Discernment and Sexual Predators

 

“It is very costly to ignore both
Scripture Guidelines and Common Sense”

 

Be Cautious!
When I was 17, I briefly attended an unbiblical church. I was drawn in by the size of the youth group and the swirl of activity. There was plenty of discussion about wealth and prosperity, satanic back-masking in rock music, and spiritual gifts. But I don’t recall anyone talking about sin, repentance, sanctification, sacrifice, suffering, or living for the glory of God.
The youth ministry leader was 22 and a recent convert. Plenty of rumors swirled around him, but I gave them no credit until he invited me over to his townhouse. When he acted just like the non-churched men I knew and attempted to initiate a sexual relationship, I called him out. Then I turned him in to the senior pastor. As similar situations surfaced with other girls, much chaos and gossip ensued in the weeks that followed. I’d like to say that this all went down well, but it didn’t. It turns out that it is very costly to ignore both common sense (a single man only a few years older is leading the youth ministry?!) and Scripture’s guidelines about leadership (“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” 1 Tim. 3:6).
In the wake of this mess, I left that church and everything else to do with Christianity. I spent the next 12 years running from God, convinced I had seen the entire spectrum of faith and it was hollow and deceptive. But God, being rich in mercy (sweet, sweet words!), arrested my attention and regenerated my heart and faith on one Easter Sunday on a trip to South Africa. While I doubt I was genuinely regenerated as a teenager (my journals show little fruit), I still ponder that early church experience from time to time and how it dishonored the gospel.
Most recently, I recalled it as I read about a youth director in a local church who for five years was sexually involved with many girls from the youth group. The church did a poor job in vetting the hiring of this man (his previous employer told them about inappropriate contact with a 14-year-old girl), in considering the doctrine of sin (“the senior pastor said he was shocked to hear that his youth director could be involved in inappropriate behavior”), and in observing and correcting his questionablepublic interactions with the teen girls (cuddling, personal attention, partying). What’s commendable, however, is that the church has undergone a long, public transformation process to correct the problems and create a church responsive to victims of sexual abuse.
Nevertheless, over the past few months, I kept coming back to this one thought: we need to instill discernment in young girls so that they can more readily identify abusers and predators. This ought to be embedded in our Titus 2 discipleship, our parenting, and our youth group leadership. Now, please hear me out. I am not piling on condemnation for the girls who were involved in this particular case, nor their families. They have my sympathy. But as I read their accounts, I kept thinking about them and many other young women I know who have been tripped up by the same smooth lies. It’s the trend I want to address.
Predators and abusers offer the same routine each time — you’re special, no one else makes me feel this way, don’t tell anyone, here’s the justification for my questionable behavior, what we have is unique, etc. It never varies because it so consistently works. And you know why? I’m speaking broadly here, but I believe it is generally true: because the rest of us puff up the minds of girls with princess mythologies but we don’t (often) equip them to recognize that Prince Charming needs to have some character, not just sweet talk. I can’t tell you how many young women I’ve mentored who couldn’t connect those dots. And in fact, how many got defensive when you pointed out the gap between the words and deeds of the smooth dude in question.
Therefore, based on my own experience, this particular church incident, and the interactions I’ve had with other women, here are the initial basics of a discipling discussion about discernment that I think we should have with every budding teenager (boys need to know these standards, too):

  • If you can only remember one thing, this is it: What is legitimate and godly is done in the light, known by others, and doesn’t violate biblical standards. Anything you experience that is done furtively, in the dark, and kept secret is nearly always sinful.
  • Which means young women need to know biblical standards for godly living. They also need to know the Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 passage about the qualifications of leaders, so that they can recognize those who twist the Word for their own gain.
  • They need to know that a man who genuinely loves them will honor this relationship publicly, a love that is shown like a banner over them (Song of Solomon 2:4).
  • They need to know a godly man and a future husband is an imitator of God who walks in the light, avoiding sexual immorality, taking no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, and who desires to nourish and cherish his wife (all of Ephesians 5). Therefore, one who pursues sexual immorality and encourages them to lie and deceive others is not an imitator of God and needs to be confronted or exposed.
  • They need to know the standards of godly speech, so that a man (especially a man in authority!) who texts and talks to them nonstop about sex is automatically suspect in his motives, because this reveals the defiling overflow of his heart (Matt. 15:19).
  • They also need to recognize, in humility, that their desire for romance and pursuit is legitimate, but it can become the very thing that trips them up if they aren’t willing to acknowledge this is exactly how predators and abusers work the system. If they aren’t willing to consider that they are being lied to in any particular situation, they they aren’t going to ask the hard questions–of the men or themselves.
  • Love is an action. It is measured equally as much in the deeds of those who claim friendship or affection as it is in the proffered words. Make sure they match.

This are just some of my initial thoughts. I’d like to hear your perspectives, too. I don’t want young women to distrust men, but to be wise and discerning, able to question improper actions but also eager to encourage the godliness of others around them.
________________
Some blog posts are worth repeating. This is one of them. ~ CMC
Read the original post or comment at Carolyn McCulley’s blog.
 
Carolyn McCulley
Carolyn is the author of two books, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005), as well as to other webzines and publications. She is a frequent conference speaker for women’s ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.
 

Networks

 

In Christ!

 
In a world filled with more and more social networking on the Internet we taste God’s creation design in a new way.  We are made to be relational—that’s our starting point.  It comes from God, who as the Triune One, exists in his eternal life of communion, with the Father and Son always exchanging a mutual devotion in love through the Spirit’s intimate ministry.
[box type=”shadow”]The Spirit is not the lover himself,
but the discloser of the depths of the one to the other
(1 Corinthians 2:9-13).[/box] We, in turn, are made in the image of God as relational.  Adam and Eve were the original “Man” who was one, though he—they—lived within the distinctions of being male and female.  The bond of the original couple was ultimately spiritual—that of a pair whose distinct inner person or spirit was glued together by the presence of their shared life in the eternal Spirit.  Their “yoke” or bond was Spiritual so that a marriage of an unbelieving person to a believer was an “unequal yoking” (1 Corinthians 7:13-14, 39 & 2 Corinthians 6:14).  Only in Christ, then, can it be said that “the two shall be one flesh” in the fullest sense of God’s creation design.
This, I realize, isn’t a commonplace view in a world now shaped mainly by the assumptions of individualism.  It’s even rare among Christians.  The presumptions of individualistic-being were best expressed by the ancient Stoic Christian, Boethius, who held persons to be individual thinking-choosing units.  His portrayal was then widely accepted in subsequent Western thought—no doubt a default sentiment birthed in the Fall of Adam.
Boethius, however, missed the biblical presumption that God created human life to be bonded both together with each other and also with him within the fabric of his own eternal Life.  We are dependent on him both for our physical life and for our spiritual life—that which is born of the flesh is flesh (and comes through his creation and sustaining the earth), and that which is born of the Spirit is a spiritual life (coming through our bond to God in Christ).
All this leads to the remarkable truth that the true meaning of networking only comes for those who are “in Christ”.  Short of that we just love those who love us—which is a very insecure sort of bond in a fallen world where love is mainly conditional and temporal rather than unconditional and eternal.
Our bond in Christ also sets us up with the promise of an “insider’s” view of life as we enjoy the communion of God’s Life.  Listen to Paul on this:
[box type=”shadow”]“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).[/box] So what can we say about all this?  Does it have any practical implications for those of us who network with each other as believers?  As we share “the mind of Christ” (verse 16) are we really different?  I think we are . . . and we should be.  For one, our connection is eternal rather than temporal and temporary; so we get to talk about things within a much broader frame of reference.  And huge implications result from that.
Any other Spiritual reflections on what this all means are welcome.  And maybe we should call the community that has this conversation “ChristBook”.
 
Any thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
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