That’s what the blogs and newscasts did. They showed me how to cheat on my wife. The fact that they followed it with “isn’t this awful?” didn’t change the reality that I wouldn’t have known about it if they hadn’t told me.
(Yes, I'm aware of the fine line I'm walking here. If this scandal wasn't so well-known right now I wouldn't risk telling you about it, either.)
The Dangers of Exposing the Sins of Others
When we preach against sin we need to be as wise as serpents, and as innocent as doves (Matt 10:16).
We need to ask questions like does this really help people? Or are we just fishing for TV ratings, blog readers or congregational "amens" without regard to the side effects?
Sin is real. It should never be ignored or soft-pedaled. And the blame for the sins of those who visited Ashley Madison to have an affair cannot be placed on the shoulders of anyone but the men who did it.
But, as Christian leaders, let’s all use this horrible episode to learn something.
Exposing sin is dangerous business with many unintended consequences.
It’s like the old illustration in which a speaker tells the audience not to think about a pink elephant. All it does is make you think about a pink elephant.
Something similar happens when we constantly talk about sin.
Calling out a known and active sin is a biblical imperative. But exposing someone to an opportunity to sin that they weren’t previously aware of makes us foolhardy at best, and co-conspirators at worst.
But I see it all the time. A pastor will get on Facebook and link to a news report about some terrible thing that’s happening.
They’ll get a chorus of comments like, “Oh my, we must pray!” and “What is this world coming to?” But how many people will actually be turned away from that sin by exposing it in such a way? Few, if any, is my guess.
That’s one of the dangers of emphasizing sin. We’re often reminding more people about the sin than stopping anyone from doing it.
There’s no danger of that when we talk about Jesus. So let’s do that. Yes, talking about Jesus is dangerous business, too. But it's not that kind of danger.
We need to emphasize the saving grace of Jesus over the sins of the culture.
Let’s not be guilty of glamorizing sin, even as we tsk-tsk it. Give God's grace the headlines, not the world's vices.
Want an angry crowd? Denounce sin. But be aware of the unintended consequences.
Want a healthy church? Magnify Jesus. There's no downside to that.
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