According to the official website, Zumba is an “exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party that’s moving millions of people toward joy and health.” In Kennebunk, Maine it seems to be moving at least 21 participants towards a misdemeanor charge and court appearance.
According to reports, a 29-year-old Zumba instructor and her 57-year-old business partner are being accused of running a prostitution ring using the Zumba business as a cover up. At this point, 21 names officially appear on “The List” of clients. It is reported that the number could go as high as 150.
As the story continues to unfold, there is growing controversy about “The List”, who is on it and whether those names should be released to the public. Understandably, the 21 are desperate to keep their names hidden from public view. Two have even retained counsel in an attempt to keep their identities private. Needless to say, publishing such a list could ruin dozens of lives – particularly in a community as small as Kennebunk.
As I was listening to the news report and thinking about the scandal, it caused me to think about the devastation of being named on such a list could cause. What if every city produced a list? What if a list was made of every hidden sin committed in every town? What list, I wondered, would my name fall under? Probably more than I would like to admit.
Granted, most of us have probably never been with a prostitute so we would avoid that embarrassing list. But what if the list was for gossip? Or pornography? Or stealing? Or lying? Or cheating? Or speeding? Or gluttony? Or alcoholism? Or cursing? Or tax evasion? Or spiritual pride? Eventually, if enough vices were listed, we would even find your name on a list. Yes, even you.
Our human nature often tricks us into thinking we are better than we really are. After all, the mantra goes, “people are basically good.” If I asked the average person if they steal, most would emphatically say “No!” – immediately assuming that if they did not rob a bank they did not steal anything. But how many employees steal company time for personal use? How many “borrow” office supplies without a second thought? How many use company car miles to run personal errands? There are many ways to steal and as long as we don’t cross some BIG line in our mind, we think we are innocent of all charges. The problem is, we conveniently move the line constantly – justifying as we go. “For all I do for this company, they certainly aren’t going to notice or care if I __________________.”
For some reason, we tend to view sin as only being real if it crosses into the arena of actually, physically happening. It’s only a serious issue if it becomes a legal one or if it is considered taboo by others. For example, we tend to think someone has kept their wedding vows as long as they’ve never slept with another person. We believe someone has not killed another as long as that hated person is still breathing. In the same way, a lie did not occur unless it was outright, blatant and completely devoid of truth. But what if our assumptions are wrong? What if the standard was higher? What if Matthew 5 was correct?
- “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
- “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty of murder.”
What if even white lies, half-truths and subtle deceptions made you a full-fledged liar with pants on fire?
The reality is, by God’s standard, we are ALL on a list – even if we try to justify our name off of it.
The problem with “The List” in Maine is that it tends to create an “Us vs. Them” mentality. We can be very quick to judge the lawyer, accountant or Mayor who have already been identified as part of the 21. We tend to look down at those who commit the BIG sins as if to believe the little ones we commit aren’t significant enough to mention. While a group of men used Zumba as a cover up for sex, we just use different shields for our sin “du jour.” As long as your wrong doing isn’t “Top 10” (as in Commandments), it doesn’t feel so bad. As long as it doesn’t make the front page of the newspaper, it must be acceptable or worthy of toleration.
About 20 years ago I received a letter from a Mother of a high school student of mine that I had greatly disappointed. Regrettably, I had made a promise to her children that I did not keep. I could have kept my promise but, honestly, something else more appealing came up and I chose that instead. Needless to say, when the family found out the reason I did not keep my promise, anger ensued. Though I initially felt justified in my excuse, from her perspective I was thoughtless, selfish, insensitive and wrong. Her children were deeply hurt and disappointed. She and her husband were livid and sent a scathing email outlining the errors of my ways. The email was long and furious. Such is the wrath of a Momma bear whose cubs have been hurt. In my pride, I defended my position, offered a lame apology and chalked up her reaction as being an overly emotional, irrational female.
Years later, I came across a quote that literally changed my life. As soon as I read it, it gave me clarity as to the true condition of my heart. Written in the 1800’s by a British Pastor, it captures the true nature of ALL – especially those not on an official list yet.
“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted and it is ugly, be satisfied, for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
After reading this quote and recalling the blistering email, I came to realize two important things. Her email to me was incorrect. I was actually worse than she accused me of being. Secondly, had she known me better – the email would have been longer. Much longer. If there was a list of promise breakers – my name would be at the top of that list. Sadly, it took a few more broken promises in my life for me to realize the character flaw that coursed through my veins.
It’s easy to villainize certain people in the news for the crimes and sins they commit. As they are getting publicly flogged, we can quietly think we are better than them since we haven’t actually done the things they have. But is there a difference between those who do it and those who merely think about it? Is the gap really that far between kids who raid the cookie jar and those who wish they had the courage to? Granted, the consequences are often different but aren’t their hearts and desire still the same?
The next time you read a newspaper headline, watch the evening news or see a mug shot, think for a moment about that person and their particular crime. What is difference between your heart and theirs? What keeps you in your comfortable home while they are behind bars or under a pile of shame?
The line between a physical affair and an emotional one is about the size of dental floss. The difference between an actual murder and consuming hatred is that one trigger has not been pulled yet. The difference between a full lie and half-truth is that there is no difference. Both are still liars. One fat person might eat the whole pie while the skinny person just wants it. Both can still be on the list of gluttons.
But God, in His mercy, took the list with your name on it and simply nailed it to a cross. With your name removed, He lovingly says, “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1