By now you’ve likely heard about Tullian Tchividjian’s extramarital affair. Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham, admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with another woman and subsequently resigned from his position as lead pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in south Florida.
While it is disappointing to see an influential pastor stumble with sin, it is not surprising either. It is not at all uncommon to hear of pastors who lose their way; we have become so accustomed to hearing stories similar to Tchividjian’s that we hardly even blink anymore.
This is a problem.
In a WORLD Magazine piece titled “Why So Many Scandals?” editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky says there is a way to prevent adultery within the church, and ironically, the idea came from Tchividjian’s grandfather.
According to the “Billy Graham rule,” the evangelist vowed to never meet, eat or travel alone with a woman other than his wife.
Would the Billy Graham rule have saved Tchividjian from falling into temptation? Maybe. If the pastor refused to spend time alone with the woman with whom he later had an affair, perhaps he would not have been led astray. But now, it’s too late.
Of course, the Billy Graham rule’s relevance today is debatable. When Graham invented it 60 years ago, there were far fewer women in the ministry. Today, many women say that they have been held back from the Billy Graham rule. Some women say their male superiors refuse to act as mentors for fear of appearing to have an inappropriate relationship. Others say that they are not permitted to join in at lunch when important decisions are made.
It is possible that we have outgrown the Billy Graham rule.
Olasky writes that sin affects our brains and actually “undermines our intellects.” That means if we fall into sin, it is hard to stop even though we know better. We need to find out how to recognize temptation before it is acted upon.
In the Crosswalk.com article “How to Have an Affair,” blogger Dena Johnson tells the painful story of watching her husband, a pastor, follow the path that ultimately led to adultery and divorce.
Johnson says her husband followed seven steps that led to the affair.
1. He was addicted to approval.
As a pastor, he wanted to please everyone and sought people that encouraged him.
2. He did not allow scripture to penetrate his heart.
Though he was an educated theologian, he did not allow scripture to change his heart.
3. He didn’t listen to his wife’s wishes.
Johnson warned her husband to be cautious with a certain woman but went against her advice made out of love.
4. He did not filter his mind.
He allowed himself to take in movies, music and images that were not honorable.
5. He doubted the gifts God bestowed upon him.
He sought more money and status instead of praising God for what he had been givien.
6. He did not accept forgiveness.
He refused to let his wife forgive him for the affair, choosing to punish himself instead.
7. He walked in the flesh.
He chose human pleasure over the heavenly pleasure of love, joy and peace.
When we recognize that someone we love is about to give in to the temptation of sin, we must do what we can to stop it before it starts. Know that “sin is crouching at the door,” as God told Cain in Genesis chapter 4. If we are vigilant against the temptation, perhaps the current epidemic of church scandals will become more like the rare passing virus.
Carrie Dedrick is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com.
Publication date: June 23, 2015