(Photo: Mars Hill via The Christian Post)
It was the one sermon Mark Driscoll never wanted to preach. But on Sunday, the Seattle pastor stood in front of thousands and delivered an emotional sermon on sexual assault, which his wife is a victim of.
Sexual assault is an epidemic, Driscoll emphasized to Mars Hill Church. And to ignore it is to create a church culture where people can't be honest about what's been happening to them.
Displaying the weightiness and sensitivity of the topic, Driscoll shed a few tears throughout the sermon, which he based off of chapter seven of his latest book, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together. The only time he gets emotional, he pointed out, is when women and children are in danger.
Titled "Disgrace and Grace," the chapter was written by his wife, Grace, and addresses her past when she was sexually assaulted by her then boyfriend as a teen.
It wasn't until 13 to 14 years into their marriage that Driscoll learned about the abuse in detail.
Recalling the time his wife opened up to him, Pastor Driscoll stated, "It was one of those moments where I knew what had happened to my wife ... and it was devastating."
One in four women and one in six men have been assaulted, he cited. And with many abuse incidences going unreported, that means a large percentage of people at Mars Hill have been victimized.
As defined in Rid of My Disgrace, sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.
"The 'acts' can be physical, verbal or psychological," Driscoll described.
Speaking to both victims of abuse and perpetrators, the megachurch pastor did not downplay the seriousness of sin, saying "everybody's a bad person and headed toward hell at breakneck speed."
But he stressed that Jesus forgives all sin and takes all shame.
"We have a God who has come into human history and who has ... chosen to be shamed and victimized," he preached. "Jesus was victimized emotionally, verbally, spiritually, physically abused. He was assaulted. He went to the cross and he was shamed.
"You sinners need to know that when Jesus went to the cross, he took your sin; you victims need to know when Jesus went to the cross he took your shame. And they both died in the body of Jesus that day."
Driscoll offered Jesus as the answer to those trying to cleanse away the defilement.
"The rape victim who climbs in the shower, what they really want is Jesus but they just don't know how to get clean to the level of the soul so they go as far as they can which is cleansing of the body," he said.
"You're not determined by what you've done or what's been done to you. You're determined by what Jesus has done for you and he cleanses us from all unrighteousness."
He also made it clear that "God does not cause these things to happen but He will use them for good."
Driscoll said he was approached years earlier by another pastor who questioned the frequency of sexual assault discussions at Mars Hill. The Seattle pastor emphatically stated that the issue is a crisis that cannot be ignored.
"We want to be a place where it's safe for people to be honest about what has happened so that they can get hope and help and healing through Jesus and his people," he stated, adding that his wife chose to open up about her past experience so that it would encourage others to do the same.
Mars Hill Church is one of the fastest-growing churches in the country and currently has 14 campuses in four states. The church offers Redemption Groups to provide a safe place for people to discuss abuse, addiction and other seldom-discussed issues.
Sunday's sermon was part of Driscoll's "Real Marriage" series.