SIDEBAR: Character Really Matters

by H. B. London

In today’s permissive moral environment, it sometimes seems easy to accept the prevailing opinion that character doesn’t matter all that much. But I have seen men’s lives destroyed when they give in to such thinking and allow themselves to walk down the path of sexual immorality or other grievous sins.

Problems of credibility arise not only from actual events but also from questionable appearance in behavior and relationships. Careless conduct bites like a mad dog even when there is not actual sin.

In our writings and along the pastoral conference trail, Neil and I have offered tried-and-true advice for building a high hedge around your marriage. Here’s a short list of what we believe to be satisfying ways to create a happy clergy marriage and to build a hedge that protects the minister of God from many temptations to sexual sin:

  • Live by the highest possible code of conduct.
  • Find a prayer partner.
  • Keep the home fires burning.
  • Learn from others’ failures.
  • Maintain your resistance.
  • Remember real pastors control their appetites.
  • Maintain balance in your life.
  • Establish accountability.
  • Nurture soul friends.
  • Seek marriage counseling quickly when you sense a problem.

Now let me list specific ways to help you pass the moral credibility test with flying colors:

Apply Paul’s teachings

Steep yourself in the perspective that Paul outlines in Ephesians 5:1–21. Paul gives wonderful recommendations shaped by the reasoned way he lived his own life and did his ministry.

Strengthen your marriage

Right now, stop reading and make a list of practical ways to improve your marriage. Mail a card, send flowers, buy a negligee, arrange a short trip out of town, offer to help with more household tasks, take your spouse out to dinner or plan a family outing that is not interrupted by any church obligation. Most ministry couples will do their marriage a fulfilling favor by giving more attention to issues of communication, affection, intimacy, and sexual fulfillment. With a little extra enjoyable effort, you can be so much more for each other than anybody outside your marriage could ever be.

Speak often of your admiration for your spouse

Church members will appreciate this part of the hedge you are building. They will admire this quality and perhaps even emulate it in their marriage. And you can be sure they will tell your spouse what you say; such true rumors might make you a hero at home.

Refuse to tell risqué stories

Secular workplaces are often filled with suggestive stories and so-called cute jokes. Many people enjoy sharing those tidbits with their pastor. Though you probably won’t wish to overreact when someone tells you a questionable story, refuse to pass it on. Establish and maintain a high standard for yourself.

Speak up with prophetic outrage against sexual sins

Society has tried to soften adultery by calling it an affair or living together. But sexual sin is heinous and devastating, however benignly it is described. The sting is just as painful in family and in church as it has always been. It’s time for each pastor in the land to shout from the pulpit, “By god’s grace and power, put a stop to such sin.”

Excerpted from H.B. London, Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman They Call Me Pastor, Ventura, California: Regal Books, 2000), 117,120–122. Used with permission of authors.