How can an experience that feels so wonderful (or promises to feel so incredible)—a mountain-top experience for the senses—be so absolutely fundamentally wrong as to be one of life’s most treacherous paradoxes? If not one of the most, THE most. There is no hint of exaggeration in this!
Anyone who’s been betrayed by marital infidelity knows how deep the cut goes; eviscerating us at a soul level—the person we trusted most involved in not only the worst unfaithfulness can be, but it changes our whole life, and other innocents we care about, and instant grief journeys commence with ferocious immediacy.
But this is not just about marriage. It extends to every relationship.
In every relationship other than with our marriage partner (which is also fraught with its own dangers especially due to assumption and miscommunication) we are capable of acting complicit or otherwise with others in ways that may bring disgrace that is almost impossible to erase; reputations completely re-written seemingly overnight.
Every inappropriate sexual relationship has as its end the damaging of other relationships that extend out in a ripple of shame.
And this article, from the get-go, is not against sex-before-marriage relationships per se. Sex-before-marriage, between two ‘free’ adults, is nothing like ‘inappropriate’ in comparison to affairs and many forms of sexual abuse.
What about ‘consensual relationships’
Let’s talk consent. How wrong it is for men and women to make assumptions on the issue of consent. Rape or sexual assault occurs within marriages where men (usually in this case) assume they have a right to sex, and then act on that ‘right’. Of course, there’s no such right, even in marriage. Intimacy as a fruit of trust goes before the sexual encounter for sex to be truly consensual.
But what about other inappropriate sexual relationships, like a doctor with her patient, a pastor with his worship leader or parishioner, a manager with an employee, that may seem at least for one person as ‘consensual’. This is not just about the power differential; though that’s the obvious thing. Those in loftier positions need to guard their hearts to the degree that even inappropriate sexual thoughts are no-go zones, let alone the accommodation of flirting and actions that easily become sexual advances.
Where we don’t guard our hearts,
we should expect our hearts will fall.
we should expect our hearts will fall.
Those in loftier positions don’t just have more power, they have a power, a charisma, an allure, an untouchability, an attractiveness that people in ‘lesser’ positions will be forgiven for coveting at either a conscious or an unconscious level. Consciously, those with less influence are given to feeling guilty for ‘advancing’ with this other person, which is the very genesis of the effects of sexual abuse. If they’re unconscious to what’s going on, and this happens very often, they’re actually being betrayed by the more influential party at a far deeper level that may well create future trauma.
To make the person in the less powerful position in any way responsible for ‘flirting’ or bringing the relationship into being is a farce of the evilest proportions.
And something specifically for people in pastoral positions. There is what’s termed a fiduciary function that is fundamental to such ‘pastoral’ roles. They are inherently about trust—the trust all manner of people place in the office. Pastoral roles are integrally ambassadorial. Pastors are regents—it isn’t our power we wield, because we are custodians of the most awesome power given in holiness by God.
How utterly anachronistic it is then that a pastor would find themselves in an inappropriate sexual relationship. It ends the call to ministry, unless by some grace on God’s part that some ministry could emerge out of the pastor’s recovery, but probably not as a pastor. The only way one could foreseeably be reinstated pastorally is if there was, for some valid reason, a universal chorus of ascent to the concept.
For the rest of us
There are thousands of attractive people in our immediate reach—all good looking, all good sounding, who move in interesting ways, all cute in their unique way, all mysterious enough to captivate our attention.
So, why pick one to have an inappropriate relationship with?
Wouldn’t it be better to concede before God, “Lord, You know I need protection from myself here, because without wisdom, discernment and self-control I know I’m capable of doing something that is not only totally inappropriate, I could bring so much harm as to destroy life through my betrayal.”
Those who think they’re beyond temptation in the area of sexual sin are just fooling themselves. Let us rather be honest about how virulently our hearts are won to sin. Let us imagine the betrayal that is experienced by those we love and others along the way who never deserve to be dealt a grief process. All, in some cases, for a ‘fling’.
For Christian men, we must remember that Jesus was pro-women in many ways that complementarians may deny. We must hold this in tension with the angling of our hearts when it comes to the women in our midst, and even those we see on our screens.
A final word on pornography. It’s an inappropriate sexual relationship just as bad as one with a real person. Recall Jesus speak in castigating terms about even a look of lust…
Which leads me to finish by saying this. None of us is pure, and all of us have at least had thoughts, feelings and temptations. Let us commit afresh, each day, to cutting these off at the pass with clinical precision. God is always watching.