Up until a few weeks ago I had never heard of the company, nor did I know things so bold existed. Call me naive, but I didn’t realize there were companies out there making millions of dollars encouraging married, committed people to have an affair.
As a believer, I’ve struggled with how to respond in a way that honors the Lord and brings glory to His name. I’ve cycled through feelings of astonishment, dismay, anger, sadness and even heartbrokenness as I’ve read countless articles from several different viewpoints highlighting numerous sides of the story. What I haven’t seen much of is how believers should respond, especially to other believers whose names appeared on the site. The heartbreaking reality is that there were many who claim Christ that were found to have their emails on the list of members. 400 Church leaders resigned this past Sunday due to their names surfacing in conjunction with Ashley Madison. Josh Duggar, reality tv star and self-proclaimed conservative christian along with christian vlogger Sam Rader and countless other christian figures have been the source of plenty of conversations and controversy. And so it’s with that in mind that I’d like to share several ways that we, as fellow believers, should respond to our brothers and sisters in Christ in the midst of this mess.
I will be the first to shout that I do not have all the answers – this post is as much for me as it is for you. However, the below list comes from time spent in prayer seeking the Lord and from reading His word. I pray that it rings full of the same truth, mercy and grace that Christ would show. Again, I’d like to highlight that this specifically deals with how believers should respond to other believers who are found to be in the middle of this scandal.
In my quiet time recently, I’ve been reading and studying Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the King Artaxerxes I of Persia (now modern Iran). As cupbearer, Nehemiah’s job was to taste and eat everything meant for the king prior to the king doing so; that way, if any of the food or drink was poisoned the king would discover so when Nehemiah fell over ill or even dead. Although it sounds like a terrible job, it was a job of high trust, honor and profit. Nehemiah’s job would have also placed him in the perfect position to speak with and even request favors of the king, something that would prove instrumental in his story later on. With that in mind, here’s three ways Christians should respond to believers outed in the Ashley Madison scandal centered around Nehemiah 1.
- We should care
Apathy is one of my pet peeves and I’ve yet to encounter a situation where I believe it to be the answer. What we should not do is show a lack of interest or concern. Rather, we need to care about the situation and about our fellow brethren who are tangled up in this mess. In Nehemiah 1:2 we see Nehemiah inquire about his fellow Jews and their well being. Despite his high status and wealth, Nehemiah does not allow his distance (in miles and status) to alienate his affections. He remembers that he too is a Jew, and though they be out of sight, they are not out of his mind. In the same way, we should inquire about the state of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need not allow our status on this issue (of being innocent when it comes to the AM scandal) to alienate our concern and affection from those who are guilty. We too must remember our shared heritage. In the same way that Nehemiah shared the Jewish heritage, we should remember that any believer found on that site has the same heritage as you and I: namely, that we are both sinners, once dead in our sins and following the way of the world, but because of the Lord’s great love and mercy, now made alive in Christ Jesus.
- We should mourn
When we inquire about our brothers and sisters in Christ, and find them to be in trouble and even ruin it should bring us to tears. Headlines like “400 Church Leaders Will Resign This Sunday Because Names Surfaced in Ashley Madison Hack” ought to stop you in your tracks and cause you to mourn. As we see in Nehemiah’s response (v. 4) when he discovers the Jews are very much in ruin (v. 3), the desolations and destructions of the church ought to be the matter of our grief.
- We should seek the Lord
After inquiring about the Jews and mourning their state, Nehemiah fasted and prayed and sought the Lord. In the same way, we should…
- …unburden our spirit by pouring out our heart’s to our Heavenly Father, leaving our hurt, frustration and complaints at his feet.
- …humbly address God with the respect and awe due to him (v. 5).
- …not approach God with doubt, but rather we approach with a holy confidence in his grace and truth, because we know that He “keeps his covenant of love for those who love Him” (v. 5).
- …acknowledge sin as a sin (v. 6). I’ve read several articles from believers that relay a message of grace, grace, grace, but no truth. Yes, God is full of mercy and grace, and that’s what sets Christianity apart from so many other religions, but our God is also a God of truth. Let me be very clear, grace without truth is not the gospel. As such, we do need to recognize that being married and looking for an affair via AM is a sin. Josh Duggar sinned. Those 400 church pastors and leaders sinned. As much as it sucks, that’s the truth.
- …we should humble ourselves and acknowledge our own sin (v. 6). I love how Nehemiah confesses not just the sins of the Israelites but those of himself and his family. In doing so, he’s reminding himself that he is no better than the Israelites; rather than judgmentally condemning them, he humbly acknowledges that he sins too. In the same way, when we approach God with our frustration and anger over this scandal, we must also confess our sin. We must remember that on our own, we are no better. It is only by the grace of God and Jesus’ work on the cross that we are adopted into sonship. Let us not fool ourselves for even a second into believing we are holier, better or more righteous than thou.
- …lastly, our prayers and requests should rest on the promises of God (v. 8). When Nehemiah presents his pleas for the Israelites, it’s founded on the covenant God made them. In the same way, as we kneel before God and lift up the pastors, famous Christians, maybe even your spouse, parent or friend, let our requests to God be founded on his promises to us. Truthfully, we cannot ask God to restore everything back to normal. We can’t ask him to sweep it under the rug or deal with it quickly. Well, we can technically, but it’s likely to result in frustration if and when those prayers go answered. However, we can ask Him to lift our burdens and give us rest (Matt. 11:28-29). We can ask Him to give those believers involved in the scandal strength and power (Isa. 40:29-31). We can beg him to fulfill all of their needs (Phil 4:19). We can request peace in the midst of this chaos (John 14:27). We can rest in the comfort knowing that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, there He is as well (Matt. 18:18-20). And above all, we can rejoice knowing that victory is ours because of Christ…and that, for whoever is in Christ, nothing can ever separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:37-39).
Whatever category you fall into, be it someone guilty of having or looking for an affair, be it a relative or friend of someone caught up in the scandal, or be it a believer removed from the situation…regardless, inquire, show concern, and above all else seek the Lord.
Take heart friends, Christ has already overcome sin, death and the world.