Life is full of choices and with all choices, there are lessons to be learned. Sometimes we learn through positive or subtle ways, and at other times we learn lessons through brokenness, pain, and even failure. Sometimes these lessons are learned first hand, and at other times these lessons are learned through the lives of others.
By now, everyone has heard the news regarding the hack of Ashley Madison and the subsequent pain it has caused many families. There have been suicides, failed marriages, and broken relationships all as a result of poor choices. This pain wasn’t caused by the hackers, it was caused by the choice to use Ashley Madison’s services to commit adultery.
Ashley Madison, a Canadian based company, started out in 2001 as a website based adultery service. It quickly spread across the world boasting of membership numbers of 39 million people in 53 countries. The name of the company was taken from two popular female names – Ashley and Madison. The company’s slogan says it all – “Life is short. Have an affair.”
In the Bible, we have stories of real life events, struggles, and pain that are provided for our instruction. These events are not written down and preserved in Scripture to be an ongoing smear campaign for the people who are involved. To be clear, God has provided these stories to us so that we can learn lessons about real people who made real choices and suffered real consequences. After reminding the church at Corinth about the idolatry and sexual immorality of people from history, he made a very important statement in 1 Corinthians 10:11 – “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
As we look back at the Ashley Madison debacle, what lessons can we learn?
Lesson #1 – Sin Will Find You Out
We have all heard Numbers 32:23 quoted regarding the exposure of sinful choices. The reality is – we will have our sins exposed one day before the Lord. What’s worse, having our sins exposed on the Internet or before the judgment throne of Holy God? Perhaps what’s worse is having them exposed here prior to standing before God to give an account.
What Ashley Madison wanted its account holders to think was that it’s not just “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” – now it’s – “What happens through Ashley Madison stays in the database of Ashley Madison.” However, the unthinkable happened. Hackers gained access to the database and leaked out the information of account holders to the public leaving many people exposed and some of the people caught in this web of deceit are professing Christians. Ed Stetzer, in a recent article following the hack, said the following:
Based on my conversations with leaders from several denominations in the U.S. and Canada, I estimate that at least 400 church leaders (pastors, elders, staff, deacons, etc.) will be resigning Sunday. This is a significant moment of embarrassment for the church—and it should be. To be honest, the number of pastors and church leaders on Ashley Madison is much lower than the number of those looking to have an affair. Yet, there is still much that we must consider in the midst of the embarrassment.
This is the danger of sin. It looks nice, but it has a dangerous bite. Sin attracts us through appealing to our fallen nature and then exposes us. It brings about shame, regret, and sleepless nights of pain. As we look back at the Ashley Madison hack, we can learn massive lessons – even if we’re not on the list of account holders. God’s list is bullet proof. He’s keeping records of our words, thoughts, and deeds. Matthew 12:36 warns us, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” The Psalmist said, “the Lord—knows the thoughts of man” (Psalm 94:11). We are told that God has books of our works that will one day be opened (Rev. 20:12). Sin has a way of finding us out in this life, but be sure of it, we will all give an account before the throne of God for our sins. It’s not about choosing better passwords or making more cautious choices in our sin – it’s about realizing that one day our sin will be exposed before God Himself.
Lesson #2 – Marriage Demands Commitment
Ashley Madison is a mockery to marriage. The God ordained institution of marriage has been mocked from the beginning of time, and Ashley Madison continues to facilitate this mockery. The adultery service is reprehensible in its covenant breaking service of sin. God created marriage to be between a man and a woman for life. From the very beginning, God ordained marriage to be a lifelong commitment. This honors God. Ashley Madison is a disgraceful and distasteful mockery to the God ordained institution of marriage.
Just as Christ is committed to the church as His bride, so should we as husbands be committed to the wife that God has blessed us with. Anything other than a covenant keeping marriage is dishonoring to God. In our pornographic age of decadent entertainment and debauchery – we have somewhere along the line lost our commitment in marriage. Divorce is normalized in our culture. Should we even be shocked about a line of greeting cards devoted to the adultery industry? Perhaps in the wake of the Ashley Madison case, greeting cards seem somewhat tame. But, the idea is very much alive in our culture. The forbidden love of adultery is a lure that has captured many people in its web of deceit. When we stand before our spouse and say “I do” – we should speak with words of commitment and our actions, words, deeds, and the secret thoughts and intents of our heart should uphold this devotion.
Lesson #3 – Take Heed Lest We Fall
As we look at the idolatry of Israel, we can learn lessons about worshipping a golden calf in the form of an iPhone or a red sports car. We can learn lessons from the sexual perversion of Sodom as we make decisions in life. These things are written for our instruction. Ashley Madison is a very unfortunate story in a long line of unfortunate brokenness that litters human history. It’s very unfortunate that marriages have been compromised, suicides have taken place, and families have been shattered in the wake of this tragedy. But there is a very important lesson to be learned here. Just as Paul was clear to warn the church at Corinth about the failures of people who have gone before them, he made a very important statement in the next verse, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
Which one of us is immune to sin? Wasn’t it King David who committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba? If David committed adultery, who among us is immune to making similar mistakes? That doesn’t mean that we have a license to sin because others have failed before us. What that does mean is that real people made real decisions that resulted in real disaster – and we should take heed. Imagine talking to David about his family and how his decisions to sin sent catastrophic ripples through his entire family.
As we look back and examine the Ashley Madison tragedy, we must learn lessons. Our next step toward fulfilling a sexual thought with a co-worker, friend, or person on social media could end in public shame, a broken family, and humiliation before the enthroned Christ on the day of judgment. May we learn important lessons from the Israelites, from David, and from those who failed through Ashley Madison. Consider the reality that many people who have never visited Ashley Madison’s website have been committing the very same sin in secret, but one day, their sin will find them out. Take heed, lest we fall too. Remember the words of the Puritan Thomas Watson, “Sin has the devil for its father, shame for its companion and death for its wages.”