What Jesus has to say about our sexuality in a #MeToo culture

June 19, 2019

It’s not often a single tweet seems to explode into an enormous movement. But on October 15, 2017, a Hollywood actress posted a tweet in response to the growing awareness of sexual abuse that was being uncovered in the movie industry. She wrote,

If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.

Alyssa Milano was not the only person speaking into this issue and encouraging others to share their own stories, but it was her effort and this tweet that gained instant traction. The hashtag quickly became viral. The original tweet was posted around midday, and by the end of the day the phrase “Me too” had been used on Twitter over 200,000 times. Within a year, it had been used 19 million times—more than 55,000 uses each day.

Many celebrities shared their stories, immediately raising the profile of the hashtag. Hollywood was quickly engulfed. Other parts of the entertainment industry soon followed. Stories of harassment and abuse quickly spread in realms of politics, media, academia, and religion. A parallel #ChurchToo hashtag began to emerge as survivors of assault in churches or by church leaders shared their own experiences.

The #MeToo movement has shone a spotlight on the prevalence of sexual assault. It is thought that in the region of 20 percent of American women have been sexually assaulted in the course of their lives. Exact figures are hard to come by, of course, as these are extremely difficult stories for people to share, for a host of reasons. But many have been able to be open for the first time. We are gaining a truer understanding of the prevalence of these brutalities. Men, too, are opening up about experiences of sexual assault and harassment. Some men are also acknowledging failures in their own past behavior toward women.

#MeToo and the command that convicts us all

It is in this context that we can see the challenging teaching of Jesus with fresh beauty: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28).

We’re used to hearing this verse applied to our attitude to others, and rightly so. Jesus is targeting those who might assume that this, of all the commandments, is one where they can be confident of obedience. But not so. According to Jesus, adultery happens in the heart long before it ever happens in the bed. It is not just about what we do with our genitals, but what we do with our eyes and our minds. It concerns our attitude and thought-life, not just our physical actions. By Jesus’ reckoning, none of us is innocent. The commandment convicts us all.

The value of our sexuality

But while Jesus is targeting the person doing the looking, it is worth noticing what he is saying by implication about the person being looked at. She is not to be looked at or even thought about lustfully. Again, Jesus is not solely concerned with physical boundaries but mental ones. Clearly this applies to any of us irrespective of our sex. But, given the prevalence of sexual assault by men against women, it is significant that the scenario describes a man looking lustfully at a woman. He is saying that her sexuality is precious and valuable; that she has a sexual integrity to her which matters and should be honoured by everyone else. He is saying this sexual integrity is so precious to him that it must not be violated, even in the privacy of someone else’s mind.

This is staggering. We tend to think that someone’s thought-life is their business alone, and that what they think about in their own head has nothing to do with anyone else. But Jesus challenges this. This looking-with-lustful-intent is so serious precisely because the other person’s sexuality is worth so much. We’re not to look at others with lust not because sexuality is so cheap, but because it is so valuable.

This is something we see consistently reflected through the whole Bible. Following his adulterous behavior with Bathsheba and the arranged killing of her husband Uriah, David confesses his sin to God in these terms: “Against you, you only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4). We might think this is David conveniently overlooking the human cost of his sin and simply writing it off as “a spiritual matter.” But the opposite is in fact true. David is recognizing that his violation of Bathsheba’s sexuality, and the cruel termination of the marriage in which that sexuality was expressed, is ultimately high treason against God himself—precisely because it is God who places such high value on our sexual integrity.

The rise of the #MeToo movement gives us an opportunity to commend the sexual ethics that Jesus gave to us. Our culture is starting to tacitly acknowledge something it has not always affirmed: that our sexuality matters profoundly. What we do with (or to) someone sexually is not just physical. A physical violation of someone is wicked and damaging enough; a sexual violation can often leave even deeper wounds. Sexual injury is not the same thing as a grazed knee. Our sexuality gets to the very heart of our personhood. It’s why Jesus is so protective of it.

Something so glorious as our sexuality has the capacity to be so profoundly damaged (and damaging to others) precisely because God has designed it with the capacity to do something so significant. The one-flesh union between and a man and a woman has not only the possibility of producing new life, but also—if framed by and honoring of the covenant of marriage—to reflect something far greater: our union with Christ. The Bible frequently and unawkwardly describes our relationship to Christ in marital language. No wonder we’re discovering how much our sexuality matters to us. It matters profoundly to God.

Is your church doing all it can to confront the abuse crisis? Stay tuned to learn how the ERLC and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group is providing practical help for SBC churches, including the new curriculum. It's time to make our churches safe from abuse and safe for survivors.

Sam Allberry

Sam Allberry speaks around the world as a pastor, preacher and apologist. He is the author of Seven Myths About Singleness, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?, and What God Has To Say About Our Bodies. He is in the process of moving to the U.S. to join the staff at Immanuel … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24