I try not to commit a deliberate sin. I recognize that I’m going to do it anyhow, because I’m human and I’m tempted. And Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. Christ said, ‘I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.’
“I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do — and I have done it — and God forgives me for it.”
— Jimmy Carter, speaking his honest-to-God truth, as usual, in a 1976 interview with “Playboy”
The 39 million married people (let that number sink in) who paid to find adultery online are now in danger of taking some hard falls from grace.
The tens of millions of “cheaters” who were seeking “love” by adultery on the popular Web site Ashley Madison are running for cover–and many folks are running panic-stricken to divorce lawyers — as a result of hackers who have exposed the cheaters to the world.
Safe to say that a lot of scared people and those they have hurt will be running to their pastors and rabbis and other clergy in need of some strictly confidential pastoral care.
Although, some will make their remorse over their “youthful indiscretions” very public and be defended, somehow, by the likes of America’s Pastor-in-Chief candidate Mike Huckabee.
Pastor Huckabee will no doubt find a way to defend the twisted Duggar family’s antics, again.
With the media and political hacks now combing through 39 million national embarrassments waiting to happen, we ain’t seen nothing yet in this most titillating of gotcha stories — a story broken not by the media, but by hackers committing a serious crime.
The “Ick Factor” on this one is just off the charts.
Life is short. Have an affair!
It’s baffling to me that anti-gay extremists — including a presidential candidate or ten — argue to this day that gay marriage will somehow destroy the institutions of marriage and family, as if the institutions were never fragile at best.
I remember reading a religion news story back around the year 2000 — I remember because I was just starting seminary at the time — about a conservative Protestant, evangelical pastor talking about homosexuality and adultery and the rush to judge others for their sins.
This pastor asked hundreds of other conservative evangelical pastors in a meeting — pastors who all were passionately opposed to gay rights and inclusiveness — to raise their hands if they knew, or had ever known, of any gays in their congregations.
I don’t remember the exact percentage, but it was way south of 10 percent.
The pastor then asked how many knew, or had ever known, of any adulterers in their congregations.
Guess what whopping percentage of hands went up?
Because of the sacredness of confidentiality that pastors are bound by in ministry, pastors know better than most how stunningly widespread adultery is, not only in the general population, but also in congregations.
To his credit, the aforementioned pastor — who talked about all the heartbreak and family destruction he had seen as a result of spouses cheating — said he wanted to put the homosexual debate (and harsh judgment of homosexuality, which he believed to be a an obvious sin) into proper perspective.
He was intellectually honest enough to point out the obvious fact that so many conservative pastors will rage from their pulpits about the “sin” of homosexuality while seldom so much as touching on adultery, the most common of sins in the church and the world.
This just in to News Central:
The chemistry that is the stuff of sexual attraction is a powerful force that can lead good, decent people (gosh, even Christians!) as well as the other kind of people, to adultery. Adultery being a clear, unadulterated sin that bothered God so much that — a long, long, long time ago when so many people were prone to it — God felt compelled to command against it (and not homosexuality, by the way).
The surest way to give in to a powerful temptation like lust in your heart is to deny that you are having feelings of lust for someone other than your wife, or to think that you can “will” the attraction away by will power and strive for a purity in your heart that is as pure as the driven snow.
Take note of a fact as natural as the birds and the bees:
As soon as you mentally and spiritually resist a really strong temptation, you endow it with far more power.
Christian rock superstar Bono, still married after a hundred years to the Irish sweetheart he grew up with, Ali Hewson, is often asked if he isn’t tempted to stray.
When Larry King once asked him that question he looked around at the people off-camera in the studio and said, “I’m tempted all of the time, like about half-an-hour ago. Aren’t you, Larry?”
That kind of acknowledgment of temptation, rather than denial of it in the impossible yearning for a heart as pure as the heart of Christ Jesus, is the best antidote to any temptation.
It can’t be emphasized enough that the Christian or any moralist who tries to grit the teeth and will away a strong attraction by denying the attraction would do well to admit to himself or herself, and to trusted confidantes, that he or she is in fact feeling a real attraction.
That kind of honest-to-God acknowledgment diminishes the power of the attraction enormously.
But the Puritans and Pharisees are always with us, telling us that our private praying about a powerful temptation will triumph.
Never mind that where marriage and adultery are concerned, the thing we can’t have can fast become the thing we want the most when the marriage hits inevitable bumps and ruts and communication breakdowns.
Consider that recovering addicts pray the powerful “Serenity Prayer,” a lot. They still have to acknowledge the power of a temptation when it arises and share their feelings with others they can trust to hear their midnight confessions. And yes, give it over to “a higher power” (God), and pray.
Sex is a powerful thing that has to be addressed honestly.
And let’s be mindful, in all honesty on such a touchy topic, that not all marital affairs are sexual, as any pastor and marriage counselor knows. And, really, we all know it. We’ve all seen it and maybe even experienced such an affair that never advanced to sex, so common is it.
“Emotional affairs” are always happening, making damaged and unhealthy marriages none the healthier.
Married people commit emotional adultery every day by, say, hanging too long with the co-worker at the water cooler and lingering way too long with the co-worker in the parking lot long after the 5 o’clock bell rang, and having an innocent drink at happy hour on occasion.
Sex and “Ol’ Dollar”–two powerful attractions that often go together.
For every strong, healthy marriage, plenty of unhealthy, adulterous acts are committed that are not physical. But when is the last time you heard a preacher preach a really passionate, conscience-rattling sermon on any form of adultery and the damage done by it?
Raging in the pulpit against the (alleged) “sin” of homosexuality is all the rage, and easy to preach on, and a sure congregation-pleaser in a lot of American churches.
It’s a sad commentary on the times that tens of millions of (heterosexual) people thought they could “have a little spice on the side” by going to a Web site that shamelessly promotes and exploits one of the world’s most clear-cut and widespread sins (or “immoral acts” if the SIN word scares the bejesus out of you) for shamelessly huge profit.
The power of sex and money is a power to behold and can lead to adultery. It could make a great sermon topic.
I don’t know how to end this reflection except to say that even “cheaters” who are desperate sexual predators of the sort who went online for adultery — the sort who are so easy to judge harshly — can find redemption and transformation in Christ Jesus.
Or better yet I’ll end by falling back on my theology-in-a-nutshell, which I share here on occasion to remind myself that I need to hear it:
We’re all broken, sin-sick, dis-eased, violent-hearted and messy people living in a broken, sin-sick, dis-eased, violent and messy world, all in need of God’s endless love, extravagant grace and tender mercies, which — thank you God! — are new every day.