(For the first part in this discussion, read here.)
We live in the age of the #MeToo movement. Women and men around the world have stood up and shared their experiences of sexual assault in an effort to create lasting change. More people are being educated, new rules and systems to protect individuals have been put into place and enforced, and attention is being drawn to the issue of ownership of one’s sexual actions. The church is also being scrutinized and impacted. The one area within Christianity that remains unseen, unnoticed, and unspoken about, however, is the area of ownership of one’s sexual desires, temptations, and actions in relation to the “Billy Graham Rule.”
Men and women have resorted to the Billy Graham Rule in churches hoping to stem the tide of their lust. They have enforced a rule which puts the blame for their actions on the recipient of their actions. The #MeToo movement has revealed gender stereotypes that allow sexual sin and provide an excuse for it. Many godly Christians have embraced the Billy Graham Rule so that they may remain sexually pure. They fear that they may give into temptation and engage inappropriately with someone who is not their spouse. This is a godly intention; however, they fall short. In honoring their spouse, they dishonor the godly character of the person of the opposite sex and prevent full functioning of the Body of Christ. Most members of the opposite sex do not have inappropriate intentions or want to jump into an affair. Yet, the Billy Graham Rule continues to be enforced as if they did.
Men and women are sexually tempted to engage in inappropriate behavior; therefore, they have cut off all opposite-sex relationships in response. These individuals use Matthew 5:29-30 to validate their actions:
This verse has been misinterpreted and applied. The Billy Graham Rule has promoted the following response: “I am lusting after a woman because she is beautiful. I will gouge out her eye while mine remains intact.” [Gouges out beautiful woman’s eye.] “Now she is ugly and cannot tempt me.”
Let me further explain. When inter-sex contact is minimized, they are in essence isolating and preventing full functioning within the Church. Normally, it is the man who cuts off the woman’s hand—which is necessary to work in the church—instead of cutting off their own hand. The man continues working in ministry while the woman can no longer function because she is missing her hand. The man cut off the hand of the woman he lusts after. The man should have removed himself from ministry instead of preventing someone else from ministering. The man has made the woman a victim by his actions. He has perpetuated the cycle of sexual discrimination while diligently, in “godly” character, continuing the work of the Lord.
In the secular workplace, there are laws against sexual discrimination, harassment, and inappropriate workplace behavior. If a person makes a sexual advance and it is not appreciated, there are repercussions. A person can be sued, lose their job, or lose their license. There are laws that help keep people from engaging inappropriately. Yet in the church world, many observe the Billy Graham Rule to help curb these very tendencies. If a minister cannot control their sexual urges, perhaps he or she should remove themselves from ministry and work in the secular workplace. There, the threat of legal actions should be enough to curb temptations while not engaging in the Billy Graham Rule.
The Billy Graham Rule dispenses with personal responsibility. A person is in fact responsible for their own actions and sexual desires. Many will say, “I know I am fallible. I know that I lust. That is why I follow the Billy Graham Rule. I don’t want to have an affair.” These same individuals are often involved in a mentoring relationship where they talk about sexual issues. The check and balance in their lives should be found in these relationships. It should also be found in open, honest communication with their marriage partner. One might also reply, “If I have these checks in place in my life and do not follow the Billy Graham Rule any longer, what happens when a sexual advance is made or I feel like something inappropriate is beginning to occur?” The answer is simple: confront the issue with the individual while it is occurring. You could say, “I feel uncomfortable with how you have been talking to me/treating me.” Make sure your mentoring relationships know about the situation. If the behavior continues, then use the principles of the Billy Graham Rule for that individual alone. You are to preserve your marriage, reputation, and the ministry you are involved in.
The same goes with false accusations. If you feel threatened with a false allegation, do not engage that individual, do not be alone in a room with them, and dispense of all unnecessary interaction and conversation. The principles of the Billy Graham Rule should be enforced for that individual alone based off their actions.
The Billy Graham Rule aims at maintaining integrity within one’s life. This integrity can be maintained through better means. Each person should engage openly and honestly with key people to maintain spiritual, emotional, and sexual integrity and purity. The questions below are intended to help you analyze your own personal responsibility in maintaining sexual standards.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. What relationships in my life are my spiritual covering, and am I engaging in open and honest conversation with them?
2. In what ways have I blamed others for my sexual desires and temptations?
3. What systems do I need to put into place so that I can engage with members of the opposite sex authentically and without compromise?