In March 2007 I wrote a blog entry called Why John Edwards Stays in the Race about his decision to continue running for president even though his wife’s cancer had returned. Though incurable, it has evidently been under control through a course of medical treatment. The blog entry makes clear that I have a personal interest in the subject. I said I understood why John Edwards would stay in the race and why his wife would agree with his decision even though others would not understand and some would strongly disagree. Cancer changes everything, including how you weigh the various priorities of life.

 On Friday we learned the rest of the story. We now know that John Edwards had an affair in 2006 that he subsequently confessed to his wife. Other facts remain murky at this point but this much is certain. Elizabeth Edwards knew about the affair when she agreed to support her husband in his quest for the presidency. In her statement she said that the return of her cancer had “oddly” made it easier to deal with the affair. As a friend remarked to me several years ago, cancer clears away the cobwebs and forces the mind to concentrate on what matters most.

About John Edwards, I only wish to make one obvious point. It is usually not the original sin that gets us into the worst trouble, but the cover-up that follows in which we deny, deflect, shift blame, and do all the things that started when Adam tried to blame Eve and God at the same time (Genesis 3:12). Adultery is bad enough but denying it publicly and scorning those who brought it to light, that’s the part that has made so many people angry. I cannot blame John Edwards’ friends and supporters for feeling hurt and betrayed. This is no political comment because in the last several years we have seen leaders on the conservative side admit to similar sins, and they were no more forthcoming than Mr. Edwards.

True confession is good for the soul, but it is hard, very hard, which is why we do what we can to deny the truth even when our conscience screams “Guilty!” You’re only as sick as your secrets and only as healthy as your repentance. That’s a contemporary reading of Proverbs 28:13, "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." John Edwards has proved the truth of the first half. As for the rest, time will tell. But there is no room for gloating. When it comes to sin and covering up, we’re all pretty much in the same boat. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:12 come to mind. "Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."

You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.