June 3, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
As I reflect on Ephesians 5:1-3 and its relevance for us today, I am struck by how this passage speaks to issues associated with the #MeToo movement. This movement was started about two years ago by women who had been victims of sexual assault and/or harassment, mainly in the workplace. By speaking out about their experiences, these women encouraged others to share their stories. The point wasn’t just mutual support, however. The goal of #MeToo is to end sexual mistreatment of women, especially in workplace contexts where it had been tolerated, ignored, routinely practiced, or even celebrated.
Our passage from Ephesians powerfully supports this goal, doing so in a distinctive way, however. Verse 3 says that “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” This prohibition surely includes the kinds of behaviors highlighted by the #MeToo movement, including sexually suggestive comments, unwanted touching, and gender-based disrespect, as well as more blatant sexual assault.
We could leave it right there, with a clear directive from Ephesians 5:3 that we are not to do anything that hints of sexual immorality or impurity. But this passage from Ephesians offers more to go on. Remember the context for verse 3. Verses 1 and 2 read: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” As God’s beloved children, we are to imitate God. How? By walking in love, love shaped by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. This kind of love should be reflected in all of our relationships, including our relationships in the workplace. And this kind of love is utterly inconsistent with the offenses brought to light by the #MeToo movement.
In many cases, we know exactly what behaviors we should avoid at work. Adultery, for example, is always wrong, no matter where it occurs. But when it comes to matters of sexual harassment or bias many of us need to learn from others what our words and deeds convey, and therefore what to do and what not to do as we relate to others. Personally, I’m grateful for female friends and colleagues over the years who have helped me to act and speak in a way that is consistent with the call to Christ-like love. These days, I’m also thankful for the HR department at Fuller, where I work, which provides training to help all employees treat colleagues, subordinates, and constituents with honor and respect, avoiding any suggestion of sexual inappropriateness.
The cross of Christ calls all of us, including those who have power in our workplaces, to a life of self-sacrifice and holy love. The more we are shaped by God’s love in Christ, and the more we understand the cultures in which we live and work, the more we will be able to imitate God’s love in all of our relationships, including those in the workplace, and the more we will establish workplace cultures and systems than convey love and respect to all people.
Something to Think About:
What connections do you see between Ephesians 5:1-3 and the current conversations related to the #MeToo movement?
Are you aware of systems or practices in your workplace that are inconsistent with the call to treat all people with respect and love?
How are you doing with the call to exercise Christ-like love with your colleagues and subordinates at work?
Something to Do:
If you would like to learn more about issues of gender in the workplaces, I highly recommend a free online course featuring Dr. Denise Daniels, a professor at Seattle Pacific University and a good friend of the De Pree Center. You can enroll in this exceptional course for free at scatter.org (produced by our partners at the Denver Institute for Faith and Work). You can find Denise’s specific Gender in the Workplace course here.
Gracious God, your love for us transforms us and calls us to love as you have loved us through Christ. We are to love others with holy and sacrificial love, even and especially in our workplaces. We confess that far too often what people experience at work is anything but love and respect. We’re especially aware of how many women have been poorly treated by bosses and colleagues who use their power for sexual advantage and intimidation.
O Lord, help us to be people who love as you have loved us in every place, including where we work. If we have authority over people, may we never act in unloving or inappropriate ways toward them. If we have power to impact systems, may we use this power for good that honors you and all people. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Please continue this discussion by including those cases of sexual abuse committed by ‘Christian’ leaders. I don’t mean just the Catholic Church, but within self-righteous Protestant groups too. Those leaders are just as cruel and hypocritical. Is it any wonder that many of the youth are leaving their churches?
Suzanne, thanks for your comment. Tragically, sexual harassment and assault is found among leaders in all sectors. And so often the church has not dealt with such abuses in a timely and appropriate manner.