Vice President Mike Pence’s marriage was in the news recently when The Washington Post reported that he has a long standing rule that he won’t eat alone with a woman who isn’t his wife nor will he be at a party where alcohol is served if she isn’t present.
Before going further, can I point out that Pence never said he didn’t dine or spend time with women? He only said that he doesn’t dine alone with a woman.
Pence is following what is commonly known as the “Billy Graham Rule”. In 1948 Graham’s team was in northern California speaking at a series of evangelistic meetings. According to Graham’s autobiography, the team, made up largely of men in their late twenties, discussed the failures they’d seen in Christian leaders. This discussion led to a commitment to be above reproach in money, sexual morality, their attitude toward churches, and integrity. Specifically, they agreed to never travel or dine alone with a woman who wasn’t their wife.
Why might Billy Graham, Mike Pence, and so many other Christian men set up “rules” to define their relationship with women who aren’t in their family?
- Because they know their marriage vows are sacred and want to do everything in their power to keep them.
- Because they know the deceitfulness of their own heart.
- Because 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality.”
When I was a new pastor I met a couple different women for lunch. In those days The Crossing was renting office space that wasn’t really conducive to meetings of any sort. It didn’t take long for me to realize that there was something that didn’t feel right to me about the situation. I decided that when I needed to meet a woman I would do it at the office during regular office hours when there were plenty of people around. I found that most women were appreciative of that decision and felt more comfortable meeting in that environment.
Other rules I still follow include having my meetings with women in an office with windows both in the door and to the outside. I don’t text any women who aren’t friends of my wife and even that is very limited. My wife knows the passwords to my phone and my computer/email and has access to those any time she wants, I don’t do Facebook, and my only friends on Snapchat are my family.
Does every man need to follow my rules or Mike Pence’s rules on Billy Graham’s rules? No. Every person, every job, every marriage is different. Vice President Pence didn’t say that his personal rules must be followed by anyone else. This is the safeguard he’s installed so that he and his marriage don’t become the latest casualty to sin. That seems like something Christians can (and should) respect.