Ashley Madison and Matthew 5

Pick up the first stoneThere have been many articles responding to the release of names associated with the Ashley Madison web site, a site where prospective adulterers could find connection.

Some have expressed surprise and dismay that Christian leaders have been found to have their names on the list. But I don’t think that we should be surprised. The church is not filled with people who have it all together. We know this because they let us in and we do not have it all together. Whether our failures are obvious to others or not, we all fail.

So let’s put down the stones before someone gets hurt. There is not a person alive that has not had his or her mind taken to places that it should not go. As Christians, we have to learn to “take every thought captive” and redirect the trajectory of our thoughts.

Why is this important? In Matthew 5:27-30 Jesus tells us that adultery starts long before any physical activity takes place. Adultery takes place first and foremost in the mind. Adultery begins with lust and lust is the real problem.

Rather than our condemnation, we should offer to those on the list our sympathy and prayers. Certainly, they were wrong to flirt with or commit physical adultery. But every human has crossed into territory that he or she should not go whether the thought was acted upon or not. Knowing our own hearts, and how easily our minds can be driven off course, we should have some understanding of how those on the list got there.

The problem is essentially one of idolatry. Lust takes place when we seek something that provides a distraction or what we think will be lasting satisfaction. Lust is essentially trying to meet a legitimate need by illegitimate means. Any desire for sexual fulfillment that is contrary to the prescription of Scripture is harmful and wrong.

Rather than worship God through the legitimate means of meeting a need, we worship a false god when we turn to the illegitimate. That false god can be a person or an experience.

Now that it is all in the open, the illegitimate desires can be addressed and help can be sought. Let us as a group of believers skip the condemnation and offer the needed help. A few thoughts come to mind:

  • We can create an environment where it is OK to be not OK. In other words, we need to develop church cultures where brokenness and failure can be admitted without shunning or other ostensibly anti-Christian behavior.
  • We can more accurately teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some well-meaning Christians acknowledge that salvation cannot be earned and they try to earn it anyway. They then turn around and teach others to do so. When we understand the Gospel, then we can let ourselves and others be where we currently are, knowing that God is in the process of making us better.
  • We can do a better job of understanding how the Gospel speaks to the issues in the culture around us. Scripture speaks to our motivations and our need for transformation.

When Hootie and the Blowfish agree with Jesus on something (John 8:7) then we should pay attention.

You without sin, pick up that stone