Several months ago, I went out for food with friends from church. We went to a local pub renowned for its tasty nibblies. It is also a sports bar. I mentioned that I’d never been there before, and one of my friends said that some of the guys from church liked to go there after services on a Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a good place to come watch the games, I suppose,” I said, trying to deduce what would bring the men from our Baptist church to a bar after service.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice laced with irony, “and I’m sure it has nothing to do with the length of their skirts.” Just then, I caught sight of one of the waitresses. My mouth curled sardonically. The woman (girl?) was wearing a skirt too short to sit down in and a baby-doll t-shirt with the restaurant’s name emblazoned on the front.
“Ah, yes,” I said, letting my disappointment and frustration fall silent on my lips.
I know it’s considered normal behaviour for men to come to a bar to ogle the waitresses. I know that Christian men don’t (can’t?) always exempt themselves from normal.
But they should.
Perhaps it’s unfair of me to expect them to live up to better behaviour. I mean, these waitresses know what they’re getting into, right? They’re laying it on a plate, so why shouldn’t someone order the dessert cart?
But Christian men should be expected to show better behaviour. When a man looks at a woman as a sex object—even if she is complicit in behaving as a sex object—he has taken away her humanity. Objectification creates objects. It takes a living, breathing human being with hopes, dreams, family, friends, ambitions, and so on, and turns her into a thing. Everything that makes her a unique person with a unique personality is stripped away and she becomes a set of legs, a pair of breasts, or a perfectly shaped bottom.
Anyone who follows Jesus Christ should be ashamed to treat any human being as a thing. Every person is made in the image of God, and it is our responsibility as those who are following Jesus to treat them as image-bearers. Treating them instead as objects that titillate our desires is reprehensible. It doesn’t matter if it’s something that culture treats as normal. It doesn’t matter that the women involved may have chosen to dress that way, act that way. Your responsibility as a follower of Jesus is to treat them the way that Jesus would treat them: as children of a loving Father who wants them to grow in faithfulness and to live an abundant life filled with obedience to the Spirit.
We are called to treat them as people, not as things.
It bothers me to think that brothers with whom I worship on a Sunday morning treat any women as objects, because it makes me question how they treat me and my sisters. Do they respect us? Do they see us as sisters, made in the image of God, following side-by-side with them as we try to be more like Jesus?
All people deserve the humanity which God gave to them. I urge my brothers to treat all women, Christians and non-Christians, wives and daughters, sisters and mothers, as human beings, made in God’s image, as deserving of respect and honour as any man. To my brothers who are going to the bar to watch women as much as watch the game (if not more), I would strongly suggest that they search their hearts, lay them before God, and ask God to shape those hearts according to His will. Then find another place to watch the game. You are not showing those waitresses the love of God by treating them as objects. You are dehumanizing them, and in the process you are dehumanizing yourselves.
*Note, please consider this post gender-reversible, too. I would suggest to women who are learning the bad habit of objectifying men from movies like Magic Mike or the Twilight series, to search their own hearts. Two wrongs don’t make a right. You too can treat a man as an object, and it’s exactly as destructive as it is when they treat us like objects.