3. Lust

The sin of Lust
Prov. 7:1-27, II Samuel 11:1-5, II Tim 2:20-3:9

Alfred Lord Tennyson retells one of the world’s great stories in his great epic, The Idylls of the King. It is the story of the young King Arthur. He has just ascended the throne of England. But England is a den of iniquity. The Romans have pulled out and left chaos in their wake. It is a world filled with moral and physical disorder on every hand. Every village is ruled by a tyrant-king. Wild beasts infest the countryside.

But Arthur has a dream! He wants to bring order and peace to the nation. He wants to see the Kingdom of God incarnate in his land. So he builds a round table–an image of the round world–and men are invited to sit at that table as equals. He is planting a democracy. And those men are charged with the responsibility of riding throughout Britain redressing all wrongs, killing the dragons, helping maidens in distress. They are to be The King’s ambassadors to aid in the common good.

Early in his reign, he marries the beautiful Guinevere. And we get to eavesdrop in on their conversations as they plan and dream together of a Christianized and civilized Britain. Their love becomes a model for all the other marriages of that court. “Fair names gave fine example.” And in the years that follow, dignity and worth flow from that place called Camelot. The Kingdom of God is being built.

Then Lancelot comes to court. He, too, is godly. He has the gift of healing and brings a new dimension to the building of the new order. He is chivalry personified. But in the course of time, Guinevere and Lancelot begin to find themselves attracted to each other, and they become lovers.

And now “fair names gave foul example“, and they become the model for relationships of love. And slowly, the dream of the new order begins to crumble. And then Arthur discovers the betrayal and Arthur and the kingdom is shattered. Arthur goes off, to die in battle, Guinevere goes off to spend the rest of her life in a nunnery, Lancelot goes into exile. The dream of democracy is destroyed and will not get resurrected for many centuries, as Britain descends back into dark ages. All because of the sin of lust.

The Older Testament also has such a story. It is the story of King David. He too is out to build a kingdom that will approximate the Kingdom of God. Read the first ten chapters of II Samuel. Not a clouded day. David expands his nation, drives out the resident enemy, and establishes a new order that puts an end to the dark times described in the Book of the Judges. Then in the pivot chapters (11 & 12) of this book, he shares a sin with Bathsheba. Here we read the sad story of how sloth leads to lust, which leads to murder.

The prophet who wrote this volume narrates the continued story. The kingdom begins to disintegrate. His own family shares in the chaos (death, incest, fratricide, and exile,) and his nation is plunged into civil wars and plague, and in consequence the nation failed to reach its zenith and began a slow sure spiral into disintegration. All because of lust.

In the early centuries of the Christian era, lust became a great concern for the priests and the monks of the church. These church leaders had committed themselves to a life of celibacy, and yet found strong urges within both body and imagination that made them very vulnerable to sexual temptations. In fact by Shakespeare’s day when he says “Get thee to a nunnery” that has become a synonym for a brothel. History passes on the tragic stories of how too many of those members of the clergy failed to deal with this element of human life, and caused the church’s reputation to suffer, and caused great harm to their parishioners.

You and I in the 21st century have also been called upon to extend the kingdom of God on earth. We stand always at the beginning of the next stage in God’s great work of recreating this world in righteousness and true holiness. Our task is as crucial as that of Arthur and David. And our temptations are no different than were theirs. And the result of failure is no different then theirs. Which brings me to talk with you about problems of sexual temptation.

The sin of lust leads us into the specific sexual sins of adultery, fornication, promiscuity, lasciviousness, pornography, sexual child abuse, and sexual addictions of all sorts. So let us go where wise men fear to go and angels never tread.

Sexual temptations and the pastoral ministry.

A decade ago the Magazine Christianity Today wrote: “Study shows that ten percent of ministers have had affairs.” Then the article goes on to share the results of a survey of pastors, across varying denominations, that tell that 10% of pastors have had extra-marital affairs and 25% have had some kind of indiscreet sexual contact with some member of their congregations. We presume those figures have not changed much over the past decade. This is so serious an issue that I thought I should share with you about the problem of lust as it comes to fruition in the lives of too many church leaders. There is an obvious reticence of all our parts to talk about this issue. When we do talk about it, it is often sotto voice in small groupings.

Yet it is an increasingly crucial matter. Whether it is due to the sexual explosion, or lowered standards of our culture, or a lower value being placed upon marriage, is not important at the moment. But pastoral marriages are in more difficulty than ever before. One of the highest incidents of divorce among professional groupings is in the ministry of the church.

Why do pastors fall prey to sexual temptations?

Very few pastors are looking for an alternative to their spouses. Most pastors who have been involved in sexual sin have gone with little premeditation into the matter. For most, it happens almost before they are aware of what is happening.

It is a built-in hazard for all persons involved in people professions. It is one of the dangers that psychologists, doctors, and ministers face frequently because of their deep involvements in the lives of their clients.

Over a century ago Sigmund Freud discovered the problem of transference in counseling patients. This is the experience in which the person being counseled projects feelings and desires to the counselor when they really belong somewhere else.

The transference takes place like this:

There is a lady in the pew who listens to her minister week after week. She is a good Christian woman. But she has a husband who mistreats her, abuses her, is thoughtless. Her marriage is a source of continual unhappiness for her. Week after week she listens to her minister preach and she knows him to be a person of insight and kindness. She makes an appointment to see him. As she sits down in his study, she talks about her home life. The minister is a good listener, perhaps the first man she has ever met who did listen to her. He seems to understand her problem. He is sympathetic. Again, that’s new to her. The minister realizes that the problems are complex. She makes an appointment to see him next week. HHe begins a regular counseling session with her to help her deal with her circumstances. But unbeknown at first to the minister, there is taking place a transference of affection. What affection she should feel for her husband she transfers to her counselor. The minister is a good man. He appears wise, He understand her. He is a tower of strength. And as happens so often and so easily, she begins to have confused feelings towards him.

The next stage is often counter-transference in which the counselor projects his feelings and desires towards the person he is trying to help.

No one intends this to take place, but it takes place spontaneously because of the nature of one person confiding in another. Sexual failure then is often the result of inattention rather than intent.

What Kind of pastors are susceptible to sexual failure?

All ministers, young and old. All ministers, handsome or ugly. All ministers, happily married or no!

All ministers, young and old. All ministers, handsome or ugly. All ministers, happily married or no!

But there are some ministers who are more prone to failure. They usually are males of strong personality. They are usually classified among our “more successful ministers”

Timothy Leary of LSD fame calls them “TOP DOG” personalities. They are dominant personalities who attract followership, both male and female. The Top Dog creates dependency upon himself, and leaves behind the impression that he has it all together. These men are often maverick personalities who are usually accountable to no one. These men who fall, are often seeking ego satisfaction rather than sexual adventure, but the end result is often the same. These men often feel invulnerable to either sinning or being found out.   They sense their own spirituality even while falling. They mistake the excitement of nerve endings and of the body, with spiritual excitement.

The ministry is a dangerous profession. Ministry may be hazardous to a ministers health. Almost any other profession can lapse in this area and it need not affect their work. That is not at all true in those that are the ambassadors of God.

Then How do we respond to this?

  • Pray for your fellow ministers. Keep a network of prayer support to help them have the wisdom of God.
  • Be understanding of the process, and if you sense a colleague is being indiscreet, speak to him or her. If you sense they are not listening, you will need to speak to their immediate supervisor. Do not speak to anyone else, since the accusation or rumour can do so much damage, that even if the minister is absolutely innocent, his reputation will be ruined simply by someone thinking such thoughts out loud.
  • Quickly refer the person you are counseling, to a psychologist or psychiatrist, who are usually more competent in the field of counseling.
  • Be aware yourself. All of us are vulnerable unless we guard our hearts, our minds, and our eyes!