The sounds of jostling and angry murmuring rolled from the back of the crowd gathered at the temple. Pushing their way through the rapt audience, the religious leaders threw a woman, barely clothed and smelling of a telltale pew-y scent at Jesus’ feet as they formed an accusatory circle around her.
“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery,” they told Him. “Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:4-5)
They were itching for an excuse to accuse Him and discredit His teachings. It was a trap, and Jesus knew it. Why? Because if they were sincerely asking His opinion on the Christian response when two people – two – were caught in adultery, then the man would have been thrust into the scorching desert sand, too.
In answer, Jesus challenged the man who was without sin to throw the first stone.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, one by one, the defiance seeped out of each man’s shoulders, and he turned away, convicted by the depravity that saturated his own upright, religious life.
And from then on, since Jesus seems to have the same set of standards for everybody, Christians vowed to hold each other – male or female – to an equal level of accountability.
Oh, wait. Sorry, I got confused with how the story should have gone.
Recently, a blog post went viral. It’s titled “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos).” The writer espouses a myriad of unbiblical doctrines, and the fact that she tries to discourage Christian women from going to college or having careers because it distracts them from their sole life purpose of raising a family is an issue that I won’t even tackle. (In this post.)
For now, let’s focus on this: the blatant double standard when it comes to men and women.
Don’t get me wrong; I think that economic responsibility and sexual abstinence are both biblically founded and healthy, practical ideals. But why do we act like these virtues are more important for women than men? Or, maybe more to point, like Christian women need to act as the body armor of God for men?
I wish I could say that the writer of this blog post was just one misguided voice in a sea of reason, but the fact that the post has been shared on social media numerous times with supportive captions disproves that theory.
And I’ve seen it myself. I’ve heard well-meaning women scold girls for wearing tank tops because it “spoils the mystery.” (First of all, does anyone really believe that there is a man in modern America who has never seen a woman’s shoulders? And second – sorry to spoil it, boys – but female shoulders look a lot like a male’s. Are they really that erotic?)
Growing up in church, I learned all the guidelines for dressing modestly: place your hand on your collarbone, and if your neckline is lower than the width of your hand, it’s too low. Shirt sleeves – at minimum – should be as wide as your pointer, middle, and ring finger together. Hold your arms down at your sides; shorts and skirts should be longer than your fingertips. (Does anyone else find it a little ironic that we use other parts of our body to determine how much of our body to show? I’m just saying, it seems like an inconsistent unit of measurement.)
Every summer on the first day of church camp, camp leaders would separate the boys and girls. The boys were told not to fool around with the girls. The girls were told not to dress or act in a way that would entice the boys, enforcing the idea that they are responsible for another person’s purity. If a boy slips up, then it is, at least partly, the woman’s fault for not covering up more.
(It also enforces the idea that the only reason for modesty is to protect boys from temptation, but I don’t have space right now to explain why that’s wrong.)
Here’s the thing: we can’t trust other people to act as our shield of faith. We have to rely on God.
In his book, Gospel, Pastor J.D. Greear uses this example: a guy and girl are alone, sitting on a couch in the girl’s living room. Things start heating up, and the boy feels overwhelmed by his desire. Abruptly, the girl’s Army Ranger father bursts through the door.
Instantly, the boy’s libido crashes.
What happened? His desire didn’t exactly lessen, but his fear of her father (and death) suddenly outweighed his sexual impulse.
It’s the same concept with any sin. The only way to withstand temptation is to be more submissive to God’s authority than our own desires. And that is something no one else can do for us. The world probably isn’t going to change to accommodate us; we need to learn how to live, work, and interact with it without being coaxed away from our Christian walk.
Don’t misunderstand; as believers, we absolutely should strive to help each other stay fixated on Christ and away from temptation. If your friend struggles with alcohol addiction, you wouldn’t be a great friend to constantly suggest hanging out at a bar. But Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29, emphasis added). He did not say, “If your eye causes you to sin, go rebuke that thing you’re looking at, because clearly it’s the problem, not you” (Nowhere in the Bible 10:1).
That would be futile advice. We can’t control the external world. We can’t change other people. We can only govern ourselves, and that means we need to take responsibility for our own actions.
I mean, aren’t we over the whole, “This woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave the fruit of the tree to me” thing? (Genesis 3:12)
Adam was a victim, but not of Eve. Of his own desires.
As a result of their choices, they were thrown out of paradise and condemned to a lifetime of physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish as God’s plan to bring mankind back to Him began to unfold.
Of course, before casting them out of the garden, God told Eve, “Since this guy who just totally threw you under the bus clearly needs some help staying holy and upright, I’m sending you along as his spiritual service animal. Go, and make sure that he sins no more.”
Oh, sorry. I got confused again.
So, why does this issue even matter? To use the old adage, kids are starving in Africa, Christians are being massacred in the Middle East, drug addicts are sleeping on the concrete just outside our church buildings. Why waste time griping that Christians judge women too harshly and go too easy on men?
Well, for one thing, it mattered to Jesus. He spent a large portion of His ministry with some of the most marginalized and despised people in Jewish culture: Samaritans, beggars, tax-collectors, prostitutes, cripples, and women. He didn’t do it on accident, either. He was proving a point: being united in Christ means being equal in Christ. In Galatians 3:28, Paul affirms this idea, writing, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
This whole blaming women thing has been a problem since sin was invented. The bigger question is, why do we still do that? Why are we shoving the woman into the dirt while letting the man stay in bed? Just like when the religious leaders threw the adulterer at Jesus’ feet, it must be a trap, but what are we trying to accomplish? The only possible answer is that we are trying to ambush and disparage each other.
Here’s the crux of the problem: until we stop looking for excuses to blame one another, we can never unleash our full potential as the church. We can’t lead the world to Christ when we’re busy accusing half the people on earth of using pink spaghetti straps to drag the other half into sin.
We need to acknowledge that we all fall short of God’s perfect glory. We all struggle with sin and temptation. We all kinda suck.
When two people sin, they are equally at fault. They both need to be at Jesus’ feet, and we shouldn’t be circling them, stones in hand and arms flexed. We should all be at His feet – debt-free, virgin, non-tatted, or not.
Maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at all along.
Throughout the next few weeks, I plan to talk about other issues with “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos).” Next week will be on idolatry of marriage and family. If you want to stay in the loop, type your email into the “Stick Around” widget on the top right of screen!
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10, ESV)