Ashley Madison and the Way of Generosity

by GenerousChurch  |  August 26, 2015

Over the past few days, we’ve started to see “the list.”  Chances are, you’ve already looked or you’ve been curious.  After all, it’s a soap opera that’s come into all of our lives.  We want to know who has fallen and some are tempted to spread the word … even cloaking our gossip in the language of prayer.  “Please pray for Bill, Mike, Amy and their families, because they are on the list.” 

Scarlett letters are being distributed throughout our neighborhoods and churches.  Shame is rampant.

Speaking of shame, as I write this article, I just learned of a pastor known to my family that was part of the list.  This man – in his fifties – felt the shame that any pastor would feel from this ordeal.  And today, his family is grieving not only over the loss of dignity, but also over the loss of his life.  He committed suicide.

We live in a sin-wrecked world; the brokenness of which is currently on display through a list of hurting names and addresses. 

So, what does any of this have to do with generosity?  The truth is that it has everything to do with generosity.  It’s in places like these that the generosity of God lives and thrives.  It is in the places of brokenness, sinfulness and shame that God’s generous kingdom comes to reweave, redeem and restore the hurting.

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

This past Sunday morning, I was reminded of that truth as we sang a congregational song together.  With the worship leader playing the guitar, we cried out to to God, 

I am guilty

Ashamed of what I've done, what I've become

These hands are dirty

I dare not lift them up to the Holy One


You plead my cause, you right my wrongs

You break my chains, you overcome

You gave your life, to give me mine

You say that I am free

How can it be?

In this song and in everyday life, the backdrop of a sin-stained life is the perfect canvas for God’s healing generosity.  But, here’s the catch.  He wants us to do more than sit on the sidelines while He heals the broken.  He wants us to practice generosity for the purpose of healing the world. (Click here to tweet that.)

Do you remember how sacrifices worked in the Old Testament?  God went to great lengths to set out the ritualistic details of each type of sacrifice.  And according to Leviticus, sin sacrifices were handled in a highly specific manner.  The sinful person would come to the place of God (tabernacle) and bring a year old goat to be slaughtered.  The sinner would then slaughter the goat as the priest caught some of the blood to sprinkle on the altar.  Finally, all fat would be removed from the animal and burned on the altar while the priest consumed the flesh of the sacrifice.

In 21st century America, we rarely think about these laws and I would dare say that almost none of us have carried them out literally.  Jesus – our Passover Lamb – has taken away the need for these ongoing sacrifices.  But, that doesn’t mean the laws are useless to us.  In fact, they paint an important picture.

Today, we “are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).  Peter extends this idea to say that we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

We – all believers – now fulfill the role of the earthly priests.  And the picture that God paints in Leviticus reminds us that we have a role to play in drama of forgiveness and restoration.  While we cannot take away sins on our own, God calls us to generously “consume” the things that represent sin to pave the way for forgiveness and restoration.  Just as the priests were asked to participate in terminating and consuming the sin sacrifice, we are invited to join God’s work of forgiveness through “bearing one another’s burden’s” and helping them back into Kingdom living.

That’s the purpose of God’s generosity!  It brings hope and healing and restoration to the broken, the battered and the bruised.  (Tweet that, too, if you want.) It lifts people out of the miry pit and places them back on the solid rock.  God’s generous acts of grace are a lifeline to our sin-stained world.  And He calls us – as His priests – to participate in His plan for healing this sinful world in this manner.

So, how do we consume and absorb the sin and shame of the Ashley Madison list?  How can we as the church generously extend grace, encouragement and kindness to those who are broken?

Level 1 GenerosityGenuinely pray for them and their families.  Don’t hold them out as prayer requests unless you are in a trusted group of humble, praying people.  Instead, make a personal commitment to stand in the gap for these people and their families on a daily basis for an extended period of time. 

Level 2 Generosity – Reach out to them as a friend.  They are being talked about by many in their communities, but are rarely being talked to by empathizing, loving friends.  Some of these people have absolutely no one who is willing to bear their burdens as a friend.

Level 3 Generosity – In addition to levels one and two, generous people will defend them from their accusers.  Do you remember the adulterous women brought to Jesus?  The community was ready to stone her.  Jesus stepped into the line of fire for her until her accusers recognized their own sinfulness and walked away.  Lance Ford has said, “It is impossible to really understand God's grace on your own life and remain judgmental of others.”  So instead of accusing, defend them and walk with them to help them “go and sin no more.”

The uproar of the list will eventually pass.  It will soon be a distant memory for most in the Church.  But for those connected to the list, this is a moment that could define and shape the remainder of their lives.  Through generosity, we can play an important role in shaping what is to come for them…and for the church.

Ashley Madison will soon be forgotten.  But, God’s generosity will shape communities, churches and nations for the rest of time.  Want to be a part of something that big?  Practice intentional generosity today. 

To dig deeper into how generosity can heal the world, click on the resources below.

Redemption of the city
Scandal of Grace
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