Two words. Millions of men and women in a state of panic. Computer hackers are in the news. People are being blackmailed. Spouses and children of married couples are about to have their lives ruined.
Because almost 39 million people are anonymous members of the “Ashley Madison” website that allows affairs to be “easy” and “risk-free”. And that website was hacked, which has left millions exposed. As one article says:
THE slogan of Ashley Madison, a website that arranges extramarital liaisons, is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Its home page shows a woman holding a finger to her lips. So much for promising to keep secrets. Last month a group of hackers called Impact Team stole the site’s user database and transaction history going back to 2007, and this week they released it online: more than 30million users’ names, addresses and personal details, along with GPS co-ordinates and sexual preferences.
But what if it were me, and my secrets were hacked?
I hope I’m not alone in acknowledging that if the very worst of my thoughts were captured, catalogued, and released online, that I would be scared WITLESS. Most of our relationships – at least the ones built on the assumption of honesty rather than love, grace, mercy and forgiveness – would be destroyed if that ever happened.
Now, I don’t want to give the people on that website a free pass. Signing up for a terrible website offering a terrible product is a terrible thing to do. I don’t want to excuse them, but I don’t want to excuse myself either. Not because I have an Ashley Madison account, but because the account that I do have, in terms of my desires and thoughts, is not clean.
Jesus has something to say about adultery that should put all of us on notice, and remind us to not be too quick to judge. Jesus says the life of the inner person counts. The things that we think are private, and secret, aren’t. And they will be exposed.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. — Matthew 5:27-28
In another passage, Jesus warns against hypocrisy because nothing “hidden” stays hidden.
There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. — Luke 12:2-3
When it comes to God, I don’t have secrecy. But I do have grace, love and forgiveness.
I might try to keep the worst of my thoughts and desires from the people around me (this desire for secrecy and darkness to get away with stuff is fundamental to our humanity – it’s exactly what Adam and Eve do when they hide from God in the garden, and its what people do over an over again in the Bible) but I should be able to trust the people who love me, and trust their ability to love and forgive me, just like God does. Often its a desire not to hurt others that rightly prevents us from oversharing the depths of our brokenness, but ultimately, I know and have a promise from the one who intimately and completely knows the “inner me” that the disgusting stuff has been seen, but the record, the account, is clean – because Jesus took on the cost of my disgust, the shame, the humiliation, and the punishment, for himself. He wore it. He owned it. He took it.
That’s good news for me, and it might be good news for the millions of Ashley Madison account holders, facing an uncertain future this week. Your account can be wiped. You can start again. The invitation you’re extended, by Jesus, is to step out of darkness and secrecy, and to come into the light. You have nothing to fear when it comes to being exposed if you’re absolutely prepared to come to Jesus, the one who wears, owns and takes our sins…
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-20