Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Uncomfortable Topic

The theme for this week has been adultery and pornography. We learned that former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle was taking a plea deal for his involvement with child pornography and having sex with minors. Then the Ashley Madison data breach resulted in us discovering that Josh Duggar has been involved in similar activity, though it isn’t clear whether his was criminal or not. I hadn’t heard of Josh Duggar or the Duggar family until a few weeks ago, when it was revealed that Josh Duggar had fondled some of his sisters. But this thing hits close to home, because the Duggar family looks very much like the families of some of my friends with a house full of kids, home schooled, strict beliefs about modesty, and Baptist. It’s the kind of family that I look at and think that I would have a hard time keeping to the standards that they maintain, but it feels like that, even if it is overkill, the strictness of the rules would prevent this nonsense. But just as the Law could get no one into heaven, rules don’t create righteousness. Rules give us a false sense of being able to hide sin.

This story reminds me of the story of Achan and how the children of Israel were defeated at Ai. They weren’t to take of the spoils of Jericho, but Achan did and hid it in his tent. When they went to take Ai, Ai sent them running like scared dogs. They cast lots to see who had caused the problem and the lot fell on Achan, which is much like what happened with the Ashley Madison data breach. We knew there were people using that site, but we didn’t know who. Now we know. Joshua called for Achan to confess what he had done and Achan did, just as Josh Duggar confessed what he had done, even before people went looking for evidence. Now, in Achan’s case, they stoned him and family. I don’t think we’ll see that happen with Josh Duggar, but just because he has apologized doesn’t mean that he will not and should not face consequences for his actions. When people can just apologize and not face consequences, it creates an attitude that they can do whatever they want, as long as they say, “I’m sorry.”

Part of what is disturbing about this is that it isn’t just one guy hiding something in a tent. We have some dirty little secrets in Christian circles. In all likelihood, there will be other Christians who will be exposed due to the Ashley Madison data breach. I don’t know that I want to go combing through the data, because I might find someone I know. Even if we don’t have people using a hookup website, every church of any significant size will have some people who are addicted to pornography. We know this, but there is a tendency to smile and say, “But Jesus forgives sin.” This is the same attitude that Paul talks about in Romans 6:1-23. Our goal shouldn’t be to show people how forgiving Jesus is, though he is very forgiving. Our goal should be to show the world that we’re different and we don’t have to sin any more. What good is Christianity if instead of freeing people from sin, it just forces them to hide their sin so they fit in?

I’m sure you know 2 Chronicles 7:14 by heart. People often quote that verse when they talk about all the evil that is going on in America. But the Lord isn’t talking about the gay brides or grooms who are suing Christian bakers for not designing a cake for their “weddings”. He’s talking about the Josh Duggars of this world and those of us who are like him. He was talking to Jews, but it can apply to Christians as well. Just like Achan, who hide his sin in his tent, the Lord is talking to Christians who go to church every Sunday, read the Bible, and talk about how sinful the world is, all while they are hiding the fact that they’ve been viewing pornography on their computers at home, that they’ve been reading erotic books, that they’ve been in an adulterous relationship, or beating their wives, or yelling at their children.

It is time for us to do some spiritual stoning (not physical, that will get you put in jail). In Joshua 7:6-9, we see Joshua doing what the Lord calls us to do in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Joshua knew he had a problem, but he didn’t know what it was, so he rent his clothes and sought the Lord’s face. It was only then that the Lord told Joshua how to figure out where the sin was. We also know we have a problem. It seems like Satan is winning, even though he shouldn’t be. Ai shouldn’t have won that first battle, but they did. But like Joshua, at first, we don’t really know who among us is causing the problem. If you go to church on Sunday, you won’t be able to look around the room and say, “That person is viewing pornography. That person is abusing his wife. That person is embezzling money.” We won’t know, because they’re hiding it in their tents. But if we seek the Lord’s face and ask for him to reveal the sin that is hidden within our churches, things will begin to show up. Perhaps it will be revealed in a similar way to how Josh Duggar was exposed. Perhaps it will be something else. And once it is revealed, we need to take action to remove the sin. It may be that we can do that without removing the sinner, but we may have to remove a few people from our churches. Only then can we claim the Lord’s promise to forgive our sin and heal our land.