Ashley Madison has made famous the byline, “Life is short. Have an affair.” The social-networking site promised “discreet encounters” for married people who used it to arrange affairs. It turns out, their encounters were not so “discreet.”
A group of computer hackers has begun leaking large amounts of user data obtained from the Ashley Madison site. The hackers are demanding that the website be taken down immediately, or they will release “all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies.” Ashley Madison has now suspended its fee for users who want to delete their accounts.
But what about information the hackers already possess? Will Ashley Madison users who delete their accounts spend the rest of their lives wondering if they were too late?
I was recently reading through Joshua, and came to this cryptic statement: “the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day” (Joshua 15:63). God had repeatedly warned his people against allowing Canaanites to live among them, lest they corrupt the nation with their immorality and idolatry. His concern became the people’s reality when they were led into Baalism and other heresies. What appeared to be inconsequential turned out to be catastrophic.
Whatever the temptation, we can count on the tempter to make two deceitful claims. One: “everyone is doing it,” as though popularity makes sin less sinful. When you’re tempted, don’t assume that everyone else does what you’re being tempted to do, no matter what the culture says. For instance, you’ll hear that Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians. In fact, evangelicals who attend worship regularly are half as likely to become separated or divorced as evangelicals who never attend worship. Just because our culture magnifies a lie doesn’t make it true.
And don’t believe that popularity is propriety, which leads to the second lie: “no one will get hurt.” Few who enrolled on the Ashley Madison site would have done so if they knew what we know now.
God warned his people to “learn not the way of the nations” (Jeremiah 10:1), for “many are the sorrows of the wicked” (Psalm 32:10). The enemy hates us, so we can know that every temptation is intended to result in our hurt. What seems pleasant and popular today will be ruinous tomorrow. If you continue in a sin because it hasn’t yet been discovered, know that you’re being set up. The longer you persist, the greater the damage when your sin is revealed. Cancer untreated only gets worse.
As you read these words, does a particular sin come to mind? If it does, repent of it now and claim “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). And ask Jesus to help you be the holy person he wants you to be. Oswald Chambers assures us, “the Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the disposition that ruled his own life, and all the standards God gives are based on that disposition.”
Ashley Madison is a parable for all temptation: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). When it comes to sin, St. Augustine was right: “Thou must be emptied of that wherewith thou art full, that thou mayest be filled with that whereof thou art empty.”