Why are we so surprised when Christians mess up?

A website called Ashley Madison was hacked.  In case you missed the story, Ashley Madison is a dating and ‘casual encounters’ website for people who are married and want to have an affair.

The names and email addresses of many of its members were leaked on the dark web and one name in particular stood out.

Josh Duggar was one of the stars of 19 and counting, a US reality show centered around the life of a devoutly Christian family. He’s married and was also at one time, a prominent campaigner and Executive Director of a charity dedicated to promoting family values.

Josh’s family released a statement in which he apologised for being ‘the worst kind of hypocrite’. Meanwhile, back at home, blogs, press and news sites got busy and the comments started to flood in.

I’m definitely not (for the avoidance of doubt) trying to defend or legitimise anything Josh or anyone else has done, but reading through some of the comments, it seemed that the majority were tinged with just a bit of glee?  Ding dong, the wicked Christian is exposed.  The person who said they were good is actually a disgusting liar and a cheat…just like everyone else.

I have to admit, this stuff confuses me.  At what point did we allow the idea to form that Christians are immune from screwing up their lives?

It’s almost as if an onlooking world expects Christians to be abnormally good, to be able to resist the lures of porn, affairs or any other kind of rubbish that tries to enslave humankind.

I see nothing in the Bible that says, ‘Accept this truth…you’ll be fine…no more sin, no more deceit.  You’ll be good’.

Don’t get me wrong – the power of the Cross and the message of Jesus is that we CAN live a life of freedom, a life where it’s absolutely possible to not get stuck in a sin trap. But that takes work, commitment and honesty – it’s definitely not delivered on a silver platter at the moment of seeing the light.

I’ve lived in the Christian world for most of my adult life and I’ve also lost track of the amount of Christians who’ve publicly messed up, made stupid choices and ruined their lives and reputations.   I’ve heard confessions, witnessed the fallout and seen the destruction that lying causes.  I’m not sure anything shocks me anymore.

And yet every time I hear and read of another person who has messed up, I’ve heard stories of amazing grace and forgiveness.

There’s been churches who have stood by their pastor, pals who’ve rallied round their friend, wives who’ve stuck by their man, husbands who’ve offered second chances, and a story of grace, compassion and mercy has been told.

For many who’ve made catastrophic mistakes, that grace has been the thing which has kept them alive, stopped them from ending it all, forcing them to confront their ‘demons’, pushing them toward dealing with habits, addictions and the pain they’ve caused to others.

Because at the end of the day, Christians are no different from anyone else.  They have affairs, they lie, they cheat, they have secret lives.  They shouldn’t, but they’re human beings, and human beings have a remarkable ability for walking headfirst into entirely stupid situations.

The difference is, when they get it wrong and they’re exposed, there is a real chance that (if they accept it), they can still turn their lives around.  Because of what Jesus did, there is always the chance to start again.

Christians aren’t better than anyone else, but when they mess up, waiting on the other side of repentance and pain, can be the opportunity to start over.

Second chances – that’s what the Gospel is all about.