I’ll start with a confession; I am a sinner.
I was a sinner before I uttered a single word, or committed a single ill-conceived deed – sin is in our nature, we are selfish beings who like to please ourselves in any way possible. The fact that we are sinners and couldn’t follow rules very well prompted God to send a savior to build a bridge between His holiness and our immanent unholiness.
People of the Christian faith accept this as our central truth; we are sinful people who will inevitably mess up repeatedly and need bucket-loads of forgiveness over the course of our lifetime.
If we accept this as one of the tenets of our faith, how then should we deal with people in leadership or roles of authority when they fall (or even dive) from grace?
If a man walked into our church, confessed that he had been mentally unfaithful to his wife and had flirted lewdly with a stranger online, we would (in theory) offer him grace, love, and forgiveness. “There, there, man, we all mess up. Just tell Jesus you’re sorry and get back on track. It’s all good.”
We would not launch a media campaign designed to crucify or humiliate him, would we? Oh, I hope not. We would not post his unsavory photos and e-mails on TV and we would not demand he quit his job.
Unless he’s elected to public office. What happens to our notion of “grace” when someone is a public figure? It seems to evaporate from view. Grace fails even appear as one of the listed options of response. Christian beliefs recede and mob mentality takes its place. Recently I have watched believers and non-believers alike line up to crucify any poor sap that chose to become a public servant for a living and dared to sin.
U.S. Rep Anthony Weiner is a married man, and he probably shouldn’t have sent racy photos of his genitals to another woman. John Edwards was married man with a wife who was dying from cancer and he cheated on her. A bad choice on his part, too. Are we appalled by their behavior? Sure. Should we offer them the same grace we would offer anyone else who came asking sincerely for forgiveness? Absolutely.
Sexual sin is not as shocking as we pretend. According to the website for Craig Gross’ XXX Church – the average age people start watching porn is 11, and 40 million adults in the U.S. view porn daily. That’s staggering.
We can assume that since there aren’t 40 million members of Congress, that some porn viewers and sex-texters are say…postal carriers, hair stylists, grocery cashiers, truck drivers, doctors, dog-groomers, and… church goers. In fact in a 2007 study, 70% of Christians admitted to struggling with porn. (Here’s the link to the stats on the XXX church website - http://www.xxxchurch.com/whyporn/ )
I had a debate about this with my friend Pastor Jordan Brawner, he said “Should we forgive all? Yes. Does forgiveness mean consequences are avoided? Nope.”
Perhaps he’s right, but my question is who determines the consequence for a man’s sin other than God? Can anyone trust our moral outrage when we ourselves as a nation wrestle with this same sin? If our elected officials truly represent us, and 40 million U.S. adults are watching porn and visiting adult websites daily, perhaps those people who wrestle with sexual sins DO represent us.
The rush to pass judgment also seems less than genuine when it lines up along the lines of any given political party.
Each party quietly (or not so quietly) rejoices when a representative of the opposing party falls, yet makes excuses for their own. I hate to break the news, dear readers, but while the GOP has a slight edge in sex scandals, it’s a pretty tight race. (See the score card at http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-03-30/which-party-has-more-sex-scandals/)
If we decide as a nation we won’t tolerate marital infidelity or sexually inappropriate web viewing from our leaders, then we need to make that part of the deal when someone runs for office. Even rules across the board. “Sin is not tolerated from office holders.” Of course that would greatly narrow our field of candidates since it appears only 12 of us aren’t watching online porn.
As believers I think we must offer grace to those who come seeking forgiveness. If their sin caused their job to be compromised, if they broke a law in pursuit of their sin, if they misused federal funds to pay for their sin – then yes, by all means they must resign. But if they did not, the judgment and penalty for their sin should only come from their spouse and God.
Matthew 7:1-5 from the Message translation says: 1-5 "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
Tammy Waite is a freelance writer based in San Diego, CA. She currently works at the Rock Church in San Diego, the 5th fastest growing church in America. She was a Political Science Major at the University of Akron and did a political internship on Jimmy Carter's Presidential campaign in 1980.