Yes to Godliness
Adrian Reynolds says church leaders are being naïve if they think sexual temptation will never be a problem for them.
Every time we meet, the FIEC Senior Management Team reads through, reflects and prays on a chapter of Proverbs. It’s something we’ve only just started doing, and I was particularly struck by Proverbs 5.
It’s a no-holds-barred warning against the dangers of adultery. We read it in the same week we heard that Billy Graham died – a man who fought hard against the prevailing sexual culture and took what some considered to be over-the-top steps to protect his integrity.
In that same week, Channel 4 aired a documentary about Churchill’s 1930s affair with a society hostess and The Sunday Times ran an article about Eisenhower’s live-in-lover during his tenure as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in WW2. Interestingly, these extra-marital affairs happened for different reasons: for Churchill it appears to have been about glamour and opportunity; for Eisenhower about loneliness and stress reduction.
The Attraction of Leadership
Christian leaders are extremely naïve if they think they are immune from such temptations. A church leader once told me that though he considered himself the ugliest person in the world, he needed to understand that leadership makes him, at some level at least, attractive to others (I don’t say ‘women’ for we cannot assume that is the only temptation).
It was good advice. And, like Churchill or Eisenhower, the temptation can be exacerbated by the opportunities that arise and the loneliness that pervades in ministry, even for married leaders. Billy Graham knew this and took steps to ensure that he could never be accused (even wrongly) about such infractions.
In the same week again (it was quite a week!), Mrs R and I were speaking to the Oak Hill married couples about sexual intimacy. Our brief was not about avoiding immorality as such, but our key passage was 1 Corinthians 7:1-7. There Paul encourages couples to enjoy regular intimacy “so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Say No, and Yes
That brings us back to Proverbs 5. In that sobering chapter, there are two things Solomon urges his son to do. First, he must avoid the adulteress. He must, in other words, take steps to avoid the pervasive immorality. Billy Graham’s ‘never alone’ rule fits into this category, as indeed do many other things we might do to protect ourselves, for example filters on our phones and devices.
But we would be reading selectively if we thought this was our only Scriptural strategy. For in the second half of the chapter, Solomon urges his son to delight in the wife of his youth – he should always be ‘intoxicated’ with her.
Frankly, Christian leaders need to grow in both these areas: the deliberate and ruthless avoidance of temptation alongside the intentional cherishing of the wife we have (if we have one, or the appropriate friendships God gives us if we don’t).
Our hope, of course, is that Solomon’s words to his son were ultimately heeded not by any immediate offspring, but by the Great Son, Jesus, who came in this kingly line. And this same Jesus poured out his Spirit on us, so that we can say no to temptation and yes to godliness.
Let’s be Christian leaders who heed this important truth.