Last month the website Ashley Madison, a place on the Internet designed to help people commit adultery, was hacked. The names and address of millions of people who thought that their actions would remain private were exposed. According to Ed Stetzer, executive director of Lifeway Research, writer for Christianity today, and well regarded expert on Church leadership, in the month after the time of the hacking at least 400 church leaders (pastors, elders, preachers) across denominational lines resigned due to their hypocrisy being made public. Josh Duggar, of television fame and co-director of the American Family Research Council, is one of the many who have been publicly humiliated because of their activities.
While much of the world has deeply enjoyed pointing out the hypocrisy of these fallen leaders, this recent episode needs to serve as a warning to each of us as Christians. The world is watching the church to see if it measures up to the standards that it preaches. All members of the church, and especially leaders (James 3:1) need to live to a high standard so as not to bring reproach upon the mission and reputation of the church. In our interaction with worldly people, we must be sure to not give off a “holier than you” attitude towards others. Certainly none of us is without sin and we all stand in need of constant forgiveness from Jesus Christ. We must remember that we are being judged by the same measure that we express condemnation of the activities of others. Also we must show love to others in a way that attracts the sinner to the saving grace of Christ rather than pushing them away. While we cannot condone sin, we must preach the gospel in a way that reminds people of the love that God has for them and the opportunity of forgiveness of sins that remains. Finally we must take heed to ourselves. When a member of the church continues in sin, and has an attitude of defiance and hostility towards church members and people in the world, that person must be disciplined in a loving and firm way.
In the Ashley Madison case, many leaders felt they were above the judgment of others and that their actions behind closed doors would never been exposed. But the Lord knows the heart of man and he will chastise our haughtiness and rebellion both in this world and in the judgment to come. That is why we must beware lest an evil heart of rebellion dwell in our life, Hebrews 3:12. It is very important that the church stands in unison against this sinful world. But our judgment needs to first be of ourselves in order to see that we measure up to the standard which we are preaching.