For the past several weeks, I have had a plethora of messages come across all of my Apple devices alerting me that another politician, actor, or newscaster has been censured or in most cases fired for his alleged sexual harassment of women.
It seems as if it has not been limited to one particular political party or social groups but has crossed party lines, political persuasions, and occupations. I have a feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that more confessions of unwanted sexual advances are forthcoming.
I don’t know the motives of the women who have come forward. In one case of a judge now running for the Senate, one must ask why the victims waited so many years, bringing forth their allegations just weeks before an elections. But the sheer numbers of victims coming forward making accusations against members of both parties not to mention the news and entertainment worlds would suggest that workplace sexual harassment is a bigger problem than perhaps first realized.
Condemnation has been swift and unrelenting, and we join those who condemn them for treating women as sex objects to fulfill their own perverted desires. I join the chorus of those who condemn men who have used their positions of power to exploit women.
But once again, the focus is on outward actions alone, ignoring the real source of the problem, which only the Bible deals with honestly. It is not that men pervert their positions of power, although they surely do. Rather, as Jesus stated in the Sermon on the Mount, the real problem lies within, beginning with the thoughts and intents of the heart. Jesus says that the act of adultery begins first with the thoughts of the heart. That is where lustful intent has its origin. If men are to deal with the act of adultery, or in this case even sexual harassment or assault, they must first take care to root the thought of it out of their hearts.
This was radical language in the Jewish world of the first century. The Pharisees and religious leaders kept the Law outwardly, avoiding the act of adultery itself. By so doing, they felt that they were keeping the commandment. But Jesus insists that the real meaning of the Law was not merely to prohibit the outward act but to root it out of the heart. That is where adulterous thoughts have their origin. To keep the commandment is not only to avoid the behavior itself, but to deal with the condition of the heart.
It is the apostle James who gives us a description of how the inward thought eventually manifests in outward acts: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). It all begins in the heart where people are enticed by their own desires. If men do not master the thoughts of their hearts, those thoughts will give birth to sin which eventually produces death.
I have had the unfortunate experience over the years to have to deal with a Christian leader who has fallen into sexual impropriety. The story is always the same: many weeks or months of enticements that weren’t recognized or dealt with eventually led to an opportunity when, guards came down, a barrier trespassed. If only that person recognized and dealt with the inward lustful intent first, the train wreck could have been avoided. But long periods of nursing lustful intent will often break forth into action that leads to devastation.
The believer in Jesus has an advantage no other worldling has: he or she has the presence of the living Christ dwelling within to guard their minds and hearts against thinking wrong thoughts. The key to overcoming sexual temptation is first to make sure our thought life is in order. Are we nursing unclean thoughts by watching what we shouldn’t be? We must first ensure that, as Paul directs, our thoughts are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Winning the battle in the mind first guarantees power to resist outward temptation.
Are you winning the battle of your thoughts inwardly? If so, you can avoid the fiery darts of the evil one who would attempt to trip us up by yielding to sexual temptation. Let us be sure to be winning the inward battle first so as to have power over temptation.