Rape, Catcalling, and Abuse: This Is My 20 Minutes Of Action

I honestly don’t know how to begin writing this. More than a year has passed since the Stanford rape happened yet it has only been days since the issue blew up when the verdict was passed, and since then I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It wasn’t just that the rapist got a light sentence, it wasn’t just that this case is high profile although I have always had great interest in those. It was the fact that the father of this boy went ahead and downplayed the crime that his son did – and they both went as far as hiring professional witnesses, manipulating statements after finding out that the victim couldn’t remember anything, and re-victimizing the lady just so they can find something to use against her.

I have been looking for a way to participate in actions against the sentence from this side of the world, only to find out a couple of hours ago that amidst the public outcry, his 6-month sentence might even be cut in half as stated by county sheriff. And so resigned, I decided that the best form of action I have is to speak up and address something else; something that goes beyond speaking out about faulty justice systems, entitled schoolboys, and rape culture because there are already so much of that (although I have also done quite that on my Facebook page 🙈).

Our sexually-stimulated culture has been desensitized to both men and women being objectified. Ogling someone of the opposite gender can be done blatantly with no repercussions; catcalls and hot stares follow the footsteps of almost every person who ever dare walk the streets alone; fear and anxiety prickle through the body whenever the darkness of the night begins to hide the light.

Low whistles, undressing gazes, and “accidental” brushes have marked my almost every turn since I was 11, a mere freshman in high school. I have had guys who appeared well-mannered approach me in places I deemed safe, proving my first impression wrong when they start crossing personal boundaries. It didn’t matter if I was wearing my school uniform, loose sweater and jeans, or a tight-fitting top and short shorts – they were relentless. At first, I was a fireball – snapping and angrily staring back at whoever dares to hoot at me, only realizing afterwards that the aggressiveness arouses boys even more and so I have learned to keep my mouth shut. I have learned that should I make the wrong move, I would be accused for “stimulating” these boys by the way I dress, the way I move, or the way I speak. I have learned that maybe the best way to stay safe was to keep quiet. I have learned to ignore the stares, brush off the suggestive words, shake away the lingering hands, and quickly walk straight ahead with my head steely held high – barely batting an eyelash while my friends and siblings get riled up and angry for my sake. Each and every time they do, I tell them not to, acting like I was okay even when my heart and body were rigid. I tell them to shake it off, always pretending that being near strange males did not make me feel paralyzed and paranoid, never sharing how many times I only pretend to be brave. I don’t tell them of how often I have to convince myself to give guys I don’t know the benefit of the doubt still; of how hard I have to fight my defensive stance in desire to be gracious and not be judgmental. I tell them to let it be because getting upset won’t change a thing and having accepted that fact, I have gotten used to it. 

When was it ever okay for human beings to get used to this – being treated like an animal displayed in a zoo? When was it ever okay to steal a person’s dignity with a single look, a single word, a single touch; with 20 minutes of action?

The image of the Creator sketched into the face of the beloved – vandalized. The worth the Savior has declared when He died so humanity can live – denied.

How can we go back to the design of the Father, leading children in the way that they should go – mothers raising kids who know the value of women, fathers raising children with strength that serves others? How can we not be like Adam and Eve who looked for someone to blame, and instead learn to be accountable for our actions, humbly accepting the mistakes we have made and the consequences that come with them?

People, the decisions we make when we are “provoked” only speak of what is truly in our hearts. An attractive person passed out drunk isn’t “asking for it.” A woman dressed provocatively or a man walking around topless doesn’t mean they want to be jumped by a breathing organism who can’t keep hormones under control. Act like you are of honor because you are, no matter what the circumstance. Your actions are completely your own. Take responsibility for your body so precious that it had to be paid for in blood.

Because men, this is how God loves women: that when He chose to enter the world, He chose to do so by entrusting Himself to a woman. He believed in her strength to stand with her head held high amidst rumors and scandals. He hid Himself inside her womb and allowed Himself to be cared for by her love and gentleness. When a scandalous woman laid at His feet and His disciples were outraged, He defended her, protected her, and lifted her high in spite of her reputation. He never would have leered at her or made sexual insinuations. When He rose again, He decided to reveal Himself first to women, commissioning them to testify even when no man would believe in a woman’s testimony at the time. He made them heroes and gave them regard in a time when culture wouldn’t. He saw them for who they are – human beings of respect and value completely in their own right. Who are we to not do the same?

And women, this is how God loves men: that He chose to reveal Himself in masculine form. He entrusted to man the task and authority to rule over His crearion. Time and time again He had believed in a seemingly ordinary man’s ability and proceeded to use this man to bring change that impacted peoples and nations. The Bible has acknowledged good-looking men several times and yet aside from fleeting mentions of that fact, they were ultimately upheld for their accomplishments, their character, and their integrity. He Himself walked the streets of earth as a man with no impressive physical acclaim, wanting to be known not for how He looks but how He loves. Men have failed Him over and over again yet He continues to trust in their strength amidst weakness. He taught them how to be men, He never gave them an excuse to not be men, He never robbed them of being men. Who are we to not do the same?

This is the truth – that every crevisce of every being to walk this planet was carefully crafted by God; that Christ’s body was battered and His blood flowed out in torrents just so His love can be felt by every soul. And as a people, let us not allow the world to destroy what He built. Let us make our voices heard. Let us make our lives speak. In a world where only 3 out of every hundred rapists are arrested, let us fight for justice. In a nation where 1 out of 4 experience physical or sexual violence, let us fight to speak up. In a city where we have to keep looking over our shoulder in fear, let us be unmoved in courage. In a generation that pushes obscenity and vulgarism, let us be undeterred in purity and respect. In a culture where everyone bends, let us stand. Because this, this is the heart of a true Father.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
-Micah 6:8

For everyone interested in this particular Stanford case, you can sign a petition ousting the judge through the White Houses’s WeThePeople here or through change.org here. If you live in the United States, you can file for a recall by mailing a complaint. Please send me an email or a message through the contact box placed somewhere on the right of this webpage and I will send you the format and the details. I know it may not seem like much but at this point, this is the most action we can do and it matters. Thank you!

Featured image from The Guardian article, photo by Tessa Ormenyi. Note that I wrote this in such a way to acknowledge that both men and women experience rape and abuse. I understand rape culture and its bias against women but I chose to state things in a way that highlights value and respect on both accounts.

(Dear Church): Stop Vulgarizing God

“The basic trouble with the Church today is her unworthy conception of God.”
-A. W. Tozer

This topic has been placed in my heart months before, but whenever I try to write on it, I stop in fear that I might get it wrong. No subject intimidates me more than the nature of God, for who am I to dare capture the wonders of God in a page. Yet I know I could run no longer. And so I speak, fully acknowledging that there are people far worthier to speak of this, but also acknowledging that this is something God is asking me to do. As you read this, I hope you be conscious all through out that we tread on incredibly holy ground.

I would never, ever dare add to or subtract from the truths that God has spoken. However, I hope you understand that as much as I try to speak of God in a manner that is as worthy of Him as possible, I also try to speak of this in a way that people would understand. No word can ever capture the immensity of God, but I will try to convey all of this as eloquently as possible. I do not wish to balance out God, for God cannot be balanced. He just is, and so I will simply declare who He is.

Let’s begin.

I cannot count the number of times I have felt the Holy Spirit grieve when people belittle who God is. From Christians using “Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!” as a joke to ministries making God out as how they want Him to be, we have come to a time wherein God’s holiness and perfection are trampled by culture. “Oh my God” and “Jesus Christ” have become common expressions, with a Tagalog counterpart coming out as “Jusko Lord” – and we hear these coming from our own mouths as well, don’t we?

It’s startling to think that we have lost how powerful God’s very name is. His name is holy and sacred, and it isn’t something to be taken lightly. We have put God in the backseat, talking to Him when it’s convenient to us as we drive our lives down the roads we want to go, as if speaking to the holiest and most powerful being in the universe doesn’t deserve our utmost attention. We get bored reading the Bible, like the fact that the One who seats in heavenly places, surrounded by angels adoring and worshipping His every move, wants to convey His heart in words to mundane mortals such as us is not a wonder in itself. We do ministry like God should be grateful that we do work for Him, acting as if the very breath we take and every move we make is not done through His grace and power.

I recently talked to a friend who was in a standstill in her relationship with God. I was digging deep until she said the magic words… “I’ve known God for so long, I feel like there’s nothing new anymore. And besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little compromise since it’s not exactly sin.”

There’s nothing new because as a generation, we have chosen to magnify “God is love” while ignoring the rest of His attributes. A “little” compromise isn’t seen as sin because we have neglected the holiness of God. “God is love” “Jesus is Savior” “God is good” – THE END. As if that’s all there is to Him. It’s time we allow God to break the boxes we have placed Him in, because He is so, so much more than just love and just good. We have to stop letting ourselves be fooled by theology that feels nice, and we have to see God for who He truly is.

I have heard people justify things that are not pleasing to God by saying “God loves me and He wants me happy.” Let me stop you right there. Anything that goes against what God has spoken in the Bible is sin, and sin goes against the very nature of God. I’m not saying God doesn’t love you, I’m saying that He immensely does. And because He loves you, He wants you to stop being caught up in that limbo that you’re in. Yes, He wants you to be happy, because He is such a good God. But He wants you to be happy in truth. And the truth is, God cares more about your holiness than your temporal happiness.

These days we have somehow come to perceive God as a father in heaven who is pleased with every single thing that we do. We think that being a good father means that He should support whatever it is that makes us happy. But that’s not true. It may go against what society says is a good parent these days, but a good parent disciplines and makes sure we’re on the correct path. A good parent aligns us to our God-given destinies, not let us be pulled further away in fear of hurting us. And that’s exactly the kind of parent God is. Him loving you doesn’t automatically mean He’s pleased with the choices you make and the things you do. 

That being said, Exodus 20 clearly states how God is a jealous God. And because He loves you, He doesn’t want to share your heart with anything or anyone else that will take His place. To defend your sin by bending who God is now means that you have allowed something else to overtake God’s place in your heart. Indeed, God hates the sin and not the sinner. In fact, God has sent His Son to die for the sinner. On the basis of God’s love, He has extended His grace and has extended His patience until the Day of Judgment comes. But if the sinner fails to accept His grace and consequently follow Him, then let me say this: on the basis of God’s holiness and justice and righteousness, this same God who encompasses love will eventually send sinners to hell.

I know it’s uncomfortable to think about. It’s making me uncomfortable just by writing about it. But it has to be said. God’s truth is supposed to challenge our innate desire to please what is of the flesh; it’s supposed to go against what has been so deeply ingrained in our culture. As Francis Chan put it, there is a need for those of us within the Christian bubble to look beyond the status quo and critically assess what is in the Bible. We cannot pick out just what we want to hear and believe, then set out to live according to one chapter. God is unchanging, meaning that who He was in the Old Testament is exactly who He is in the New Testament. Don’t think that God was more judging in the Old Testament and more loving in the New Testament. You will also find mercy in the Old Testament and you will also find commands of self-denial and obedience in the New Testament.

Can you imagine how much it must pain God that He is only desired for one of His attributes? It’s like your spouse telling you he likes you because you’re sweet – and only because of that! Our relationship with Him in no way changes who He is; it changes who we are. Think of it this way: it’s like being married to the President of the United States. We have the privilege to talk to him any time we wish to, but it doesn’t diminish who he is. He is still the most powerful man on earth. It is thereby us who have been elevated to being the First Lady. And so I beg of you, be extremely careful how you choose to view God, for this will drive your life. Stop taking Him for granted. Reflect on Matthew 7:21-27, and work it from there.

God is infinitely love, and I cannot exaggerate the goodness of God. It is this love that draws me closer to Him each and every day. I am incredibly grateful for His mercy and grace that sustains me (Isaiah 63:7). He is the Father that awaits the return of the prodigal son; the One whose arms I can run to and trust to embrace me (Luke 15:11-32). He is the Savior who came to serve and to reconcile sinners to the Father; the One I call a Friend and can tell anything to (John 15:14-15). He is the Spirit that surrounds and leads and dwells in His children; the One who comforts and encourages me (Psalm 143:10; John 14:15-29). Yet He is also the God of wrath, who righteously judges and condemns the wicked (Psalm 7:11-16; Romans 1:18-32). He is the Master who asked the ones closest to Him to deny themselves and suffer for His sake (Matthew 16:24). He is the Eternal Truth that convicts sinners and is grieved whenever we vulgarize Him (Isaiah 63:10).

It’s hard to put together, I know it is. But this is where faith comes in. We trust what is written in His Holy Word, and though we can’t fully grasp it, we trust in His mysteries. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways (Job 38-39). He is such a complex, beautiful being, and it would be an honor to get to explore Him all the days of our lives. I’m incredibly grateful to be part of a spiritual family that acknowledges God’s all-encompassing glory, and I pray that you have such people to walk with too. I hope you don’t mind as I directly pray now.

Father, thank You for all the love that You have showered upon us. Thank You because Your kindness leads us to repentance and that it is by Your grace that we are able to see Your glory. Jesus, thank You for bridging the gap so that we may approach the Father in this way and Holy Spirit, we ask that You open our eyes to the things unseen, open our eyes to Your truth that we may enjoy walking with You all the days of our lives. Cleanse us from previous beliefs and break our mindsets, no matter how painful and uncomfortable it may be. Rid us of our unrighteousness and iniquity as You make us Christ-like and call us holy. Meet us where we need You and how we need You. Father, we long to know You. Give us the hunger to read through Your word that we may know You beyond what we hear from others. May we experience You beyond an intellectual manner, and may Your Spirit lead us into freedom; may Your presence surround us all the day of our lives. Surround us with people who will walk with us as we get deeper into the chambers of Your heart. We utterly adore You for all that You are. Thank You for Your wonder and mysteries, thank You for Your infinite glory. Please come for us. This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Confessions Of A Practicing Christian

I am flawed, so very flawed. When confronted with the holiness of God, all I can do is tremble and be struck by how stark we are in contrast. Even as a Christian who truly loves God, I still struggle with sin every so often. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I battle with pride each and every day. There is always a trigger: a compliment, a desire not to apologize, a need to show that I am right. It is something I constantly lay down before God, for I know full well that it is not innate in me to be humble. I continuously ask for His grace to transform me and make me Christ-like, because it is certainly something I cannot do on my own.

However, I have encountered far too many people who claim to be Christians but there is no sense of struggling with sin in their lives – only because they have become numb to it and consider it normal. I have heard so much the term “non-practicing Christians.” They consider themselves part of the church, they like the perks of salvation, but they refuse to submit to Lordship.

Now please, there is no judgment here, for I personally grew up part of a Christian family and yet it took me years until I actually understood the magnitude of salvation. I thank God that we are justified by faith – it is a biblical doctrine and it frees us from the snares of legalism. But I still think this is something all people who claim to be Christians need to ponder on.

I have noticed that a lot of times, people package Christ into something that caters to people’s needs and wants. A dangerous tendency we can do is lean our theology so much on God’s love that we fail to recognize that He is justice and jealous and righteous.

Don’t get me wrong; I drown so much in God’s grace. I think in today’s world, it is something we definitely need. But we have to be careful not to bank so much on it that we forget the other attributes of God. God is love, as He is mercy, as He is grace. He is equally justice and holy as well. These aren’t just traits He embodies; they are who He is. A theologian I look up to and whose works I study, A. W. Tozer explored in so many of his books and sermons that we have to recognize that there are many sides to God, all of which are so completely and equally Him, and we shouldn’t confine who He is to the box of who we want Him to be. We should continue exploring God for who He truly is – long after we have understood His love.

In one of his books, he explicitly stated, and I quote, “a lot of people have gone too far and have written books and poetry that gets everybody believing that God is so kind and loving and gentle. God is so kind that infinity won’t measure it. And God is so loving that He is immeasurably loving. But God is also holy and just.”

Now not diminishing how beautiful and unconditional God’s love is, we also must remember how much God weighs. I know too many people who use God’s grace and love as a license to sin, but that’s another discussion. At this time, I want all of us to be reminded of how holy, how burning bright He is, and how unworthy we are.

Because we truly are.

I cannot emphasize how essential holiness is to God. It’s actually pretty interesting to note that love is mentioned 311 times in the Bible while holy is mentioned 633 times (King James Version). God was never called loving, loving, loving or gracious, gracious, gracious. In the Bible, repetition means emphasis and the only adjective ever repeated to describe God that was repeated this way is holy.

Holy, holy, holy.

In Hebrew, the word holy is qadosh. It means set apart, cut off from the rest. Holiness then talks of how different God is from us. As Max Lucado said, it speaks of his “other-worldliness.” Next to Him, I am so dirty; I am so unworthy to enter His presence. Moses and Isaiah themselves could not look at God’s face as conveyed in the books of Exodus and Isaiah. In the same way, as stated in Habakkuk, God cannot lay His eyes upon that which is impure. Even as Christians, we have to constantly repent every time we fall and go back to the path of righteousness, for no hint of unholiness can be in the presence of what is holy.

I think that’s what causes a lot of us to still feel far away from God sometimes, even if we know that He is never too far. Our sin, our lukewarm-ness, our hardness puts up a cloud over the face of this sinless, zealous, loving God. In spite of this, however, I do not think our awareness of our sin should lead us away from God, making us feel ashamed. Instead, as we allow God to expose our sin and bring everything to light, so there shall be light in us for we are no longer hiding in darkness. Our awareness of how sinful we are should all the more drive us to understand how much we need God in our lives.

For in His mercy, He extends His patience and delayed His wrath upon us to give all of us the chance to become holy. He opens His arms wide, harboring no condemnation, and takes us back each and every time, as long as we truly repent and turn from our sins. He allows us still to live, and each day is truly a gift for I can only imagine how much restraint God has to exercise, considering how much evil there is in this world. Because He cannot contradict Himself and He is just, He chose to send down His Son to die for the mortal beings that He created to receive the death sentence from our sins and fallibility. In His grace, He chose to open the gates of heaven to us. And still after, He extends to us favor and blessings and love and promises far beyond the mind can fathom.

I do not think I can ever understand why God would extend love to us, but I don’t need to. I just have to accept it, and I have to accept it in its fullness; I have to recognize Him in His fullness.

How can we have watered down the gospel? How can we have diminished its truth and beauty, and in turn diminished the magnitude of God? In the Old Testament, only the High Priest can go inside the deepest parts of the tabernacle and go behind the veil to speak to this holiest, magnificent God – and even then, just once a year.

Now, God may have torn the veil, but His accessibility does not change His holiness and glory.

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done…”
-Isaiah 46:9-10, emphasis mine

Who He is goes beyond love and mercy and grace. He is perfection, He is omnipresent, He is infinity. In Isaiah 40:25, God personally illustrates how He is incomparable. Read Job 38 through 41 and you will see God clearly that He is mightiest and there is none above Him. He is not a trend, He is not the head of a social group your friends are in, but He is GOD – the Creator of the galaxies and the Painter of the skies; the One who designed the human body; the only being not bound by time for He is the Beginning and the End.

Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. If we can see Him clearly, we can view Him highly. It’s about time we actually recognize the depth of who God is, the magnitude of what Christ has done, and we should allow this magnificent truth to fill our hearts. Because this knowledge of God should do more than just save us, it should regenerate us.

If we keep our eyes set on Him and revel in how beautiful and holy He is, then how can we simply go day to day the way we still do? How can we still have the nerve to judge people when we ourselves should be judged? How can our hearts not be filled with joy knowing that every day is a gift that we do not deserve? How can we not fall to our knees and lay our lives down in abandon before the Cross, fully recognizing how unworthy we are of this precious gift?

Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
-Psalm 96:9

Don’t worry, I forget sometimes too. But we must make an effort to remember. I guess that’s why Paul kept repeating in his letters that he would always do his best to remind believers of the truth of the gospel and a changed life.

Being a Christian is far more than being part of a religion or having a title, it is understanding that this privilege should reflect in our lifestyle.

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
-1 Peter 1:15-16