Monday, January 11, 2010

Going the Distance - Chapter 8

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

Chapter 8: Sexual temptation in the ministry
"The two greatest dangers for a missionary and pastor are sex and money" (p124)

There are great dangers when the pastor sins sexually. They will almost certainly lose their job or at least their credibility, they have failed to live up to their ordination vow, they leave the faithful disillusioned and can confirm scepticism of critics.

It can be helpful for many to realise that they are not alone in facing sexual temptation. We must be realistic about our own vulnerability in this area, not assuming we are beyond being tempted ourselves. At the same time, only a right view of God and his word can help us to not act on the temptations we face.

Some points that Brain makes are:
  • God understands the problem and addresses it (eg 1 Thess 4:1-10)
  • Those pastors who are arrogant, alone or addicted to their work are more likely to succumb to temptation. The arrogant pastor thinks they cannot fall, needs affirmation and can seek intimacy elsewhere. The pastor who is alone may need help to develop friendships. Those pastors who are addicted to work often have a poor home life, because of the lack of attention given at home, so they may invest energy in people who respond emotionally.
  • We need to be realistic about the temptations:
It is important for pastors to consider the possibility that there may be one or two occasions during their ministry when a person may come along for who they would surrender all; even their faith, family and work. This is a hard concept, but I suspect it has real validity. It really says more about the nature of our humanity, and the peculiar temptations of pastoral ministry, than about the sexual make-up of pastors. (p132)
  • As wives we can be helpful in this area. We can pick up signals that our husbands may not be seeing clearly. We can also be helping in setting boundaries and being willing to talk about this with our husbands.
  • Pastors need to realise that often the attraction of others is to their role, not to them as a person. Pastors can be idealized, they listen and are available to talk - but it's because of the job, not the person.
  • There are also risks in counselling relationships, as one can become attracted to their kind, attentive counselor. As many churches now employ both men and women in pastoral roles, one would hope that these risks are diminished as women counsel women and men counsel men.
  • For those who are single, close, caring & trusted friends can have a special role, both in accountability but also for companionship.
I suspect that for those reading this chapter, we can fall into a number of categories:
  1. Those who have not really thought much about sexual temptation yet, because it has not been an issue.
  2. Those for whom this is a painful reminder of our husband's or our own struggles in this area.
  3. Those for whom this is a sad reminder of others in ministry who have fallen to sexual temptation.
It will be hard for many of us to read this chapter without having specific people or incidents in mind.

Thinking particularly as wives, what are some things we can be thinking about?
  • Do we talk with our husbands about issues of sexual temptation - either for them or us? Thay are hard conversations to have, but in striving to keep honesty and openness in marriage, it is worth doing so.
  • Do we help our husbands to keep all things pure, including perception? Does your husband ever meet with women on his own in private spaces? Could you change things so that he meets with women in your home while you are there? Or in more public places?
  • Are we also striving to be pure in all things? Are we ensuring that we are not thinking about other men unhelpfully, comparing them to our husbands?

Some more things to think about:

  1. How did you feel reading this chapter? Is it hard for you to imagine, or alternatively, too easy to picture?
  2. Have you and your husband talked about how you would share if you have feelings for someone else?
  3. Do you feel able to bring up concerns you have about the level of contact between him and someone else?

Next Monday: Chapter 9 - Friendship

1 comment:

Rachael said...

I really agree with what he says here, "the strength of a temptation is greatly reduced once it has been spoken about" and have found it to be true in my experience. It can be incredibly difficult telling a trusted friend, not to mention your husband, that you are struggling in this area, as you feel so faithless. But, it is the faithful, and humble, thing to do, and can be transforming.

It would also be easy for a spouse to be hurt or to respond jealously to such revelations. So I think it would be really important to talk about in advance... like your question 2. suggests. When we got married we planned to have regular times when we could talk about those sorts of things, but they have rarely occurred. That's something for us to talk about!