I appreciate this opportunity for dialogue.
The article The Other Ashley Madison List No One Is Talking About raises so many questions, and appears to underestimate the totality of sin which affects every pastor (and every person), every day (TULIP), that it’s difficult to know where to begin.
The question is, How do we know who has been faithful and who hasn’t? What if someone is the victim of an abusive marriage, has a personality disorder, or unintentionally falls in love with someone else? Or, for example, when marriage vows are made under false pretenses, is that a real marriage? What if you’re engaged to one person, and then meet someone else and find out that you’re really in love with the other person, and end up breaking off your engagement? Would that constitute adultery?
The Bible provides us with some clear guidelines when regarding the sin of adultery. Jesus says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” It is worth remembering that Jesus’ whole point is that we can’t keep the law. We all sin. Further, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’” Jesus tells us that the prostitutes and tax collectors are closer to the kingdom than the self-righteous. From the Bible’s point of view, self-righteousness is considered one of the worst sins. “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.’”
Why be uneasy about the grace extended to a fallen and repentant brother? King David is the prime example of one who stumbled (in many sins, including adultery) and yet God blessed him. Are you referring to a chronic unrepentant character issue rather than a momentary fail in a pastor? “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The article also appears to promote the idea of an hierarchical order of sin. Do we balance one sin against another, one pastor’s adultery against another’s gluttony, greed, or self-righteousness? Is an addiction a form of unfaithfulness—drinking, eating, lying, smoking, gaming, internet? Where do the comparisons stop? Is this not heaping more burden on the victim? Surely the victim is deserving of fervent assurance of forgiveness.
It is worth noting that the whole “double honor” appears dubious in light of the fact that the idea of the professional pastor in a modern church is not even a biblical one. Is “double honor” more reserved for experience, age, learning? If someone has a masters or doctorate should they be paid more?
I conclude with this consideration: We can’t wallow in what we as pastors do. Every one works—teacher, nurse, doctor, plumbers, even attorneys—all do sacrificial things most people don’t know about. It’s just life. Being a Christian is the minimal requirement of a disciple, not a recipient for a kingdom badge. Why should we be rewarded for being who we are called to be? Why not let the wheat and tares coexist and let Jesus be the dispenser of the double honor, if that’s so important to us?
As for the owners of Ashley Madison, it is good to remember, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”