2 Corinthians 1:12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.
Ministerial ethics have been an issue even from Old Testament days. Eli’s sons, way back in 1 Samuel 2, were famously corrupt, and there were many other examples recorded. Just within the past few days there have been reports that have come out of sexual abuse by church leaders, and it seems like there is no end to it all. There is no question that all such people are called to account by God, but meanwhile the direct victims suffer and many people’s faith is damaged, because such people purport to represent God. Paul sets us an excellent example, and he expresses his operating principle here: to act on the basis of God’s grace rather than human wisdom. Human “wisdom” can be terribly foolish! Solomon, for example, descended into idolatry by trusting his own logic instead of what God had said. It seemed “reasonable” to him to accommodate his foreign wives for political reasons, since they were the daughters and sisters of various foreign kings. He had a very high IQ, but he corrupted it by trusting in it rather than in the God who had given it to him. I’m sure the case that came out very recently of the pastor who had “groomed” a girl until she had sex with him when she was 16 was one where the devil gave him all sorts of “good reasons” for his actions. The devil is a liar, and he is very adept at making his lies seem “reasonable” or even “logical.” All believers, but especially those in leadership, need to be unrelenting in clinging to God’s standard. We won’t do it perfectly, which is why it’s important that Paul talks about God’s grace here, but we are never to confuse grace with excusing sin. Any time we recognize that we have sinned our repentance needs to be immediate and as complete as possible. After all, we are told to “be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy.” (Leviticus 20:26)
Since I’ve been in ministry since 1976, this certainly applies to me! I certainly don’t claim perfection, but I’m grateful not to have had moral tragedies or scandals along the way. That doesn’t mean I’m to let down my guard, however. I’ve had women misunderstand and think I was “coming on” to them, and I regret that even though that was not my feeling or motive. I’ve been accused of “going after old women’s money,” even though that hadn’t crossed my mind. I am to walk in the holiness and sincerity of God, not by my strength, which is inadequate, but by the grace of God. As Paul so beautifully wrote to the Thessalonians, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) That needs to be my goal and my assurance.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I do pray for those who are damaged by unfaithful leaders, that You would comfort and heal them, and I ask Your mercy and tough love for those leaders who have gone astray, that the Bride of Christ may indeed be pure and strong and holy, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!