A professional football player is found out for domestic abuse against his wife. A politician is caught sending lewd pictures to a staff member. Headlines hit us every week, every day about public people getting caught in so-called private sins.
The Apostle Paul said, “Some people’s sins are obvious, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others surface later” (1 Tim. 5:24). In other words, each of us have sins that will come to light eventually, but some are known today.
In many cases of powerful politicians or popular athletes, people want to separate their private lives from their public ones. Throughout history, powerful leaders frequently have thought of themselves as immune to the moral rules that apply to ordinary people like you and me.
Caesar, Napoleon, Mussolini and the evil Hitler to name a few—these men believed themselves to be so great that they were above the law. That idea, which is taking root in many segments of society today—dates back to philosophers like Machiavelli and Georg Hegel, the latter of whom said, “A World-Historical individual is devoted to the One Aim, regardless of all else. It is even possible that such men may treat other great, even sacred interests inconsiderately; conduct which is indeed obnoxious to moral reprehension. But so mighty a form must trample down many an innocent flower or crush to pieces many an object in its path.”
Contrary to this idea, the Bible teaches that even the most powerful man or woman is not above the law. King David found this out the hard way, after God used the prophet Nathan to confront David’s sin with Bathsheba and pronounce the curse this would bring on Israel. In Christianity, each person is accountable to God and there is no separation of what someone does in private and what they do in public.
Society, meanwhile, wants to keep a double-standard in place. We like our star athletes and charming politicians so much we look past their sins, even ones found out. And when people, especially Christians, try to hold them accountable for their actions, society dismisses them as hypocrites or hate mongers.
Recall what happened with former President Bill Clinton was found out to be carrying on an affair in the White House and covering it up. The issue became politicized, and the country divided. Today, Clinton stands as one of the most popular figures in all the world because of his public accomplishments.
It would be one thing if society were looking beyond these sins because they have been forgiven, and we are moving on. Sadly, it seems more related to a gross double-standard that has crept into our thinking.
Whether a politician, an athlete or some other public figure, each of us will be judged by God’s unchanging standard. Even though Christians may not easily be able to change society’s casual attitudes toward sin, we can strive to live a pure life, both in public and in private. And so done, that has the potential to change the world around us in more enduring ways than any politician can.