By Aude McKee
Preachers often lay themselves open for adverse criticism by going to houses to talk with a woman with a problem, or meeting them in the church office where the two are alone together for a period of time. Carefulness on the part of a preacher in taking his wife with him, or having the woman meet him in his home instead of the office, could save one from actual sin or reputation-destroying rumors.
Carelessness on the part of a preacher in his dress, conduct, and speech, not only opens the doors for temptation, but may provoke comments and accusations that taint one’s reputation for purity. “He’s a ladies man” and “Just can’t keep his hands off the ladies” are comments provoked by the conduct of some.
Too much familiarity with certain ones – much togetherness – where all laugh unblushingly at some shady, suggestive incident or tale, is a sign that one might respond to “a pass” if made. Many have become guilty of sin by traveling this path. Others, though not yielding, have been suspected of yielding by observers of their actions. When preachers have great temptation suddenly thrust upon them, in most cases I’m sure, some look, work, or act on the part of the preacher gave the temptress the idea he might respond. The preacher may have had no thought of conveying such a message, but his careless words or actions did, never the less, leave that impression.
There is never a time or place where God’s teacher can be “off-guard” for his reputation as a servant of God is always at stake. And, reputation, as we have observed, has a tremendous impact for good and evil.
I commend the editor of this paper for devoting an entire issue to the problem of immorality among members of the body of Christ. I doubt that any of us living can correctly assess the damage done to the person directly involved, to those of his immediate family, to the church generally, and to those not Christians. To dismiss the problem with the observation that “we are all human,” or “preachers have feet of clay like everyone else,” is to whitewash it. To equate the sin with saying a bad word when you hit your thumb with a hammer is to fail to take the circumstances into account. To think that a man can have the same influence as he preaches oft the need for moral purity immediately after his confession of sin, is to ignore human nature. In short, the ten areas to be investigated in this special issue seem to me to have been well chosen. I trust that none who read this issue will be guilty of accusing those who have written of being self-righteous. Humility is a quality desperately needed on the part of both those who have fallen into this sin and those who have been able to avoid it. We write, not to hurt those who have sinned, but to encourage others to live above it.
Need To Look Ahead
Living a life free of immorality is sort of like driving an automobile. You have to learn early to put the brakes on well before you intend to stop. You are driving down the street approaching a busy intersection of 40 MPH. The stop sign is directed at you, not the cross traffic. About ten feet before you reach the intersection, you put your brakes on, slide through, and a terrible wreck occurs. When the traffic officer questions you, your defense is that- you put the brakes on. His reply would be, “I observed that from the skid marks, but you didn’t put the brakes on soon enough.” I dare say there has not been a single Christian guilty of an immoral affair in the past ten years but what knew the sin was approaching! Instead of “putting the brakes on,” they continued “full speed ahead” and lives were wrecked. Now notice the effect immorality has on the teacher’s family.
We mentioned a moment ago that lives are wrecked as a result of a teacher’s immorality. Not wrecked beyond repair, but wrecked, nevertheless. We hear the rumor: “It just cannot be true,” we say, and then the confirmation that brings the emotions so varied in nature. First there is sorrow – deep and intense. In most cases, the sorrow on the part of the immediate family is worse than if the person had died. Instead of a soul separated from the body, a soul has been separated from God and that is far worse.
Then when a little time has passed, probably some other emotions begin to surface. Anger is one of them. The thoughtlessness of the act has an impact. How could a man put a faithful wife through such an ordeal? Why didn’t he think about the effect on his children? Probably there have been family members who, for a time, wished that the “forty stripes save one” was still in vogue.
Then there’s the shame. Immorality may not be disgraceful on the part of many in the world today it it is still disgraceful in the eyes of God and faithful Christians. A reader may be inclined to say, “It is no more disgraceful than lying or stealing,” and perhaps that is true, but immorality is still disgraceful. Members of the sinner’s family hang their heads in shame, not for themselves but for the sinner.
Then, there is the emotion of self-incrimination usually endured by the teacher’s family. “Where have I failed?” “What did I do that caused this to happen?” This is a terrible burden to bear and probably some family members carry the load to their graves. It seems that in the more recent past, society has leaned toward the idea that wrongdoing is the result of upbringing, environment, etc., and that little or no blame can be laid at the doorstep of the sinner. We would not write one line that would relieve husbands, wives, children or parents of their God-given responsibilities, but the truth remains that the sinner has responsibility for his own conduct. We have often impressed the truth (from Ezek. 18:20) that the “son does not bear the iniquity of the father,” but it is just as true that the “father does not bear the iniquity of the son. ” Surely the principle would apply as fully to husbands and wives. Diffused throughout all of this is love. No stronger emotion can fill a person’s heart, and out of this comes the patience and forbearance and every deed designed to bring the sinner to repentance and restoration to God and the family. Love may be tarnished, for the moment, but it lives – “love never fails.”
Loss of Credibility
Another thing that must surely happen in a teacher’s family, when immorality has stained the relationship, is a loss of trust, confidence and leadership in those areas where it is most vital. The Holy Spirit, in 1 Corinthians 6:13-20, made it clear that an immoral person lacks respect for himself. He lacks self-esteem. “The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body” (v. 13b). Think about what it means for a person to voluntarily put himself in a position where he can no longer teach his children what it means to be holy in body. What man or woman wants to be in a position where it must be, “Do as I say, not as I do”?
The story has often been repeated about J.W. McGarvey and his position on instrumental music in the worship. He taught young preachers in his Bible classes that instrumental music was unscriptural and then he would often worship with those churches that used it. His comment, as I recall was, “My influence went with my practice and not my teaching.” All of us lose credibility when we fail to practice what we preach, and it is probably most true at home than anywhere.
The teacher who is guilty of immorality also lacks respect for the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God. Paul said our bodies are the members of Christ (v. 15). Where is my respect for Christ when I will use my body in an immoral way? Not only that, but our bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (v. 19). If I make the dwelling place so filthy He can’t live there, how much respect have I shown for the Occupant? Also, God owns our bodies and He is to be glorified in them (vv. 19-20). If I use my body so that it reflects discredit upon the Owner, my conduct shows a lack of regard for the Owner. Hasn’t my credibility (basis of trust) been destroyed by my conduct? How can I lead my family under such circumstances?
A third thing a teacher does who is guilty of immorality, is to reveal his lack of regard for the institution of marriage. In verse 16 of the passage referred to above, we are told: “Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith He, shall be one flesh. ” The $gone flesh” relationship has been reserved by God for marriage and marriage alone. In the beginning (Gen. 2:24), God made Eve for Adam and said that Adam should cleave to Eve, “and they shall be one flesh.” Anyone who has a sexual relationship outside of marriage, shows his disregard for God’s arrangements. In Hebrews 13:4, the writer said, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled . . . ” (NASV). Our point just here is, how can a teacher lead his family into a deep respect for marriage when he does not have a wholesome regard for it?
We try, to the best of our ability, to teach our children to have the kind of vision Moses had. He could see the “reward” far of in eternity, and this motivated him to “refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:24). My brothers and sisters in Christ, we plead that you look at the consequences of immorality and before you take the first step in that direction, decide that the price is too great. If the loss of credibility in your own family relationship was the only price you would have to pay, it is far too great!
More Visible Effects
Tragic as it is, a painful reality that almost every immoral teacher must face is the disruption of his relationship with the local congregation. This disruption has a number of serious side effects, but we are concerned here with the effect on the teacher’s family. Moving is never easy on the family, but to move “under a cloud” must be especially difficult. There is probably not a preacher among us but what has spent some near-sleepless nights over a move and the effect it would have on his family. Will the children be “provoked to wrath” (Eph. 6:4), by being taken away from their friends and moved into a strange city? Is it fair to the wife to be put through this strain again? Am I doing the right thing? Will my move benefit the church I am leaving as well as the one to which I am going? Then after much prayer and the encouragement of the family to do what we believe to be best for the Lord’s cause, the decision is made. But can you imagine a move being necessary because of immorality? This move is not one that is planned to take place during the summer months, but comes in the middle of a school year. The wife does not rejoice in the inconveniences she has to endure instead, she has to pack, leave dear friends, and face new ones from whom the truth must be hidden, because her husband did not practice self-control.
But much more tragic than the disruption of the family’s living arrangements, is the disruption in the family unity itself. How often in recent years have we known of deacons, elders, preachers and other Christians who have fallen prey to immorality and have been unwilling to repent. In some cases divorce has resulted and separation in others. This writer can understand how a person might, under strong temptation, be guilty of an act of immorality, but I am completely unable to comprehend how a knowledgeable teacher of God’s Word could decide to go to hell in order to maintain an unlawful sexual relationship! Jesus one time asked the question, “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul, Or what shall a man give in “change for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Perry Como at one time had a song being played quite often that was titled, “It’s Just Impossible.” As he spoke of his love for a woman he said, “I would sell my very soul and not regret it.” Sadly we have to say that it is not just a song Como used to sing; it is a refrain being sung by too many members of the church today. Too many children have seen their parents’ relationship dissolved because lust was conceived and allowed to control the life. James, over 1900 years ago, penned these lines: “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15).
Throughout this article, I have wanted to use the word “selfish” and perhaps now is the time to apply it. Among all the other causes for the terrible situation that exists among members of the Lord’s church in regard to immorality, selfishness must rank near the top. To see the agony through which a faithful mate must pass, and the grief that overflows the hearts of the children, a man would have to be selfish to the core to cause that for a season of pleasure. In Philippians 2:2-8, the concern a Christian ought to have for others is emphasized. “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
May all who read these lines have the wisdom to look down the road and see the consequences of immorality. Think of the emotions that will be aroused in the hearts of your own family. Consider what it means to lose credibility in the eyes of those with whom you have the closest personal relationship in this life. Let your mind dwell on what it will mean to your wife and children to have to move, but, most of all, think what it would mean to see your family unit destroyed by your lust and immorality. We hope that these considerations will help to stem the tide of immorality that threatens the church for which Jesus died.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 1, pp. 11-13
January 5, 1984