A couple of years ago I followed the story of a politician that had been guilty of sexting a number of women and sending them lewd photos of himself. His behavior would have been inappropriate enough if he had not been married. Despite the negative attention, his wife remained loyal to him throughout the ordeal.

When we see politicians in these kinds of scandals, we usually hear the same mantra: “I’m not going to resign, because my actions didn’t interfere with the execution of the duties of my office.” That may be absolutely true. Regardless of our dislike for their activities, they may have been done on personal time. Nevertheless, this attitude toward sin does three devastating things.

It compartmentalizes morals. Advocates for public figures caught in scandals may argue that a person’s behavior on his own time is personal and therefore has nothing to do with his job as a public servant. How often do you see a heartfelt apology from these public figures? Sometimes you do – but it’s often little more than one component of their message. Sometimes the first thing said is, “I’m sorry for what I’ve done, but it did not, in any way, interfere with my duties.” That isn’t good enough. Personal shortcomings are rarely confined to one area of a person’s life. We cannot be moral in our careers but not our private lives, or vice versa.

It cheapens commitment. Surely public figures in such scandals made vows to their spouses when they married. Commitment to another person in marriage is not the same as a casual friendship or business partnership. It is a binding covenant to enjoin two lives in a way that can never be shared with anyone else. God chose to use the language of marriage when he described his relationship with his people (Hosea 1-4). Sadly, people marry today for many reasons, some of them temporary in nature. This was not God’s plan for humanity (Matthew 19:3-9).

It devalues women. Some politicians have had a terrible track record when it comes to infidelity. In many cases, their wives sit next to them, offering support to their fallen husbands. But we naturally ask ourselves whether the message sent is that women should just welcome their disgraced husbands with open arms. Repentance is not just important – it is vital. Is the offender just sorry he got caught? Or is he truly sorry for embarrassing his wife and rupturing their relationship? Through his actions, the habitually unfaithful husband tells his wife that she simply isn’t enough for him. It cheapens her, when he should value her as one of the most precious things on earth.

I certainly don’t mean to paint all politicians with the same brush. I’m sure that most of them are moral people who want to do right by their fellow man and improve the lives of their neighbors. Some, however, aren’t quite so inclined. They view politics as a means of attaining wealth and power. They seem to aspire to public office for what they can get out of it rather than what they can give to others.

We need public figures to carry out the responsibilities of leadership positions that others may not be able to perform. But just because we need someone doesn’t mean we should settle for anyone.

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