During the last few months of 2015 I read at least four Ashley Madison related articles. Ever since the great hack that exposed millions of people subscribed to this match making site for married people (yes, I said married people), stories have popped up all over. Forbes Magazine, The New York Post and Business Insider all ran features, but those weren’t the ones that came my way first. I read the articles like, “Ligonier Suspends R. C. Sproul Jr. over Ashley Madison Visit” from Christianity Today, ‘I’m on the Ashley Madison List. Now What?’, and ‘My Pastor Is on the Ashley Madison List’ both from The Exchange.
Ashley Madison’s tagline is ‘Life is short. Have an affair.’ Reading these articles suggests that life is anything but short; life is being permanently captured in the digital space that shadows eternity. Men and women all around the world, some of whom are proclaiming Christ, were caught in pursuit of an affair when the list was released. Some had long ago stopped using the site. Others had signed up out of curiosity, but never pulled the trigger by paying the fees. A few had already deleted the account, confessed to their spouses and put the entire ordeal behind them, but as I said, the digital age is a shadow of eternity where nothing really ends.
Life is inextricably bound to the Creator, which means it is eternal by default. You don’t have to be a Christian to live eternally. Matthew 25:26 is one of the verses that clearly states that eternity is not exclusive to those who are counted among the righteous. While the righteous go on to eternal life, the unrighteous go on to eternal punishment. If we think of life as the finite period that begins with birth and ends with death then our focus will be short sighted, and our decisions will look like they were all inspired by the terribly incorrect first sentence of Ashley Madison’s tagline.
As followers of Christ we have long believed in eternal life. However, despite nearly eighty references to eternal life in the scriptures, it is something that we rarely think about. The age in which we live, has provided all of us, the spiritual, the religious, and even the atheist, with a counterfeit version of immortality that is alluring and deceptive. It draws us in with the idea that we can create and delete aspects of who we are at will.
With the aid of technology, we have been able to capture ourselves better than any previous generation. Where we once had dusty diaries and a few faded photos in the attic to commemorate a life, we now have voice recordings, electronic photo albums, videos, and even the occasional hologram. It’s easy to believe that we now hold eternity in our hands. Each of us can present the version of ourselves that we want to last forever, and in many respects it will. Whether it is signing up for a site like Ashley Madison, or exchanging racist or sexist emails with a friend, or making the cutest Pinterest page ever known to man, we feel in control of the mammoth. Yet, events like the Ashley Madison debacle reveal that people are being held hostage to some of their most destructive instances of failure and do not even realize it.
This, however, is not real eternity, this is not God’s eternity. In God’s eternity, sins are washed away and a new name is given, a name that only God knows. Only what is righteous remains when God hits ‘delete’ and no one can ever resurrect our failings in the real eternity. This is the gift of salvation, the gift of grace.
This year we can begin coming to terms with being a part of something so vast and infinite as eternity. It is not something we can afford to ignore, nor is it something we can do without the Holy Spirit. God is eternal and he is the only one who can awaken our hearts, open our eyes, and enlighten our minds to embrace this remarkable destiny.