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Far too many Christian leaders have lost their ability to influence because of sexual immorality. I am certain that each reader can give a personal story of this sad situation. My intent is not to condemn those who have fallen, but to help each of us deal with this sober reality in our own leadership. Paul commands, “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). Each of us as servant-leaders can take several steps to avoid this temptation.
- Avoid immorality by acknowledging the heart of the matter.
We don’t like to admit it, but Jesus makes it very clear that immorality comes from our hearts (Matt. 15:19). James reminds us that the first stage of temptation is our own desires (Jam. 1:14). Our hearts desire what is forbidden and the enemy of our souls tries hard to convince us that “stolen water is sweet” (Prov. 9:17). Our culture bombards us with advertisements and examples which feed these desires.
We all need to cry out for God to transform our hearts and give us hearts like His, hearts of genuine love for others and deep respect for each individual as a unique creation of God. Servant-leaders acknowledge daily that their hearts need God’s transformative power.
- Avoid immorality by setting boundaries.
Servant-leaders realize that especially in this area that has caused so many to fall, wisdom demands that they exercise extreme caution and carefully set boundaries. The writer of Proverbs warns, “Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8). Higher positions of leadership often provide a place from which leaders feel like they are entitled to indulge in some form of pleasure as a reward for their hard work.
While some leaders use their position as a place to indulge their own appetites, servant- leaders recognize a higher calling to serve God through their position and deliberately set boundaries to protect themselves. They avoid places of temptation such as social events, the internet, the magazine rack or other places in which they face strong temptation. They identify times of temptation such as when traveling alone or times after a season of heavy responsibility and take steps to be especially cautious at these times. They identify emotional temptations where their hearts are easily drawn into inappropriate closeness such as lunch meetings or counseling sessions. When they identify these areas, servant-leaders set boundaries that enable them to avoid even the appearance of evil.
- Avoid immorality by fleeing.
Paul’s language is strong, “Flee from sexual immorality.” In some areas we are commanded to stand and fight, but Paul tells us that when it comes to sexual temptations we should run! Joseph, when faced with extreme temptation, left his coat and ran. Servant-leaders recognize that fleeing temptation is a sign of wisdom, not cowardice.
- Avoid immorality by establishing accountability.
Leaders need accountability in this area to make it to the finish line. I have been greatly helped by mentors in my life who can ask me tough questions and with whom I can share failures or times of weakness. Servant-leaders recognize that God has not called us to lead alone and they are humble enough to ask for help!
- For further reflection and discussion:
Take a moment and ask how well you are doing in avoiding immorality. Use the questions below to guide your thoughts.
- Evaluate yourself. In what times am I most tempted towards immorality? Are there places that trigger this temptation? Are there things that I see which lead me into temptation? For example, am I faithful in the way I use the internet?
- What boundaries have I put in place in my own life to guard against these temptations? Specifically, are there places I refuse to go? Movies/magazines I refuse to look at? What boundaries do I already have in place? What additional boundaries do I need to establish?
- Are there relationships in which I am currently involved that are leading towards emotional engagement? Do I guard my heart in office/business/work relationships? What do I need to do in order to change direction?
- Are there currently relationships or involvements in my life from which I need to flee? What would that look like for me?
- Who can I ask to hold me accountable in this area? What fears do I have about entering into a relationship of accountability? Who can I approach for accountability (mentor or peer)? When will I initiate this relationship?
Take a moment to pray for leaders you know. Ask God to keep them strong against the temptation of immorality.
- Scriptures for reflection and study:
2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:18; 10:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Proverbs 5:8; James 1:13-15. It may be helpful to write these verses out by hand, on 3 x 5 cards, to create a “nutritional supplement” or a spiritual first-aid kit; or text them to yourself. These powerful passages can also be used as a basis for prayer.
© 2011 Jon Byler. All rights reserved. Used with permission.