WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
There has been a great deal of discussion lately about sexual harassment and assault. Hopefully, this discussion will result in a greater awareness of what is and what is not appropriate behavior. Because of this discussion, many are asking “what does God say?” Although the Bible does not use the phrase “sexual harassment”, there are some passages that speak to the topic. Please observe a few:
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:4)
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude” (1 Cor. 13:4)
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:3-4)
“For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Rom. 13:9)
In all of these passages it is very clear that Christian should live a pure life and treat others with love and kindness.
One book of the Bible that very clear about treating the opposite sex in a godly way is 1 Timothy. 1st Timothy is a letter from an experienced older preacher (Paul) to a young single preacher by the name of Timothy. Timothy is serving the church in the city of Ephesus. Ephesus was noted for immorality and the worship of the fertility goddess Diana (which included erotic behavior and ceremonial prostitution).
One would imagine that in a community like Ephesus, sexual harassment and impurity was commonplace. Timothy, however, is encouraged to live differently. He is told to not let “anyone look down upon” his youth and that he should be an example of “purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). When dealing with his congregants, he is encouraged to “treat the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:2). He should not view the women as objects of lust, but instead as “mothers” and “sisters”.
A godly son would not sexual harass their mother, but instead would respect her. Likewise, a godly brother would protect and cherish his sister. The solution to sexual harassment is to view each-other as family. You do not harass or exploit family. Family is to be loved and protected.
The book of Song of Solomon may also speak to the idea of loving and protecting family. Although the book is a love song between as husband and wife, there is an interesting scene in chapter 8 that reads:
We have a little sister, and she has not yet reached maturity. What will we do for our sister to prepare her form her engagement? If she’s a wall, on her we will build a battlement of silver. If she’s a door, we will enclose her with planks of cedar. (Song of Solomon 8:8-9)
The imagery is of older brothers protecting the sexual purity of their young sister until marriage. Despite the fact that this passage is highly poetic, the idea of brothers protecting sisters is the expected behavior. Timothy was to treat women as sisters, and according to the Song of Solomon, sisters should be loved and protected, not harassed and exploited.
We are all children of the same Creator. All people, young or old, male or female were made in the image of God. All people should be treated with love, kindness and respect. All people should be treated like family.