The ongoing news-storm ensuing from the Harvey Weinstein antics about the harassment of women in workplaces continues. Here is a further article from today. This leads me into considering how church Elders should interact with women. If we look at the qualifications for eldership 1 Timothy 3:1-7 we see the headlining requirement to be that of being above reproach (v2b). it seems that all the other requirements explain and developed what it is for an elder to be above reproach. An elder therefore is to be of such a character that there is nothing in his life which in any way would cause unease among those who observe his life. One of the critical areas in which this is seen is in his relationship with women. In his conduct towards all women he should be above reproach.
One of the qualifications for an elder is that he is a one-woman man (see 1 Tim. 3:2b). I have written about this term here. An elder is to have focus on the one woman who is in his life. in no way should be give any amorous indications to any other woman. There is a zero-tolerance in this realm. He will readily speak of his affection for his wife in a sensitive and thoughtful way. But by his actions and words he will make no-advances to any other woman. His hands will be “firmly in his pockets”, his eyes will not linger on another woman and his mind will not ponder on what might be if he only could.
One particular area to be thoughtful of here is that of how he speaks about the dress of other ladies. He can and should speak well of the appearance of his wife, but nver never say anything about the dress of another lady; absolutely nothing. Speaking of her dress can cause all thoughts of problems: Your wife thinks; “Is he interested in her?”; the woman thinks “Oooh he thinks I’m attractive” and she starts to ponder. And if the woman has a husband; he is potentially incensed by your perceived advances. You cannot be too careful in this realm.
If I could give an exception here though and that is in cases when you may have to approach a lady in church about her dress if she is being too provocative in here attire.
The giving of hugs and kisses needs to be carefully considered as well. Certain cultures see this as more than acceptable. In fact it is part of the norm to act in such a way in many societies. But the elder must be very careful. There may be times in mourning for example when this is not just acceptable, but actually helpful. But caution must be exercised.
It is also good to be careful of being alone with another woman. Age differences and teh expectations of the meeting need to be considered here. So if a lady is coming to see you about her husband’s funeral that is very different to a sister in the church just asking for a meeting without indicating why. Age difference is important as well. But visiting a lady of similar age to you on her own at home when her husband and children are out, to me seems very dangerous. In all thsi it is best to err on the side of caution.
Finally never trust yourself in all these matters. Paul after indicating how teh Israelites failed, addresses the Corinthians and says if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Cor. 10:12). Many an elder is now wrecked in life and ministry and some have had even their very lives cut short because they did not heed that.
And a finally, finally, make sure you build such a satisfying relationship with your wife that you would never have any thought of “looking elsewhere.”