A prominent evangelical leader is urging Christians to see the tragedy surrounding South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford as a "cautionary tale" and to break away from acts – big or small – that "betray" the Lord.
"Nearly every grave moral failure begins with a small sin," ministry leader Chuck Colson said shortly after Sanford admitted to engaging in an adulterous affair with a woman in Argentina. "Because there comes a time, after we toy with sin, when one pull of the flesh causes us to cross the line, to disengage from reason, and to follow our appetites wherever they may lead."
After days of soul-baring and often odd confessions and apologies about his affair with a woman he called his "soul mate," South Carolina's governor is still figuring out how to salvage the last 18 months of his second and last term and his 20-year marriage.
Though top South Carolina Republicans and at least a half-dozen newspapers have been calling for him to step down, Sanford said he won't resign and "is focused on being governor, on rebuilding his marriage and on building back the trust of South Carolinians," according to a statement issued Wednesday by his spokesman, Joel Sawyer.
The current situation is "very traumatic" and exhausting for the governor, added Sen. John Courson (R-Columbia), who has been communicating daily with Sanford.
But Courson told The Associated Press that Sanford is still fit to lead the state.
"I don't detect any emotional instability in his voice or inflections," the senator commented.
Colson, however, said last Friday that he believes Sanford will have to "gracefully withdraw from political life and try to put his shattered marriage back together."
Though said Sanford had been an "outstanding governor" and a "tenacious defender of family values" who "espoused the cause of Christ," Colson said Sanford's affair simply added him to the list of pro-family conservative Christian politicians who dishonored their families and their offices and the Christian faith they profess.
"I am bewildered," Colson said during this daily radio broadcast. "Sanford had it all-a beautiful wife and family, high public office, and he was a viable candidate, perhaps, for President. Why would he throw it all away?"
In searching for the answer, Colson was reminded of his own life and his own failures - including his involvement in the cover-up of the Watergate burglary during the Nixon administration.
"We humans, you see, have an infinite capacity for self-rationalization," said Colson, who was the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges. "We reason that we can give in to those seemingly minor temptations – say an emotional attraction to a co-worker, or just one drink at the party – because we think we know the boundaries. We think our reason can keep us safe."
Furthermore, Colson added, the wills of people are not trained to do what is good, but to do what pleases themselves.
But sin, regardless of its size and regardless of what a person's position in society is, is not something to considered lightly.
"Are you toying with sin? If so, for yourself, your family, and your Lord – stop. Don't put yourself in a position of compromise," said Colson, who became a born-again Christian not long after he was indicted in 1974 for conspiring to cover up the Watergate burglary.
"[L]et us – you and I – prayerfully ... train our will that we might, by God's grace and in fellowship with other believers who hold us accountable, not betray our Lord," Colson concluded.