The Billy Graham Rule for Sexual Purity
It's the 31st of December, 2018. New Year's Eve. Millions of people, many of them young, will be going out trying to "get laid". Millions of others will end up in sexual encounters with people they barely know without deliberately going out trying to, but just expecting that's the kind of thing that happens when you go out partying — and especially when you go out partying on the 31st of December. Many others will end up in sexual encounters completely against their will. Some of these will never fully recover from the experience.
And millions of others all around the world, including a great many committed Christians, who truly love Jesus Christ as their Lord and saviour — will be going out tonight, hoping to "be strong" in terms of maintaining their sexual purity, and somehow managing to not "get laid". While relying on their "strength", their willpower, perhaps on the power of God, or prayer, or something, to keep them from falling into the temptations of physical lust.
Yet over the years I've been a Christian, I've come to the conclusion (after very many different situations and experiences, some which happened while being a Christian, and others not) that this approach just does not work. Okay, it works sometimes. But it's absolutely not something to be relied on to work with any degree of certainty. In fact quite the opposite — if this is your only strategy to avoid falling into temptation, it's probably closer to the truth to say that sooner or later, you're certain to fail.
The rest of this page discusses an alternative to the popular message Christians hear about "being strong" as the way to maintain your sexual purity. This method may not be so popular. And in fact, would be openly ridiculed by many (if not most) people in secular modern culture. But I believe this alternative is the only method that can be completely relied on to work with any real assurance of certainty.
Just yesterday I was talking with a Christian friend about his teenage daughter having a boyfriend. We discussed some of the relevant issues for Christians about this side of life. Then this morning I woke up, and it's the 31st of January. New Year's Eve. And with those thoughts in my mind I decided to write this web page. Originally I was going to do a new-year's resolution page about significantly deepening my prayer life. Perhaps I'll do that tomorrow for New Year's Day (or if not then sometime sort-of soon).
Later into the conversation, my friend mentioned that before he and his wife got married, the question arose as to how they would stay pure leading up to their marriage. What they ended up doing was making an arrangement where whenever they were alone together, it was in a situation where they were likely to be interrupted by someone at any moment, without notice. There was also a story which I've forgotten the details of, where (as a joke) there was a reminder that Dad would be not far away, with his shotgun.
It reminded me of a friend from years ago whose Christian parents allowed visiting boys into their daughter's bedroom — but there was a rule that as long as the boy was in there, the door had to always be left open. Paul Washer says a very similar thing in this YouTube talk beginning around 20:48. This is how he recommends people get to know each other before marriage, without putting themselves in situations that are likely to lead to things they'd later regret. Washer also makes the shotgun joke. He describes how the couple are given time alone, but there's an open door, so that "just when you didn't think so, Dad walks by with the 12 gauge shotgun".
How Not to Live
In the past I experienced a lot of regret about the way I'd previously lived my life. This wasn't just because I eventually realised how I'd lived in a way that went against what the Bible said and was displeasing to God. Much more than that, I realised the extent to which I'd stuffed up my own life from doing those things. And wished that I hadn't done them. And thought about how different (and vastly better) my life would have been if I'd been able to believe in Jesus from a much younger age. And not make so many mistakes.
Yet part of being a Christian is trusting in God. Even in the dark parts of life, God is still ultimately in control. Which implies that for some reason I needed to experience those things. Perhaps the reason was to learn, and I mean really learn, in a practical sense, why God didn't want me to be doing them.
Perhaps now, because of this, I can explain these reasons to other people in a way that makes some amount of sense. In a practical way that relates to real life, and the destruction that sin causes, and not just "because God says so". I'm only just starting to learn how to do this, with my first year of Bible College, and now with this website... so I should get better at doing it as I go.
Over at least two-thirds of my life I really have learned a lot of ways how not to do things. And why not to do them that way. And what happens when you do. I think that eventually I'll be able to explain much of that... As they used to say (usually with an American accent) in those old black-and-white TV shows which I barely remember seeing as a young child, "Stay tuned to this channel..."
The Billy Graham Rule
Earlier this year, around the time I started Bible College, I got really into listening to sermons by Billy Graham on YouTube. I hadn't heard him much before that. I really liked them. Mostly I listened to the older ones from the 1950s and 60s. Then I was given a biography of him. A few things stood out to me from the biography. One was that Graham was very against alcoholism. I liked hearing that. Another was that he thought that sexual sin was even worse than alcohol, in terms of the problems it caused within society and in the world:
As for the sins of the flesh, Graham appeared to share the common Fundamentalist conviction that alcohol is scarcely less pernicious and damnable than heroin or cocaine...
Clearly, Graham felt the bottle held a powerful demon. Still, far more dangerous than lying, swearing, or drinking was sex, the primary temptation Satan uses to lure people down that broad path to hell.
Eventually I came across a part mentioning his personal code to not be alone with a woman other than his wife. Later, I read on Wikipedia that this is an "actual thing", known as the Billy Graham rule. Over the course of the year I heard several others mention this as the way to stay pure.
Not only did it make sense to me, but it has worked for me. Completely. Even before hearing about these other Christians' ideas, over several years of being a Christian, eventually, I just figured it out from experience. As the only way to be completely sure not to fall into temptation.
I don't think it's meant as a rule to be kept 100% of the time, all of the time. As I understand it, the rule should be applied to any occasion where there's a realistically possible chance that something ungodly (and the opposite of what I want to happen) could happen. For example, I wouldn't refuse to go into a shop to buy something if the one and only other person in the shop was a female (even an attractive one) at the checkout desk. Technically that would count as being alone in a room with someone of the opposite sex. But the chance of something "happening" is close enough to zero that I wouldn't feel at all concerned about entering the shop.
Yet there are plenty of other situations that many Christians regularly put themselves into when there is absolutely definitely a chance of something "happening". A lot of these occur during what we call dating. Most likely, proportionally more than usual occur on New Year's Eve.
Notice the part above about this being the opposite of what I want to happen. On this web page I'm mostly (as they say) preaching to the converted. I'm not trying right now to convince anyone of why you would not want anything sexual to happen. There are many very good reasons for that which I'll go into more in the future. Here, I'm assuming that you've already arrived at the stage of trying to not get into physical relations with someone you're not married to.
The First Time I Heard of Anything Like This
Interestingly, the first time I can remember hearing of anything as strict as this was in the context of Buddhism, not Christianity. It said something along the lines of to follow Buddhism properly, it was forbidden for a male and a female to be alone together (i.e. with no other people present), in any circumstance, unless they were married to each other (or a close family relation presumably). Basically, their rule was exactly the same as Billy Graham's. I remember thinking how completely and utterly ridiculous such an idea was. But also I remember feeling a sense of respect for those who were so dedicated to their beliefs to stick to something like that — which sounded (to my modern-Western-culture-raised self) so absolutely ridiculous. Not to mention utterly unrealistic (at least in the context of the culture and life that I knew, and was used to).
Yet many years later it now seems that historically, the complete opposite of what I thought is true. It's our modern lifestyle that's an aberration. In many cultures, perhaps most (I'll research this in more detail sometime), it was extremely difficult for unmarried people to get together because there were no socially acceptable or logistically possible situations where it could happen. People didn't go on "dates" like they do now, or out to "clubs", or whatever. Young unmarried people of the opposite sex were shielded from each other. To protect them.
A few nights ago I was randomly flicking through a Bible and I noticed an example of this:
Unmarried daughters were kept in seclusion from men, so that none could see them alone.
Of course there were cultures that were exceptions to this. Interestingly it seems that a lot of these exceptions occurred towards the end of those cultures existence. I'll look more into this in future also. Many people have described this effect (of loose morals) as a sign of the final days of a culture. Some have given it names, like "The Age of Decadence" (as seen in this YouTube video).
Flee from Sexual Immorality
Paul Washer is pretty intense, some people may think too intense — but he makes a lot of points that are very relevant here. One of them is how he compares what the Bible says about sexual immorality to what it says about the Devil. I think it was somewhere in this video but I'll confirm that later.
Be subject therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
He then quotes the following verse:
Flee sexual immorality! "Every sin that a man does is outside the body," but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
Washer makes a really interesting point. The Bible says that the Devil will flee from us if we resist him — but we are instructed to flee from sexual immorality. Which means that sexual immorality is more dangerous than the Devil himself! I hadn't ever thought about it like that before.
I really think Paul Washer has hit the nail on the head with this one. Sexual immorality isn't something that God made us to be able to resist. We're meant to flee from it, not to try to resist it.
Imagine you're alone with someone and that you're both very attracted to each other sexually. Perhaps you're considering marriage, or perhaps you don't know each other very well at all. Imagine you're alone together. No-one else is around. Perhaps you're in the dark. Perhaps you're in a car, or lying in bed together... Perhaps with certain parts of your body touching (and being touched by) certain parts of the other person's body, in certain ways...
Those body parts are going to be sending electrical and chemical impulses along nerve and hormonal pathways, straight to your brain — a major part of where your will (and your resolve to be pure, or perhaps former resolve, which by now may be melting away like snow) resides. It doesn't matter how much resolve you go into that kind of situation with. There are instinctual biological responses which, once triggered, are quite capable of completely changing your intentions about this kind of thing. Eventually there may — and if you go far enough together, there almost certainly will — come a point when your original resolve completely turns around.
This doesn't mean that you're a hopeless sinner with no chance of ever living a sexually pure life. It also doesn't mean that you're "only human", and saved, and therefore it's perfectly okay to be doing these kinds of things. As if there were no problematic (and potentially tragic) consequences to them. It just means you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The solution is really quite simple — don't put yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Yet it's so far against what modern culture teaches and expects, I think a lot of people don't even think of it. Or if they do think of it, think it's completely ridiculous (like I first thought when I read that Buddhist book a long time ago).
This also doesn't mean that since God made us with these pre-programmed instinctual biological responses, then "they must be good". Even many (most?) non-Christians and atheists, who don't even believe in God, think this: We're made with these desires, so we must be made to fulfil them however we feel like in any given moment.
According to the Bible these biological responses are good, but they are only to be used in certain situations. Like marriage. The apparent conflict-of-interest here is caused by our modern culture making us think that it's completely normal and okay to be putting ourselves in totally compromising situations that we should never be in in the first place. Almost every movie and every TV show includes scenes of people in these situations as if it's completely normal. In secular modern culture of course, it is completely normal. But we as Christians are called to be aliens and strangers to that culture.
Putting It Into Practice
The power of biology over willpower was also my own experience. In my early days as a Christian (and being used to living a secular life for the entire rest of my life up till then, including all the usual things that go with a secular life, like sexual relationships) I really struggled a lot with this. Much more than I expected that I would. I'm now a 100% believer that the "willpower and prayer" method of abstinence just does not work. I'd be driving to someone's house, completely convinced of how much I wanted to be a man of God, playing Christian sermons about purity on my car stereo, with a book (or a few books even) about purity on the empty front-passenger-seat next to me, with sections of the books highlighted and underlined in pencil, wearing my purity ring, and even then still end up falling into temptation.
Many people are put off from being interested in Christianity because of the moral rules, and especially the sexual ones. But for me it was the complete opposite. I was attracted to Christianity because of them. And even with that — even with having the desire to live under a strict moral code being one of the main reasons I originally wanted to become a Christian, even that wasn't enough to stay pure while trying to use willpower-and-faith-and-prayer while putting myself in situations where (as a non-Christian) I was used to doing things against the will of God. Like fornication.
Regarding the rules that God has given us, the important point is that it's really, absolutely, not like God, for some unknowable reason of his own, wants us to follow all his boring rules and miss out on all the fun "naughty" stuff that makes our lives great. The rules God has given us are there to make our lives great. It's breaking those rules that wrecks lives, not keeping them.
So to conclude, the way to confidently stay pure is to plan your time, and plan what you do, so that you won't end up in a situation where something could happen and where you could fall.
I had a big list of things I was going to do today around the house, but instead I've spent much of the day writing this page. Even though this website is so new that there are very few readers yet, I really wanted to do this page on New Year's Eve. The page might still be full of grammatical inconsistencies, but it will have to do for now, in the state that it's currently in. Like nearly everything on this website, I'll go back over it and gradually fix it up over the few weeks after it was first posted.