More than once in my Air Force career my boss assigned me to lead an investigation into charges of sexual abuse. It turned out that in each case, a predator used a position of power to hurt someone who was vulnerable. I saw up close the pain inflicted on victims and families.
As the massive scandal of abuse by priests, and its cover up, continues to devastate the Catholic church (no religious tradition is immune), where can you find the resources to even begin to understand what’s going on?
I suggest those resources are in the bible, in the stories your mother never told you.
David and Bathsheba isn’t exactly a bedtime favorite among parents. Neither is the story of David’s son Amnon, who became obsessed with his sister Tamar “to the point of illness” (2 Samuel 13:2).
My mother never told me the story of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19).
Is the problem just men in power? Consider Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7), or Lot’s daughters (Genesis 19:31). The bible stories your mother never told you encompass people in nearly every category imaginable.
So why are these stories in the bible?
Because they’re true, and because the bible is completely realistic about human depravity.
We tend to avoid the truth when it offends us. Not the bible.
We tend to take the protagonists of the bible and turn them into moral examples. We teach kids, “Be strong like David.” But ultimately that’s not the message of the Bible. The message of the bible is, even “the best of us,” even people like David, are capable of the worst kinds of evil. On our own, we’re helpless to save ourselves. We need someone who really was perfect to pay the price for the evil in us and save us from ourselves.
The bible stories your mother never told you are proof that the worst human behavior is no surprise to God.
The bible stories she did tell you—the miracles, the healings, the cross, the empty tomb—are proof that God cares, and is doing something about it.
What all the stories—the ones we love and the ones we overlook—point to is Jesus Christ. Jesus stepped into the world he created and took the worst kind of abuse on himself. And people in power were his chief abusers.
And he defeated them.
A story I love is the one from late in the day on the first Easter, of the risen Jesus showing his bewildered disciples his wounds. The wounds inflicted by his abusers were the proof to his disciples that he was who he claimed to be.
They’re the proof to us that our wounds matter to God, and that Jesus can take the worst things we suffer in this life and weave them into the new reality he’s creating.