A few decades ago, the title of this post wouldn’t have attracted much attention. But fast-forward to today, and faithfulness to your spouse is now considered by much of our society to be outmoded. It’s an anachronism—something many believe no longer belongs in our culture.
Still, when the apostle Paul wrote about the requirements for overseers in the church, he began by saying this person is to be above reproach (I Timothy 3:2). He then listed several characteristics to explain what being above reproach means. The first is that an overseer must be the husband of one wife.
Paul included faithfulness in marriage as a characteristic of a godly leader. My curiosity was especially piqued by this first item, because Paul was not married. So why include this characteristic so prominently in the list?
To understand why being a faithful spouse is important in Christian leadership, let’s step back and begin with a broader perspective.
One of the attributes God chose to reveal about Himself in His Word is faithful. He is faithful to His promises and He is faithful to His people (Deuteronomy 7:9). So if we are to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus, (Romans 8:29), then we are to cultivate faithfulness…faithfulness to our word and to our relationships.
The Picture of Marriage
Throughout the Bible, human marriage is used to illustrate the relationship of God and His people. For example, in the Old Testament, when God chastised ancient Israel for her idolatry, He frequently used the image of adultery to describe their unfaithfulness to Him.
In Ephesians 5:22-32, Paul uses marriage as an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church. In II Corinthians 11:2, Paul spoke of believers betrothed to one husband: Christ.
So marriage is meant to illustrate the relationship God has with us. If Christian leaders are unfaithful in human marriage—the most intimate of relationships—what does that communicate about their view of intimacy with the Lord?
Marriage is more than a contract. Contracts can be broken, as any attorney can tell you. But marriage is a covenant, “till death do you part.” When we marry, we make a vow. And as Christians becoming more and more Christlike, faithfulness to that vow—and that spouse—speaks volumes about our integrity.
Christian leaders will find their leadership crippled if their integrity is called into question. Can leaders be trusted in broader relationships with other Christians if they cannot be trusted to be faithful to their spouse?
Overseers, or any Christian leader for that matter, must be above reproach. How they view and respond to their own marriage is a good place to start!
Ava Pennington is an author, teacher, and speaker from the Treasure Coast of Florida. You can read more of her work on her site: http://www.AvaWrites.com
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