My favorite scene from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies places Bard the Bowman, who killed Smaug the dragon, standing before Thorin Oakenshield with a simple offer: “Will you have peace or war?” Thorin appears undecided at first, but finally responds, “I will have war.”
So, too, should be the church’s response to the sexual immorality problem in our midst, most recently highlighted by the “Ashley Madison” hack. AshleyMadison.com was the “dating” website whose tagline read, “Life is short. Have an affair.”
The latest developments tell us of pastor and seminary professor John Gibson (56) who committed suicide on August 24, six days after his name was included on the list of “Ashely Madison” clients exposed. He leaves behind his wife and two kids.
Before that, Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr., issued a public apology, announcing his suspension, after he confessed to having visited the site. And we also saw Josh Duggar admitting to using the site to arrange for adulterous relations, even as he was still reeling from recent revelations of his sexual abuse of young women some years ago.
More fallout from the hack is expected. Ed Stetzer at Christianity Today wrote that after talking with several church leaders he, “estimate[s] that at least 400 church leaders (pastors, elders, staff, deacons, etc.) will be resigning” as a result of the Ashley Madison hack. Considering that the hack included about 32 million people, it does not seem an exaggeration.
I confess the entire episode depressed me at first. Articles about repentance, shame, hypocrisy, and church discipline were all helpful but left me disoriented as to how to respond to the overall issue.
Not until I saw this with big picture spiritual eyes could I fully grasp the reality of it all.
Remembering that “we do no wrestle against flesh and blood,” we must realize that what we are dealing with here in terms of sexual immorality within the church is a deliberate attack of the enemy on our own. We should respond accordingly.
It doesn’t help us much to attribute this breach amongst our ranks to the sincerity or hypocrisy of those involved in it. There is no question they must and will give an account of their actions. But the church should take this personally for what it is, an attack on them. An attack on our fellow soldiers is an attack on us all! “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:4).
If the toe hurts, the whole body feels it. Let us then hurt for what the enemy has been able to do through this unprecedented sexual immorality assault among us.
And let’s declare war against it.
That means we unleash an all-out assault against sexual immorality at all levels — in our own lives and the life of the church. It means we cease from being peaceful spectators, hoping and perhaps even believing it will never happen in our church (or our homes), and we take the steps to set up the barriers necessary to be prepared to fight when the inevitable and predictable attack from the enemy comes.
“Not on our watch!”
Let the church take its own eye out, so to speak (Matthew 5:27-29), if it is failing to protect its own, especially its men (of all ages!) in this area.
It starts with prayer, of course. We must make a commitment to lift our church leaders and members in prayer for the purifying work of the Holy Spirit to be ever present. But other practical steps must follow. The church must deal with the issue of pornography in an aggressive manner. Church computers must have filters, and perhaps we should also ask our leaders to install them at home. They should welcome that. If a problem is encountered, perhaps we consider cutting back on Internet use overall.
I know … I’m getting “too” radical now. But this is war. And war demands nothing less. It requires much sacrifice in order to obtain victory. This, of course, for the Christian means total reliance on God, first and foremost, but the mindset is the same. Passive engagement on this issue is partly what has allowed the enemy to gain so much ground up until now. We must change our approach and treat this issue with a life-or-death urgency. It is that serious.
The number of casualties speaks for itself.
Serious urgency is also what we see in Scripture. Isn’t it interesting that Paul commands us to “flee” from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18)? According to the Dictionary of Biblical Languages, the original Greek word, φεύγω (pheugō), can also be translated “escape” or “avoid danger.” Are we treating sexual immorality in that way — with a big “Danger Ahead” sign?
It is the way Joseph approached it when tempted by Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:[O]ne day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.
That’s taking this matter seriously. Joseph left his garments there, fleeing sexual immorality. We must be that bold.
As churches, the body of Christ, let us work towards an atmosphere of decorum and respect, modesty and seriousness about our sexuality. No longer should we act passively at the never-ending barrage of sexual images promoted to us in the media. We must guard against them. Let us recognize the enemy’s assault and lift up our voices in unison, trusting Almighty God, and committing to victory whatever the cost.
Let us have war.