Thank you, Ashley Madison

hiding

Last year, Ashley Madison, the recently hacked adultery-arranging website, took a poll of its members asking for an anonymous statement of faith. Are you ready for this? About 70% of the people that used their site claimed to be either Catholic or Protestant. Only 3.5% were atheist or agnostic. Mormons, Muslims and Jews were around 1.5%. Hindus and Jehovah’s Witnesses were less than that.

Wait . . . WHAT? 70%? I don’t think is what God meant when he wanted his people to be set apart.

In the article that published the statistics, a sociologist at the University of Winchester was quoted as saying, “People who have faith often use it as an outlet for forgiveness so they’re more likely to cheat and less likely to feel guilty.”

Maybe we’re just fatalists. The Bible paints a pretty bleak picture of humanity—fallen, depraved, self-seeking and violent. Jeremiah calls the human heart “desperately wicked.” Our bumper stickers are apologetic: We’re not perfect, just forgiven. God’s not finished with us yet.

We say that Jesus loves us anyway. He stepped in, took our shame and wiped out our cosmic debt. He doesn’t cure us, he just covers us. Now, if we sin—which we will—he is faithful to forgive us. If we apologize again, he’ll forgive us again. And again. And again. Confession is what we do. It’s built into our liturgies. It’s built into our prayers.

If I plan to take a shower every night, I’m not too worried about getting dirty during the day. Dirt is inevitable. But the water is warm. It flows from an unlimited resource. I can trust it to be there whenever I turn the knobs.

Not only does God forgive us, he forgets, right? In Isaiah 43:25 God says, “I am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Or in Jeremiah 31:34: “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Let’s just pause and collectively realize that God is not literally deleting memories from his mind. If an elephant has a better memory than God, we’re in big trouble. God means forgive and forget the same way we mean forgive and forget. The forgiveness is genuine. The relationship is restored. He won’t hold the past over our heads, assuming he accepts our apology.

Is the 70% starting to make more sense?

We live in a community of people that believe they are evil to the core, but set apart and sustained by the sacrifice of Jesus. No wonder we struggle with authenticity. No wonder we hide. While we wait for heaven, we put up our fists of futility, trying to hold off sin as long as we can. But we all know it’s a waste of time.

Is karma better at sin management than grace? What about legalism? Fear? That’s what the statistics seem to say.

Paul disagrees. In Romans 6, he addresses the Christian tendency to cheapen grace. His solution was not to try harder or sing more worship songs or get into an accountability group, though I’m sure these disciplines can only help. His solution was to embrace the reality of the exchanged life.

We have died with Christ to our old sinful selves, and have been raised with him to a new resurrection life. The old is gone, the new has come. He asks us to consider the long-term affects of our choices, recognizing our obligation to give ourselves fully to the one that gave himself fully for us. He then spends all of Romans 8 showing us the advantage of having the Holy Spirit of God living inside of us, truly changing us from the inside out.

But there is one more consideration, a sobering reality that should keep believers from flirting with Ashley Madison.

As a holy, resurrected son of David, Jesus has been given the responsibility of judging the earth (John 5:22). It is a personal judgment, based on our actions (Matt. 25:31-46, II Cor. 5:10). It penetrates to the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts (I Cor. 4:5). It will expose our secrets (Rom. 2:16). Even Paul, who understood grace more than most, was intimidated and motivated by impending Judgment Seat of Christ (II Cor. 10-11).

Thank God for hackers.

Maybe we don’t enjoy the aftermath of throwing back the covers on Ashley Madison, watching the cockroaches scuttle in all directions, but we can call it a blessing. Yes, there is shame and devastation, but maybe this gives a few of us time to get some things straight with God and one another before it’s too late. Maybe it gives us pause before making a similar mistake, urging us toward a quality of life that is only possible if we recognize and embrace our union with the resurrected Christ.

Thank you, Ashley Madison.

4 thoughts on “Thank you, Ashley Madison

  1. Another good blog article addressing the real issues facing us Christians in a modern world. I also wonder if Christians are not looking seriously at the issues facing sexuality and marriage and being able to work them through. I have found that in Christian circles it is common to hide problems instead of getting help. It is as if the outside has to look a certain way. Here in Reno, NV we are deeply aware of many sexual issues that face our Christian culture. It is staring us in the face and putting pressure on us to stray. Many people engage in the sin and hide. It can be a way out of the pressure. Others take a judgmental posture and don’t allow frank conversation about struggle and warfare. Did I say warfare??? oh, right there is such a thing. Christians often believe that if you have warfare in the area of sexuality then you are not an overcoming Christian. Instead of Knowing that warfare is part of the Christian’s package and we need to stand next to one another and support one another instead of the hiding, covering and condemning.

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  2. I think sins like adultery fit so easily into the Christian lifestyle in part because of how we teach about sin. We emphasize the personal and the private, and our go-to verse for confession is “Against you, you only, have I sinned;” and we misunderstand what the psalmist is saying there. It’s not that the only person we’ve really offended is God, and he’s the only (gentle and forgiving) one we need to come to terms with. The entire Bible urges us to look at all of the stakeholders in our sins – families, communities, children, etc. It suggests that we consider the abuses of power involved in pornography and so forth, not just see these things as private matters between God and ourselves. When the psalmist said, “Against you, you only,” he was acknowledging the greatness of his sin. Of course David sinned against Bathsheba and owed her everything (The rest of the story, many chapters later, bears out this huge debt he feels obligated to pay.), he owed Uriah and paid with his own deep grief, he’d brought down his nation and widespread repercussions began. Recognizing that he had sinned against God did not absolve him from his debt to other humans he’d hurt. He was admitting how far his sin had reached, how deep his offense – “Not just against them but against you, ultimately against you and the good world you intended to preserve, against your wishes for me to rule with justice and truth, against everything you stand for in honor the valiant and protecting the weak; I’ve sinned against you.” – paraphrase

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  3. Many Christians indulge in the divorce cycles of “serial polygamy”. Adultery is a short form of this with less permanent results. God will work with all this. Note that God had Job’s friends make offering for their foolish remarks about Job. Job was restored after he had prayed for his friends. Then all of Job’s people came to comfort him. It was Job’s friends who analyzed and judged Job, biting into that Knowledge of Good and Evil again. God compelled them all to work back into the love. Jesus tells us to make things right among ourselves before making an offering to God. The damage of sin falls on family and friends.

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