picture taken from cdni.wired.co.uk
For anyone living under a rock and who doesn't know what Ashley Madison is, and why it's getting hacked is such big news, check out the Wired.com story on the topic before reading any further.
This story has been the topic of conversation on every major news outlet, talk show and radio show and it is no surprise that this has become big news, as the website has been a conversation of mass controversy since it's inception. As I have spoken with various people, it's apparent there has not been much sympathy for either the company of those caught in the crosshairs of this hack--and honestly, that isn't surprising. Living a secret life and having it catch up to you seems like justice in itself and to find a morsel of empathy for those involved, seems almost impossible. What is even less surprising is that the internet justice is in full force will all sorts of opinions and judgements being made and I am not sure how I feel about that. Sitting back and listening, I think it would be hard to argue against people being justified in seeing the ugliness of this whole situation, but I still wonder if we have reacted much too quickly and if there has been a lost opportunity for something greater than judgement. I don't know if I can really answer the question of what our response should be, but I do want to ask the question of what our response could be.
Don't get me wrong, I by no means am here to defend the actions of those who used the website or the business model of Ashley Madison themselves. I am a child of divorce, whose parent's marriage ended due to an affair. I know, all too well, the consequences of such an action and the destructive nature it can have. But this whole situation has caused me to think and ask this question: When we are shown the ugliness of sin and all it's consequences and fallout, how should we react? How could we respond? Especially as followers of Christ, what should our attitude and action be towards those who have fallen trap to the temptations of the flesh and done these grievous things? Should we look different? And what would different look like? I mean, I don't think I need to defend why such a thing is evil and only brings hurt, brokenness and destruction. But, what now?
I don't suspect my musings on the topic will even come close to scratching the surface of this complex issue, and so please don't read this as three steps to solving everything, but simply a reminder of three ancient radical ideas that has been changing the world and turning it upside down for centuries.
1. Take a Long Hard Look In The Mirror
It can be so easy for us to bring judgement on others forgetting our own blind spots, shortcomings and sins. Simply put, it is easy to judge others for the sins we don't struggle with while working so very hard to keep the sins we carry and struggle with safely locked away in the broom closets of our hearts. We should never forget the words of Paul in Romans 3:23, that say "we have all sinned and fallen short" and no one can say the opposite.
Jesus came to seek and save, heal and make new, redeem and refurbish, and reconcile the world to the Father. The great reality is that humanity is tainted and warped from it's original form... we all fall short and miss the perfect mark. The only difference to those who are redeemed, is just that, we are redeemed. It is not that we are better, or somehow advantaged from those who have found themselves on this long list of adulterers. No, it is only by the grace and love of Christ, that we have new life: "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:6-8)
First and foremost, we need to have an attitude of humility when looking at this and speaking on it. We all need to take a long hard look in the mirror and take stock of our own lives, see all that Christ has cleaned up and always remember that we are all screwed with out grace! So let us do the same and show some grace, or "do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4).
2. Return Evil With LOVE
Maybe you are thinking, "They had what was coming!" and maybe you are right. With every action we choose to do, there are always consequences... good or bad. Like ripples in the water, when we move and act, the world around us is affected. A story like this should bring great soberness that no person can go about life doing whatever they wish and not expect that those actions will never have any consequences for themselves or others.
But, what about this attitude of karma? This border line over-justified indignation and reaction of judge, jury and executioner? Is it not bad enough that so many families will be levelled without the added judgements coming from the masses? No matter how justified we may be in doing so, should our first reaction be fuelled by hatred? People will reap what they sow, but the question I am asking is how should we react or even act in the midst aftermath.
What if we responded in a way that no one expected? Imagine what would happen if we were a people who, when faced with this evil, returned that hate with love? And I am not talking about fluffy, feel-good love either. I am talking about piercing, world-altering, life-changing, heart-purifying love. It isn't good enough that we simply make a point; what we really need in the world isn't more people who need to be right, but people who make real change.
Jesus speaks of this radical, life-changing love in Matt 5: 43-48: “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matt 5:43-48)
What if we gave this kind of love to those who deserved judgement? What if we became agents of love and healing in the world, instead of perpetuating the cycle of destruction? Do they deserve it? No. But, that is the beauty of the power of grace and love. There is this profound truth found in Proverbs that reads, "If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and God will look after you." (Proverbs 25:21-22). When you come face to face with this kind of love, it changes everything! It goes counter to anything we think should be true. Why bless those who would curse you? Why forgive those who wrong you? Why show love to those who drive violence in this world? But this kind of love can change the world... one person at a time... from the inside out.
We are not simply called to love the lovable, but even more so to love the unlovable, and wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity to express the power of the Cross to the world that so desperately needs its message and, in so doing, shock it with a LOVE that covers a multitude of sins?
3. Full of Love, Fueled by Faith, Addicted to Hope
It can be easy to see the negativity in the world. The hate, the destruction, the fear, the violence. But as those who carry the Message of hope, we have the amazing privilege to be agents of this hope, delivering it to those who so desperately need it. As people who carry it inside of us everywhere we go, God in us is reversing this cycle of slavery to sin and He set us firmly on the promises of Jesus and the finished work of the cross, anchoring us in that HOPE for all eternity. "Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. ...This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls." (Hebrews 6:11, 19a).
Imagine a people who were full of love, fueled by faith and addicted to hope; that we ourselves are, and all our actions are full of love for others, because we have been filled with His love and loved Him beyond measure; that we can go into the unexpected with great faith, with no strings attached, because we are fueled by this great faith which drives everything about who we are; and that we become a people who are addicted to hope, breaking the chains that bind people in the prisons of their own making.
Imagine a world where people were loved deeply, set free, made whole, fueled by faith and motivated by something that would not only changed their own lives, but the whole world. People who are no longer driven by fear, hate, shame, or violence but now by faith, hope and love. This reality is more than possible and we are called to be a part of that very mission of seeing that Kingdom advance. Not a Kingdom that uses violence and force, but one that lays down it's own rights with a King that literally sacrificed His own life, to give us NEW LIFE. Let this addiction to hope start in our own lives and spill out to all those who are hurting and broken. As Kingdom people of the Cross, standing in front of a broken world, I think we have a message that offers something unique to the conversation that can bring real life-giving change.
Let me leave you with this: During a staff prayer and communion time, we were meditating on all that the Cross represents and I presented 1 Corinthians 13 in light of that reality. As you read these words, think on them with the Cross in mind and how we might live our lives in response to that reality:
LOVE NEVER GIVES UP.
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