What the Fallen Governor of Alabama Can Teach Us

No amount of privilege or power can shield us from temptation.

Former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks after officially resigning on Monday, April 10, 2017, in Montgomery, Ala. Bentley resigned Monday rather than face impeachment and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor campaign violations that arose during an investigation of his alleged affair with a top aide.

By Michael Brown Published on April 12, 2017

I am not writing this column to throw stones or condemn. Rather, I am writing this column to help us learn some important lessons, because sin’s pain is always greater than sin’s pleasure. Whatever rewards sin promises you, whatever pleasure it gives you, whatever thrill or excitement you experience because of sinful behavior, one thing is certain: In the end, it is never worth it. Dr. Robert Bentley, who was forced to step down as the governor of Alabama after an embarrassing sex scandal, has learned this the hard way.

What Bentley’s Actions Cost

Just think. Robert Bentley is a medical doctor, representing years of hard work and dedication. And he rose to one of the most powerful positions in America, one of just 50 state governors.

Robert Bentley professed Christianity and rose to one of the most powerful positions in America. Now he is disgraced and mocked.

Now he is disgraced and mocked, accepting a deal to avoid jail time.

As a result, he can never run for public office again. He lost his retirement benefits. And he must do 100 hours of community service as a doctor.

All for what? For a sexual fling? For a romantic tryst?

Yet he was not the only one affected by his actions. There was his sexual partner (and political adviser), Rebekah Caldwell Mason. There was his wife and family. There was his political party. And there was the whole state of Alabama.

As Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey said when she was sworn in as the new governor, “Today is a dark day in Alabama, but also it’s one of opportunity. I ask for your help and your patience as together we steady the ship and improve Alabama’s image.”

A Christian Leader Falls

The governor’s actions also brought reproach on the Church and the name of the Lord. As The New York Times announced, “For Alabama Christians, Governor Bentley’s Downfall Is a Bitter Blow.”

Alan Blinder gives the relevant background:

As governor, Robert Bentley would quote the Bible before the Alabama Legislature and say that God had elevated him to the State Capitol. In his dermatology practice, in the city where he was a Baptist deacon, he sometimes witnessed to patients. And when he was a first-time candidate for statewide office, his campaign headquarters were often filled with volunteers from local churches.

Yet this upstanding, trusted, Christian leader committed adultery against his wife, and he did so repeatedly. How can this be?

Again, my purpose here is not to condemn. My purpose is to warn — and to warn loudly and clearly.

No One is Exempt From Temptation

If a Christian leader like Robert Bentley can fall, you and I can fall. If biblical heroes like David and Solomon can fall, you and I can fall. If Rebekah Caldwell Mason and Monica Lewinsky can fall, you and I can fall.

And that is where we all must start: If we play with fire, we will get burned, no matter who we are and no matter who we know.

Sin’s pain is always greater than sin’s pleasure. In the end, it’s never worth it.

No one is exempt, and no amount of privilege or power can shield us from temptation. To the contrary, increased privilege and power often open the door to temptation, especially when we believe we have the right to special perks.

And let’s not think that the older we get, the less prone we are to sin.

Perhaps at a certain point that is true — in terms of some sins that we can no longer commit — but Gov. Bentley was in his 70’s while having an affair. Youthful passions can be alive and well in older people too.

Learn From Bentley

Ironically, some of the people who mocked Vice President Mike Pence in recent weeks because of his safety guidelines to preserve marital purity are now mocking Robert Bentley because of his infidelity. Perhaps Mr. Pence is on to something after all?

Sin makes us stupid, emboldening us to engage in risky behavior and impairing our moral judgment. And sin tells us we’ll never caught, to the point that the most powerful man in the world chooses to have sex with an intern while sitting in the Oval Office. What was he thinking (or, not thinking)?

And one moment of flagrant sin can outweigh years of integrity and honor and sacrifice and discipline. As the Scriptures teach, “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor” (Ecc. 10:1).

I pray for the Bentley family and for the Mason family and for all those affected by this scandal, believing that God can forgive and redeem.

I also pray for myself and for every reader. Let us learn from the fall of Robert Bentley.

This is a teachable moment.

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  • Gary

    He certainly ruined his life, and damaged the lives of many others. He knew better, but he did it anyway. He could blame Mason, and she is partly to blame, but he mostly did this himself.

    • James

      He can blame anyone he wants even the devil himself but in the end he and he alone is responsible for his sins as well as everyone else and he will be judged as everyone else of those sins by the Judge of Judges Jesus Christ.

  • Autrey Windle

    The devil wants to kill, steal and destroy. The devil has won the day in this situation and has used this man to bring shame and unbelief toward all Christians by those who need most to trust Jesus and Christianity. Pedophiles get jobs at nurseries and schools and the devil plants his seeds in the highest places of governments and churches . It’s a sad day for Alabama and this man has hurt so many more than his mistress, his family and his office. I guess Jesus would say go and sin no more so I pray for his true repentance and complete surrender to the laws of God.

  • mbabbitt

    Acharit – strikes again.

  • Charles Burge

    I’m glad to see this brought to a swift conclusion. I can’t help but think about a different governor of a southern state, some 20 years ago, who also was involved in ethical misdeeds of a sexual nature. Why were the outcomes so different?

  • Chris in NC

    I will say two things here, One serious, one maybe not so much.
    One…Does anyone still want to make fun of the vice-President’s rule about being along with women not his wife?
    One…In the words of a dead friends father upon the commencement of his first official date. “Boy, if you don’t want to get in trouble keep it in your pants.”

    • ImaginaryDomain

      Both are great truisms…

    • Paul

      That about covers it, and based on looking at the ex-gov these principles never get old

  • Christian Cowboy

    You always reap the appropriate harvest from what you plant.

  • Rita Lovett

    You adulterers are a friend of the world! Be a friend of God and REPENT! A just man can fall SEVEN times but the LORD will LIFT HIM UP!! Praying for the Governor to make Peace with GOD and turn away from sins of the flesh to serve the LIVING GOD who will have ALL MEN to be SAVED!!He takes no pleasure in the DEATH of the wicked! The wages of sin is death but the GIFT of GOD is ETERNAL LIFE!! Praise GOD!

  • douglas gray

    Both believers and the general public are much harder on a man who hold public office, especially if he uses his position to witness. King David sent Bathsheba’s husband to the front lines to be killed. This man’s transgression is not as bad. He can live a quiet life of prayer and repentance. That one mistake is not the whole man. Jesus talked about adultery, as he knew the temptation was so strong.

Walking in God’s Wisdom: Psalm 5:8
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