Volume 14, Issue 1: Poimen
Pastor Traps: Sexual Infidelity
Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. .
1 Sam. 2:22
If the world were to reason from practice to policy, it might be forced to conclude that one of the standard perks of pastoral officeduly noted
in the contractis sexual favors from the
Sexual indiscretion by
spiritual leaders has reached such a height that the Church has become a byword and an object of hissing
among the nations. One survey of almost 300 pastors reveals that 23 percent of them admitted to
sexually inappropriate behavior, and 12 percent to sexual intercourse with someone other than their wife.
Almost 40 percent of this porneia occurred with ladies from church. The statistics are depressing, and
one surmises that the reality is far worse. There is a glut of the sons of Eli in the Church, and seeing it the
world chortles, blasphemes, and tells itself "there is no God" (Ps. 14:1).
"The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit; He who is cursed of the
Lord will fall into it" (Prov. 22:14). Sex is
an alluring and deadly trap for men, and particularly for pastors. Proverbs tells us that the house of the adulteress
is really a morgue stacked with "many" and "numerous" corpses (Prov. 7:26_27). If one were to read some of the
tags dangling from their cold rigid toes, he would be shocked by names like David (the man after God's own heart)
and Solomon (unsurpassed in wisdom). And many of our contemporaries lie there. Of course there are the likes
of Bakker, Swaggert, and Jesse Jackson, but there are also men like MacDonald, Cocoris, and Hocking. You may
not like their theologycertainly it may not be as staunch
as yoursbut David's theology was pretty fair, and yet he
is among their number. And in any case, a sense of swaggering invulnerability is a sure sign that your toast is about
to get burned: "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
Adultery begins with spiritual starvation. And though it may surprise the reader, pastors can be some of
the most spiritually emaciated folks out there. Some pastors lay out a weekly feast from which they refuse to
partake. When, in well-meaning rebellion, they neglect their own souls to care for the flock, they grow weak, drop
their guard, and become a target. Defection from the honors of the marriage bed begins with a defection from God.
And this defection occurs in the most normal of ways: neglect of the means of grace. Prayer slackens, and then
abates entirely. Personal application of the Word gives way to the chug and clank of the machinery of sermon prep.
And before long, the anorexic pastor gives up the charade entirely, and begins preaching exclusively out of his
file cabinet. It is in this enfeebled state that he encounters the allure of the "foreign woman." Given her
substantial arsenaloily speech, brazen eyes, flaunted beauty, and a cunning heartthere is little doubt of the outcome.
The shepherd has himself become a prey (Prov. 6:25).
Neglect of the means of grace is what begins marital defection. But there are other factors, and one of them
is not pursuing your wife and being exhilarated with her love (Prov. 5:15_20). It is impossible to run in two
directions at the same time. A man cannot pursue his wife and that of another man simultaneously. If one is
tending one's garden, and its beauty is conspicuous, why would he be tempted to dwell amongst the bramble across
Another factor is that some men are simply naïve about the avenues down which some temptations
travel. Pastoral counseling is one area. A "weak woman weighed down with sins and led on by various impulses"
meets caring, naïve, and touchy-feely pastor. They speaknecessarilyof her problems, sometimes probing deeply.
He listens encouragingly. She senses his concern and reciprocates with effusive thanks and praise. Naïve pastor
feels respected, begins comparing counselee favorably against wife (who is more apprised of his shortcomings), and
the rest follows an established pattern: increased contact, personal sharing, small deceptions, excuses to meet
together, "innocent" touching, larger deceptions, clandestine meetings, heavy petting, and thenwe saw it
comingoutright adultery. This road to Sheol begins so innocuously that by the time you realize you are on it, it is
extremely difficult to arrest progress. As Charles Bridges says, "Dread the first step, and dream not that you can
stop yourself at pleasure in her course."
In the spirit of "dreading the first step," pastors should establish firewalls to protect themselves. The
first precaution is guarding the heart, for "from it flow the springs of life" (Prov. 4:23). We must train ourselves to
love the good and abhor the evil (Rom. 12:9). Applied to our topic, this means recognizing that, though our
culture glorifies the adulteress, the Bible looks upon her as a monster. In addition to guarding the heart, there are the
usual precautions: the glass door to the study, the cultivated emotional distance with women not your wife, and
the blue-hair rule. The latter precaution is the policy that you will never be alone with any woman (other then a
close blood relative), who is not sporting blue hair. This effectively excludes everyone but women old enough to be