Ashley Madison, Public Shaming, and the Light of Christ

I preached from 1 John 1:5-10 this past Sunday, a text that has a lot to say about the implications of “walking in the light” of God’s presence and favor in life. One implication is that we as those who are in Christ need to engage what what is exposed by that light. Of course, many will flee the divine light of Christ that exposes the sin in their life, but we should note that there will be those who are drawn to it.

Exposure seems to be in the air this summer.

Our society loves to expose people–celebrities especially, but even non-celebrities get exposed. Social media makes every smartphone a paparazzi’s telephoto lens discovering and broadcasting a person’s foible, minor or major. Our society loves to expose so that we can mock, belittle, disregard and go on our self-congratulatory way. We train our little ones to expose to mockery. Just look at the magazines at the check-out counter next time you are at the grocery store. While you are entering your smart shopper i.d. number into the keypad (which cellphone number did I use for this place?), your children are perusing reports of whose cellulite was showing at the beach, who wore a revealing dress to VMAs, and what they did in it.

The Ashley Madison hack and subsequent revelation of its members drive home our society’s glee over exposing the sin of others, particularly when those others are involved in ministry (“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” James 3:1). Already several ministers have been outed for their active membership to the site, and more will likely be revealed in weeks ahead. These offenses are serious, and immediate action by the ministries and families involved is understandable and appropriate.

As ironic as it may seem for a culture that celebrates freedom, our culture actually thrives on public shame.

But the light of Christ is different. Christ exposes others in order to redeem those in darkness. He speaks the truth, but he does not mock. He reveals the true you, but he does not abandon you to it.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

The gospel with which we have been entrusted reveals the human heart, and, as a result, our presence cuts others to the quick. By living and speaking the gospel, others will be convicted of sin, but our next words must always be: God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son…

The way to engage those who have been exposed by the light of the gospel is to walk with them in humility, to teach them about repentance and faith, to show them how the light brings life.

The light is bright but it is not harsh. That is how glory of God in Christ works.

In order to do this we need to be known as a community that is honest about our failings and honest about our utter dependency on God’s grace to break free of our own weaknesses, failures, and pathologies. That leads to my other point.

Shine the Light On Yourself

Light is not merely outward but inward. We need to be as impassioned about taking a hard look at our own hearts and at our own community as we are about exposing the darkness of the world.

As the church, we need to get our house in order. The light will expose us as much as it exposes the world, but we do not flee it because we are in Christ. Have you yet felt the liberating, freeing power of confession? This idea can be terrifying, but we need to remember that if we are in the light of Christ, confession is not unto condemnation but unto life.

John writes in v. 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

There is nothing that we have done, no darkness we have nurtured, no penumbra of the soul where our secret besetting sins hide, that Jesus has not paid for in full when he took his place on the cross. He gave himself up because we could not. His light was quenched so that our darkness could be eradicated forever. Salvation could not have happened any other way. The darkened sky over Golgotha at the moment the Father turned his face away ensures that we can live forever bathed in the Father’s divine light.

As a result we can confidently, hopefully, honestly confront everything that the light of Christ reveals about us. We can confront it, we can confess it, and we can embrace others who are walking in the light.

One thought on “Ashley Madison, Public Shaming, and the Light of Christ

  1. Thank you, Scott, for these timely words. I’m so thankful for the mercy and grace Christ gives, and the hope and second chance we have in him in the midst of the exposure, public or private, of all of our sins. Thank you for pointing us to him, both the author and finisher of our faith.

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