead, he is worried about people being dehumanized and taken advantage of. He is calling us to be a church that leverages privilege on behalf of the least of these, a church that understands power as something to be given away.
In the midst of abuse, inside and outside of the church, God is present and he is illuminating our broken relationship with power so that he can heal it. If you have experienced abuse in the past and have been afraid to speak out, we want to stand alongside you — please reach out to someone from our staff that you are comfortable with! If you are having trouble reconciling why people who seem to have done so much good can also be capable of such harm, you are not alone — you are welcome to bring your confusion, disappointment, and anger to The Table.
Church, may God continue to give us eyes to see power the way he does so that we can faithfully stand alongside the broken and the hopeless and the dehumanized. As you go through this week, you are not alone in reckoning with these broken systems of power. May you walk in the knowledge that God sees the pain and the abuse that you have experienced and all around you, and he is actively working to unwind the systems that foster and further this type of harm!