Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Personal Apology to the Ashley Madison Hack Victims

I was absolutely giddy. 


When the news broke that someone had leaked the names of adulterers on the Ashley Madison website and all of their personal information, including credit cards, I was elated.

I'm one of those people who relished in pranks when I was in school. And to me, the Ashley Madison hack was one gi-normous prank of epic proportions.

Except, THIS prank got at the heart of all of my personal anger, frustration and hatred towards a group of people that I had come to completely despise:


I really hated you. And I felt justified in my hatred. I felt justified in my anger.

I don't really need to go through all of the reasons. Some of you who have known me for years know why. Suffice it to say, there is a line between righteous anger/indignation and sinful hatred.

I had crossed that line. For a long time, I was on the right side of it, but at some point (and I don't know when, exactly), I moved into judgmental, self-righteous fury. I was good at fooling myself that I was "righteously angry," however. I mean, let's face it: the Ashley Madison website triggers every angry emotion in anyone who has ever been in a relationship with an adulterer. They were flagrant about their sin. They derided the poor saps left alone while they cavorted with their lovers. They had no shame, no hesitation in rushing to the beds of others. 

Ashley Madison users, I resented you. I resented your narcissistic, selfish decision to leave families behind while you indulged your sexual appetites. 

And I had ZERO sympathy for your plight. I had no mercy in my heart, no compassion, no forgiveness, no love. 

I was thrilled that you'd just met karma and that karma had served up a knuckle sandwich on a platter for you.

That is ... until Sunday morning.

Sunday morning, my pastor gave a sermon about the Good Samaritan. Well, you might think, this doesn't have anything to do with adultery. I thought so, too. I opened my Bible to Luke 10 and piously followed his points, thinking that I knew the story, thinking that I knew the punchline, thinking that I understood the morality, thinking that I had no guilt to confess ... thinking that this was not a sermon for me.

But then we hit the very end, where Jesus asked the lawyer in the crowd, "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"

And the lawyer responded, "The one who showed him mercy."

Jesus replied, "You go, and do likewise."

Suddenly, God brought another story to my mind's eye ... this one from John 8 ... the one where the mob brought an adulterous woman to Jesus, wanting to stone her:

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. When Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

And I saw myself ... but I was not the woman.

I was one of the faces in the crowd, one of the people who wanted to stone her.

What do you think? Was she someone who was flagrantly sinning, like the people on Ashley Madison? Was she proud of what she was doing? Was she in love with the man? Was she a young girl? Was she a prostitute? How did they catch her?

These questions are not answered in Scripture, but I can tell you that suddenly, I realized none of those questions mattered to the mob. They just wanted to see justice. 

I'm sure there was someone in that mob who was just like I was -- someone who had been profoundly hurt by adultery. I'm sure there were women in that mob who were seething with hatred for this woman. She represented all that can go wrong for a family -- an interloper who doesn't care what happens to the children or the marriage -- someone who is only in it for themselves, with no thought to consequences. I'm sure there were women who were frustrated with Jesus that day. Why didn't he back them? Why stand by this woman? Why absolve her of something that was so destructive, so infuriating?

For the first time, I saw my face in the crowd. I saw my cry for vengeance, for blood. I saw my visceral anger, fire hot, consuming me.

I saw someone with no mercy in their heart, no love, no forgiveness, no compassion.

And I was ashamed. She was my neighbor, and I was not showing mercy to her.

What did Jesus write in the dust? Of course, we don't know, but I'd wager He was writing names -- names of the people in the mob. Names of the accusers. 

Names of the guilty.

All were guilty.

All had sinned. 

No one was perfect.

And they left her. They dropped their stones and they left.

That morning, I dropped my stone.

I cannot judge you, Ashley Madison users. 

I was wrong to demand your demise. I was wrong to applaud when you were cast under a spotlight. Because, truth be told, I have my own sins. They may not be yours, but they are shameful, too. None of us are perfect, least of all me.

And so, having seen my face in the crowd, I asked God to forgive me. And now I ask you. I am sorry for my hate, my anger, my thrill at your plight. I ask your forgiveness, and I pray that after all is said and done .... We will go and sin no more.

And I will continue to pray that I will extend true mercy in my heart towards my neighbors.