This was different. It's rare for a news item to chase me as I generally subscribe to feeds from Christian sites. But as I say, this story is very different.
I'm a Generation X baby. I'm in my 40's now (yikes) and still remember the days before Facebook, Youtube and dating websites. My first computer was a BBC model B computer with 32k or RAM. My current cellphone has more power than that and it's obsolete. The internet changed how we do things forever.
I met my wife on a dating site, so understand I'm not against the reputable ones in principle. I was socially outgoing on the surface but very insecure underneath so our courtship was for several months regular email and instant messenger chats. We didn't even exchange pictures for three months and it didn't matter.
Ashley Madison is different.
Any site that starts with the tagline "Life is short: Have an affair" fails to hold any respect for human beings. My dogs show more fidelity than they suggest married couples should. It also fails to realise that actions have eternal consequences.
I've written about post-Christian society before, and spoken about it as well. The West in particular is not a Christian society. Laws originally crafted based on Biblical principles have long since been overturned or abolished and secular - and frankly unGodly - laws put in their place to legalise pretty much every sin listed in the Bible. Even murder is now condoned in many countries but the "politically correct" way of saying it is "assisted suicide" or "euthanasia".
Which reminds me - I must update my living will. I suggest you do the same.
In response to the emails and texts about the Ashley Madison situation I found myself drawn back into reading the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I was reminded of a conference I went to in my late teens where the keynote speaker - Tony Campolo I think - was talking about sin and repentance. He said something that stuck with me and helped me get out of a bad situation (eventually). His comment was that the sin of the cities was not their sexual promiscuity, rather it was that their society no longer recognised that behaviour as sinful. It was simply how it was.
Fast forward three or four millennia to today and what's changed?
Basically we now have the covering of the Cross to shield us from God's wrath we can call on. So no need to build an Ark just yet.
There is a serious human tragedy in sites like this trash even existing. The assumption that it's impossible for a faithful, monogamous relationship to be fulfilling is a joke to the World. Which is to be expected. The World is, after all, the dominion of the Father of Lies.
God didn't include "no adultery" to limit us, but to free us to new depths of intimate relationship that we were created to have. Adam didn't have Eve on speed-dial so he could call her for a quickie. It says he knew her. The implication is far more than him being aware of her existence as a fellow inmate in Eden. They had a relationship of intimacy far beyond a lustful encounter, and sadly beyond what many couples achieve these days.
My wife told me this evening after 12 years of marriage that I was the first man who made her feel beautiful. I was lost for words - which doesn't happen often. We've had health and financial hardship for the last few years but that Love between us has become deeper and more intimate than ever before. And no, I'm talking intimacy not sex here.
Ashley Madison sells a counterfeit product. It's a spiritual ponzi scheme. Eventually it will bring your world crashing down around you. It cheapens marriage. It blatantly lies about the nature of life. Life is not "short". Life is Eternal, unending. With sites like this around - and I realise it's not the only one - it sells the 21st Century problem as something to be chased. It makes sin sound desirable.
Like all the schemes of the enemy it builds on lies and half-truths to deceive the people it ensnares.
I'm sure the CEO thinks he's done a wonderful job creating something so popular. He's clearly a charismatic leader.
We would do well to remember Hitler was a charismatic leader. Lenin was popular. They were also the most repugnant embodiment of sinful behaviour of the last 100 years.
Sin - ALL sin - is driven by selfishness. Ashley Madison happens to focus on sex. A few years ago there was a financial scheme called PIPS which convinced many people of it's legitimate business structure. It ran with huge profits for about nine years before it collapsed and was exposed as a massive ponzi scheme. It was popular because it fed on people's greed for money. This site focuses on greed for carnality.
So where to now for those exposed?
Leaders need to step forward and admit their sin to their flock and resign, allowing Godly discipline to be placed on them. Families need to be loved, both the hurt and the wanderer.
It should also be remembered that actions don't happen in a vacuum. There is always, always a reason things happen. Affairs grow where there is something missing in a relationship - INTIMACY! Lust meets that need as a counterfeit that looks real enough.
We all need to be accountable to others. We need people we can turn to in times of crisis to get support and not judgement to prevent falling into traps like these sites.
There are steps for those exposed or who have fear they will be:
- Acknowledge your sin to yourself, your spouse and your church leader before someone else does
- Take action. Delete your account in their presence. Ask them to place a block on your computer preventing further access to the site that is password protected.
- Recognise that trust has been broken and allow mourning for what has transpired
- Press into Christ and begin the long road to forgiveness. Be aware that for some marriages this will be a wound that won't heal easily and for some not at all in terms of saving the marriage. Whether it leads to reconciliation as a couple or not, forgiveness is the only way forward. Forgive the person who signed up. Forgive yourself.
- Don't withdraw from fellowship. This is vital. The Body of Christ can help heal the broken-hearted in a way individuals cannot do for themselves. They keep us honest.
- Accept discipline with grace. Irrespective of your status in the church, submit to the discipline of the elders whether you are the pastor or the newest member.
- Finally and most importantly: DO NOT JUDGE THE SINNER. We are called to Love the way Christ did, not stone the adulterer. Remember the woman caught in adultery didn't get hit with a single rock. We've ALL sinned and fallen short of God's standard.
Isn't that the point?