This summer, driving well past midnight from Memphis to Nashville, my eyes straining and my mind tired from a day full of teaching and meeting new people, I reached for my phone to put on a podcast while my daughters slept in the backseat. I tapped the glowing Invisibilia box.
This episode was about whether or not people change and how to tell if they really have. The story focused on a man in prison for rape and the female reporter with whom he developed an unlikely friendship. The reporter was saying she couldn't believe it when she'd discovered why he was behind bars. She said she'd always considered rape to be the worst of all possible crimes.
She said that and then, from the backseat, my nine year old piped up. "Mom," she said, yawning, "What's rape?"
[insert deep sigh of heartbreak]
Mothers shouldn't have to answer questions like that.
I took a deep breath, tossed a prayer like a lasso, looking for something solid to hold onto. And then I answered as much as one can when a nine year old's doing the asking.
I said, "Honey, rape is something you're not ready to know all about. But I'll tell you something about it now and tell you more when you're older, okay?"
She said, "Okay, mom. Thank you."
She thanked me...
I said, "Rape is when someone with power uses that power to take something precious and important from someone without power."
"Does that make sense?"
She said, "Yes." She said it like a girl who's weighed a thing and found it heavy. But true. She said, "That probably is the worst crime."
And I agreed.
The God in me boiled at having to describe something so dark to this child of light tucked in my truck. God detests rape.
In Deuteronomy He says, "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns."
To church leaders He says, through Peter, "Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge."
He says as Jesus in Matthew 20, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave."
He says in Proverbs, "Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Or crush the afflicted at the gate."
He says in Zechariah, "Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another."
God detests rape. And God prizes more than almost anything, the virtue of using your extra--your extra influence, strength, money, resources, charm, power--for the good of people who lack.
I've heard Andy Stanley say kindness is lending your strength to someone who's weak. The Greek word for kindness in Galatians 5 means, roughly, "love in action." Love that seeks to do for others instead of oneself. Love that says, "What I have is for you" and then follows up.
If rape says, "I'm strong and you're weak, so I'll do what I please," Kindness (a fruit of the Spirit grown in a God-directed heart) says, "I'm strong and you're weak, so I'll help you up."
That's what God's people do. When we're strong, we make others strong. We lift up. We pour out. We enable and empower. We take less and give more. We look out for the people who can't look out for themselves.
We are not, not in any way or context or situation, rapists. Not while we're walking in the light.