by Rachel Thompson
It is a difficult topic to discuss; yet it is a conversation that must be had. The statistics are staggering. Sexual assault and rape affect so many of our lives. Many of us have been victims ourselves, and most of us know at least one person who has been assaulted. By our silence on the subject, we have surrounded sexual assault and rape with a sense of deep shame. Many victims already are experiencing shame over the sin that has been committed against them. Filled with self-doubt and blame, victims fail to report many cases and wonder if they will be believed should they decide to come forward.
The shame of being sinned against can be spiritually devastating. Victims of sexual assault have had their bodies violated against their will. Often they feel dirty and have a need to wash themselves immediately or repeatedly. When we are sinned against, we feel that sin clinging to our very flesh like leprosy. We feel broken and unclean. And this uncleanliness may cause a sense of separation from our family, our friends and from God.
Our beautiful sacramental theology, which teaches us that our God is truly present in His Word and His Sacraments, becomes a source of fear. When our bodies have been sinned against, going to church can be excruciatingly painful. How can I who am unclean enter into a holy place and stand before a holy God?
But not one of us stands secure before a holy God on account of our own worthiness. We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, and it is through Him that we can stand before a holy God in boldness and confidence. Because the unclean were separated from Him, He put on human flesh and went out to them in order to draw them ever to Himself. He took on human flesh, not only to save lost souls, but to restore broken bodies. So He does still. He draws us to Himself in the waters of Holy Baptism, washing all uncleanliness from our bodies. He draws us to Himself in His words of absolution and in His body and blood under bread and wine, restoring to wholeness all that has been broken. Through these means, He says to us, “I come to you to draw you near to me. You are clean. You are clean.”