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.