Ashley Madison and Josh Duggar: When Christians Fall

August 25, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Allow me to be the next person to weigh in on Ashley Madison and Josh Duggar. In the early days of the original controversy, there were 3 types of thoughts.  1. Grace and forgiveness 2. Judgment and condemnation 3. Some kind of innovative 3rd way position.  In part 2 (hopefully of 2) of the controversy, all we have is #2.  People are taking this opportunity of his public failing of his wife to criticize and condemn a lifestyle that they always thought was a little weird but made good television.  We stand on a high horse and declare that he deserved it.  We “other” the discussion and distance ourselves from it and make ourselves feel better.  We make a conscious decision to do what we almost always do, which is to believe that we have nothing to learn from this.  “They” have these problems.  I don’t.

As always, we choose to not learn the right lessons.  We choose to speak loudly about the lessons that other people should learn.  We fail to do the hard but necessary work to ask what I need to learn from this.

(Disclaimers: It’s difficult to talk about this when they are local.  I’ve met them. I know people that legitimately know them.  They are real people where I live. Second, I believe that my condemnation of molestation and adultery are a matter of the public record. Nothing I say here should be considered “giving him a pass” or “normalizing” his sin.  However, I have no stone to throw, certainly not publicly. It’s not my place. Why I don’t is one of the points of this post.)

There are two things that have been on my heart as I have been processing all of the controversy surrounding Josh Duggar (3 if you count the sheer lack of compassion and understanding given to his wife and kids, but that’s a blog post for someone else.)  These issues have more to do with me and us than him.  The first issue that has been on my heart is that your sin will find you out.  You may believe that you are keeping it hidden, and you may be for a little while.  However, your sin will find you.  Maybe not today or tomorrow or even this year, but it always catches up with you.  This pattern has been repeated way too many times over the years.  Consider how many public Christians have fallen in tremendously awful ways over the years.  Someone rises to prominence but the whole time they are hiding some sin.  The pressure of their fame increases the pressure which makes the sin worse, which makes them try to hide it even more.  Then the light shines on it.  They are exposed and they fall.

For every “famous” Christian that this happens to, there are thousands of regular people following the same pattern.  It doesn’t show up in your Facebook feed, but it shows up in family courts all over the world, families being destroyed because of a secret sin.  We are no different.  If you have a sin that you are hiding, the light will find you.  God loves you too much to allow you to continue to destroy yourself in private.  He wants you to be free from sin.

So if this is you, make the decision to let someone know.  Ask someone for help.  Put a little light on it, before it happens to you.  Surround yourself with help.  Your sin will either find you or you can humbly take it to people.  Either way, when it comes to light, you are going to need people to come around you and help you and restore you.

This leads to the second thought. Be careful how you talk and act toward others.  When you see the sin of others, how do you respond? Do you respond with compassion and hope or anger and judgment?  In the often misunderstood and misused passage about judgment, Jesus says this:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

So, the way that you judge is how you will be judged.  If I see someone in sin and I say, “That’s not good.  You should stop. How can I help you?” I can expect that is how someone will judge me when it is my turn.  If I angrily condemn people, I should expect to be angrily condemned when it is my turn.  Again, don’t be fooled.  Your turn is coming. When your sin is discovered, people will respond to you the way that you have responded to people.

Why has the response to Josh Duggar not been compassionate? It seems pretty clear that he has some deep rooted sexual issues that messed him up as a kid and continue to this day.  Why is there not a call for helping him deal with whatever these deep issues are?  The reason is that he never seemed to show the same compassion.  In his role with the Family Research Council, he said and behaved in ways that made many people feel strongly condemned.  He didn’t show compassion and grace.  When it was his turn, he put out public statements asking for compassion and grace, and very little was to be found.  He is reaping what he sowed.

When my time comes (and no I don’t have an Ashley Madison account and I have never cheated on my wife) and some sin of mine is exposed (I do sin though.  Both publicly and privately), I want the people who know me to love me and help restore me.  How can I be sure that will happen? By doing the same for people now.  Sin is real and destructive.  I do no one any favors by not calling sin what it is.  However, I also do no one a favor, including me, by raining down condemnation either.

So that is why I have no stone to throw.  It is why when stories like this (and worse) come into my office, I offer love, prayers and help. I don’t tell them what they did is ok, but I also don’t literally or figuratively throw stones.  Instead I try to offer the same compassion of Jesus who said “sin no more” and offered the love and help to people to make that command a reality.

But, We Are Supposed to CONFRONT People

This is really more of a preemptive post.  You see, the voices in my head, they argue with me.  Sometimes when I hear them aruge, I think, “I’ll be some other people think that.”  (”Other people?  You are talking about voices in your head.  You’re nuts.”  Well, you’re reading it.  What does that make you?)

On Sunday, I talked about Jesus’s attitude toward the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).  He (his words) did not condemn her.  He did encourage her to leave her life of sin, but all considered, Jesus’s response to her was very soft.  There was barely a rebuke, and no harsh words, just simply “I don’t condemn you and stop.”

My suggestion is that this should be our attitude in the face of other people’s sin, especially those who are not believers.  Holding non-Christians to Christian standards seems a little ridiculous.  I would go so far as to say, that Jesus’s attitude of grace should be carried over into all of our relationships.

This is where the voices kick in.  “God has called us to confront people’s sin.  We don’t coddle people.  Sometimes, folks need a rebuke.”  Can I agree with that and still say that Jesus is the model?  He rebuked her.  He said that she was living a life of sin.  He didn’t say that she had made a simple mistake.  He also told her to stop.  What more is needed?

The problem for us comes a couple of different ways.  First, are we holding ourselves to the same standards that we are enforcing on the rebukee?  Second, are we determining their sin to be worse by some arbitrary rankings of sin?

Most importantly for me, is why are you doing this?  Why do you want to do this? Are you angry? Are you thinking about you or them? Are you more interested in them hearing your angry words or do you want them to turn away from sin because you love them?  Too often we think we are on the side of justice.  We believe we are God’s delegates to let everyone else know where they are wrong.  If other people’s sin is making you angry instead of breaking your heart, then you should reevaluate and come back later.  Love has to be the motivation.

“If you really want to show someone love, you’ll tell them the truth.”  Maybe.  How about this: “If you really want to show someone love, you will offer to do whatever you can to help them.  You will share the sins you struggle with as well and offer to meet with them on a regular basis for prayer and accountability.”

Loftenism: Just because something is true, doesn’t mean it needs to be said.

Furthermore, if it does need to be said, where does it need to be said?  How does it need to be said?  By whom? Why you? Why now?

Confronting people is about, (wait for it) people.  Showing love to people, helping people.  Turn off the so-called “righteous indignation” and turn on some good old-fashioned compassion.

1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

If I rebuke people, confront people, and/or call out sin and do not have love, I’m just mean.