Whenever a scandal breaks, people rush to be the first to condemn or lampoon the guilty. There is little concern for the individual or the individual's family. It is more satisfying to stand at a distance, laughing and throwing stones at the failings of another.
This is exactly what happened when the Eliot Spitzer scandal broke on Monday. Within the next few days, hundreds if not thousands of articles and blog posts were written, countless hours of tv commentary were logged, and the public came to know every last detail of Spitzer's affair and the life and background of the young woman he was with. On Wednesday, Spitzer resigned from office, apologizing to the people of New York for not living up to the standards of the office. In less than three days, his entire life was destroyed.
A few days earlier, Eliot Spitzer had been at the top of his game, with some talking about a possible Presidential run in the future. He had been very successful in life, attending Princeton University as an undergraduate, followed by Harvard Law School. He met his wife at the latter, graduated, formed a non-profit, and joined a law firm. He helped bring down the Gambino family while part of the Manhattan District Attorney's office. He went on to win election as New York State Attorney General, and from there became governor of New York in 2006. All of this work was gone in an instant because of his indiscretions.
This whole scandal should come as no surprise, for all humans have flaws. Some think man is inherently good—that a man would never do wrong if he were given all of the right opportunities. They say that it is the conditions in which men live that cause them to go astray. The truth is that the heart of each man causes him to sin, not his surroundings. Human nature is flawed by sin. The apostle Paul himself recognized this saying, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." (Rom. 7:18 NIV) All human beings are plagued by their sinful natures. It is this same root which causes all to sin.
In Spitzer's situation, there is a lot that could be condemned, much moralizing that could be done, and many headlines that could be written. Nevertheless we should think twice before heaping invective on Mr. Spitzer. We should look into our own hearts to see the evils that lie there. Are we so certain that we wouldn't make similar mistakes, given the same opportunities? We are assured by the apostle Paul that, "There is no one righteous, not even one…" (Rom. 3:10 NIV) This is a sobering reminder that we are no holier than Eliot Spitzer. Nor does our common sinfulness make individual sin any less wrong—it simply makes all men equally corrupt.
Thankfully, there is a solution for our sins. Paul goes on to say, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:1-2 NIV) Salvation through belief in Christ will not make us sinless (1 Jn. 1:8), but because He has paid the price for our sins (Rom. 6:23), we are not required to pay the price ourselves.
Our reaction to this latest scandal should not be to add more logs to the fire of condemnation from which Eliot Spitzer is already suffering, for we, too, have sin in our own hearts. Instead, we should pray for him and his family. We should also pray that we will not commit the sins of which we are capable.
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