I have been assured by people who know that the Ashley Madison data dump may well be an EF5 tornado blowing through Christian churches and denominations, including my beloved SBC. In the last few days, I’ve been told things that turn my stomach. In the last few hours, I’ve heard things that make my heart break.
The Ashley Madison information is out there. It’s viral. We can quibble about how it got released, but the fact is that it is out there and it is not going away. I’d like to share some facts and some advice.
Some Ashley Madison Facts (As I Understand Them)
I am most certainly not an expert on AM, though I know a) more than I did four days ago and b) WAY more than I want to know. As I understand it, you could browse the site using an email and just kind of check things out. If you did that, your email might be attached to the data dump. Of course, if you did that, you could also use a fake email, or someone else’s email. I’m guessing that a LOT of people who checked out AM did so with a fake email.
Why do I mention this? Simple – the presence of a person’s email in the Ashley Madison data is not proof positive of guilt. We need to make absolutely sure that we have proof of guilt before we go public with accusations. Someone could use another person’s email, create a false email or use other forms of subterfuge. We need to be cautious about ruining the lives of people who may not be guilty! That’s why I’m not publishing names here at this site. I don’t have the expertise to ascertain guilt. This is not a game for amateurs. We are playing with lives and reputations here and we must tread very carefully.
But, as I understand it, when a person established a verified account and attached a credit card, then other information, like physical address, phone number, and such would appear. The presence of this information tends to be incriminating. I’m told that sometimes you can even see how much a person has spent. I’m guessing that true techies can probably figure out a lot of info from things like IP addresses and geo tags which may be in this data dump to locate precisely where a person was when an account was logged.
What it all boils down to is this hard cold fact. If you set up an account at Ashley Madison, you can be reasonably certain that the biblical promise is going to come true – your sins will find you out. These young whippersnappers out there, they are on this stuff! There are no secrets now. If you had an AM account, it is nearly a certainty that you will be identified. Not by me, but by someone, likely by multiple someones.
Some Ashley Madison Advice
I have some advice. I’ve spent way more time that I should have, than is healthy, than I’d like, dealing with this thing. I’ve been angry, fearful, and more recently heavy-hearted and broken over what is happening out there related to the AM sinfest. It’s sad, sick, and gut-wrenching. So let me offer a little advice from an old guy.
1. A Proverbs 5 Admonition
When I was working on a construction site the summer before I got married and headed to seminary, a guy found out I was going to be a preacher. He stopped one day and asked me, “What religion are you?” I gave him my best 1978, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” answer, but then I told him what he wanted to know. “I’m Baptist.” He stopped, stared hard through his marijuana-fueled haze, and asked, “Baptists, aren’t you the guys who are against sex?” As someone who was about to get married, my honest answer was, “I sure hope not.”
In Proverbs 5, Solomon warned his sons against illicit sex, against adultery, but then, in verses 18 and 19, he put the “dirty part.” When I was a youth pastor, I had a smart aleck kid (well, lots of them), so when we were studying through Proverbs I asked him to read this passage out loud. He started, then got wide-eyed and said, “I can’t read that, Dave.”
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
God is not against sex. But he is insistent that we only enjoy his gift within the boundaries that he has set – one man, one woman, one lifetime. Other than that, gentlemen, keep it zipped! There is no sexual pleasure worth the pain that we cause in our families and churches, or most of all in the Kingdom of God, when we sin sexually. The embarrassment to the cause of Christ negates any value that might possibly come from the fleeting moments of fun. Just say no. Let your doe bless your fountain. Be a one-doe buck.
The payoff will not be what the sin promised.
2. If You Sinned, Man Up!
We’ve become a nation of deniers and justifiers. “It wasn’t me.” “It wasn’t my fault.” “You can’t prove it.” We blame the messenger and make excuses. But if you have sinned, there is only one way out. It isn’t denial. It isn’t isolation. It isn’t self-destruction. The only hope is to do the right thing. Confess and forsake sin.
This time, you can’t run away. The only way to deal with this is to face the music, humble yourself, and repent genuinely. No excuses, no explanations. No tap-dancing. “I sinned. I did evil. I ask forgiveness.”
Here is what I understand. If you took a little vacation on Ashley Madison beach, you are stuck there. The hurricane is coming and there is not much you can do about it. It’s public information. Social media is going to be abuzz. It will be better for you to take a knee of humility voluntarily than to be forced to your knees by public scrutiny and by the social media swarms. Not to mention the most important fact – repentance is what honors God anyway!
Humble yourself and repent.
3. Jesus is Your Harbor!
Please hear me, my friend. If you strayed, if you sinned, you are not finished. Jesus Christ went to the Cross for sinners and he will be there for you. You may have a tendency to want to run away or to take the “easy way out” to solve your problem, but there is a better way. Please, for the love of all that is holy and good, take that way.
Just before he calls us to confess our sins, in 1 John 1:9, John reminds us, in verse 7, that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sins.” Before you despair or think that there is no hope that you can ever get through this thing, remember what Paul said in Ephesians 1:7-8.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…
In Christ we have been redeemed. His blood purchased us for God and forgave our sins according to the riches of his grace. God’s forgiveness is bankrolled by his grace, by his love and mercy. The best part of that verse is the tag at the end. God does not give us his grace in stinting measure – a little, or even a lot. No, my fellow failures, he LAVISHES his grace on us. Lavishes. Pours it out generously and freely, without ration. God gives grace to sinners. Yes, you did a terrible thing and admitting it is going to be hard. You may lose your job, but you won’t lose your Savior. You may lose your marriage, but the love of the One who died for you will hold firm. Don’t give in to despair and hopelessness. Never. The Blood of Christ makes despair foolish and unnecessary.
God has created a safe harbor for the sinner. Please, sail into it. The greatest fear that I have is that those who have failed will take the selfish road instead of the finding the harbor of forgiveness. They will let a gun, or a noose, or a bottle of pills end the pain instead of Jesus Christ who does not just stop the pain, but replaces it with peace and rebuilds what sin has broken.
Please sail to the safe harbor of Christ’s love! No life is so broken that the love, forgiveness and healing power of God cannot put it back together.
That’s my perspective. That’s my advice.