To: The Pastor Considering an Extramarital Affair. From: Me.

I read an interesting article yesterday entitled To the Pastor Considering an Extramarital Affair.  As someone who as the culprit has lived firsthand through this reality, I was interested in what Dr. Degler had to say.  Her perspective is spot-on for the most part.  Here are a few of the thoughts that stood out to me.

1. The real issue when it comes to sins like adultery is my own brokenness. 

I can blame my former spouse and our unhealthy relationship on my choices (and those issues are not totally irrelevant) but in reality my own brokenness caused me to make the choices I did.  While my wife loves and understands me at a level that I have never experienced, it is only because of what God has done in our lives that I can make that statement.  What caused us to get involved with each other initially was rooted in our own selfish hearts and actions.

2. Your sin will be exposed.

I can't describe the pressure of living with the realization that you are on the verge of getting caught at any time - especially in ministry when everything is on the line. It is crippling.  And yet somehow you convince yourself that you will be the exception to the rule. 

I have no doubt there are multitudes of pastors who are living with hidden sins who may or may not ever be exposed.  They may "get away with it" from the public eye but eventually their heart will be exposed in other ways.  Sin always leads to death. It may be the death of your ministry, influence, and family.  Or it may be the death of intimacy, a relationship, one's heart for God, or a multitude of other possibilities. But regardless of how public your disclosure becomes, your sin will be exposed and things will die in the process.

3. You are one google search away from being exposed again and again.

We live in a world of easy access to information.  Even four years removed from my exposure, someone continues to take it upon themselves to continue to remind people of my sin.  In my opinion, it is a sad individual who is that obsessed with the sin of someone else but it is my reality. I wrote an article once telling how someone even fraudulently signed me up for the Ashley Madison website (Life is short. Have an affair)! 

In King David's famous prayer of repentance in Psalm 51, he talks about how his sin was ever before him.  In some sense, exposed sin is ever before everyone now.

4. Your sin affects a lot of people deeply.

I am not sure I still recognize the deep effects that my choices had on other people.  I experience in everyday life how my choices affected those I love the most. And I am sure those effects will continue to surface as time goes.  My sphere of influence was somewhat wide and I know I hurt more people than I even realize. 

There are numerous people even after four years who refuse to acknowledge my existence. I am talking about people I led to Christ, people I married, people I hired to serve on my staff, people I baptized, whose children I baptized, people I mentored, who mentored me, people in whom I invested time, energy, and money, people I once influenced or who influenced me, and on and on.  I am not saying these people are right or wrong in their continual reaction. Honestly I understand their response. It is the easiest and most natural one. And these examples are simply people with whom I had a direct relationship.  I have no idea how many people outside my direct circle felt the impact of my choices.  Remember: sin never impacts you alone.  It always affects other people.

5. There is hope for those who have an affair. 

I'm not sure we fully grasp the magnitude of God's grace, redemption, and healing until we go through a life situation that forces us to rest solely in it.  I'm not suggesting you should go through what I have been through in order to experience the level of healing God has provided. I do not wish these past 4+ years of my life on anyone.  Sometimes God's grace is as much about from what it protects us as much as from what it delivers us.

What I am saying is that I talked a lot about grace prior to my life-altering season of sin but I have truly experienced His grace in recent years.  When almost everyone in your life is telling you how great you are, you tend to ignore or forget your need for grace. But when almost everyone in your life is telling you how sinful, wrong, and foolish you are and yet God in His grace reaches down and picks you up and reminds you that you are His child in spite of how sinful, wrong and foolish you are, that's when you begin to grasp fully how undeserved, radical, and necessary grace is.

The road is long. The journey is tough. The path I chose rarely ends well. And yet there is hope. There is hope because God redeems. There is hope because God forgives. There is hope because God never gives up on us. There is hope because His grace is bigger than my sin.

I live everyday knowing I am not doing what God gifted me to do.  I struggle regularly with how God wants me to use my gifts for His glory.  I miss doing the things I am equipped to do.  And yet, I have hope.  I have hope that no matter where my life goes from here God's love for me remains constant.

So to the pastor considering having an affair or the everyday person flirting with a decision that could alter the course of your life and the lives of those around you, don't do it.  The price is high. The consequences are severe.  Choose life. Choose forgiveness. Choose healing. Choose hope. Choose grace. And for those who have already crossed that line ... you do the same.

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