Presumption of Guilt and the Billy Graham Rule

Presumption of Guilt and the Billy Graham Rule

It has happened again.  Another sexual assault scandal has hit the news.  Just yesterday morning, co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb looked into the camera for what was a raw and emotionally tense moment to announce the termination of Matt Lauer’s employment from NBC’s Today Show.  After a lengthy public career in front of the camera, suddenly he vanished into thin air. He didn’t die. He didn’t say good-bye.  No closure.  Sudden termination after 23 years of employment as a news anchor for the popular Today show and the whole world is presuming the guilt of Matt Lauer.

The Danger of Presuming Guilt

The details may prove the guilt of Matt Lauer over the next several weeks.  However, in the meantime, the whole world is left to presume his guilt.  In the first 16 hours following the public announcement, the video circulated on Facebook by the official Today page racked up 15 million views.  According to our justice system, we are to presume innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  In the wake of the latest round of scandals, the tide has seemed to shift toward a position of “guilty until proven innocent.”

It’s absolutely healthy for our culture to protect women and to support victims as they come forward to confront those who have abused, mistreated, or violated them in some manner that is unlawful and disrespectful.  We must always support victims and protect the rights of such people to come forward.  However, we must likewise consider what happens in a culture where the default position is to presume guilt until proven innocence.  The innocence of many men is being challenged in an reckless fashion.

Emily Lindin, a columnist at Teen Vogue, made the following statement recently on Twitter. “I’m actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations,” she wrote. “If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.”  That approach is reprehensible and unfortunately—many people in our culture will allow her ideology to become the cultural norm.

The laws we enjoy in our land that protect people from being sexually assaulted and likewise protect character assassination of the innocent are reflected in God’s law that governed Israel.  In order for someone to receive the death penalty for an offense—it had to be established beyond a reasonable doubt by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6; Deut. 19:15-21).  God was protecting the people on both sides of the fence—something that we must be careful to not neglect in our day as well.

The Genius of the Billy Graham Rule

Not long ago, the Vice President—Mike Pence, was heavily criticized for embracing the “Billy Graham rule.”  In short, a Washington Post piece documented a position held by Pence back in 2012 where he states that ““he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.”

This position was popularized by Billy Graham years ago who made a similar commitment in order to protect his character, his career, and to protect his marriage from failure during the lengthy crusades and frequent travels.  It was during a ministry trip to California in 1948 where Graham along with three friends (Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea, and Grady Wilson) discussed scandals that ruined ministries and marriages through the years and they made a commitment to protect themselves from such heart wrenching scandals.

When the position of Pence was made public, it led to a great number of sarcastic and demeaning tweets in response to Vice President Pence’s position.  Some of those tweets include the following:

Stop the insanity.  In a world full of scandals, deceit, abuse, and disappointments, is it really a scandalous crime for Vice President Pence to protect himself, his marriage, his career, and the reputation of the United States of America by refusing to spend time with women (other than his own wife) alone?  What’s worse, the recent barrage of sexual scandals and abuse or Vice President Pence’s embrace of the “Billy Graham rule?”  Does the “Billy Graham rule” really mock women and turn them into commodities or does it protect them from being used and abused?

If we can learn anything from these accusations with public figures, it would be wise for all men—especially a Christian man to refuse to meet together, dine together, and spend time with the opposite sex without his wife.  If a meeting is held in private and accusations are made—how is a man to protect himself in a culture that presumes guilt and demands the proof of innocence?  Once a character is damaged it’s too late.  False accusations spread far more rapidly than the truth.

How many pastors have fallen into sexual misconduct causing their marriage to fall apart and their ministry to come to a sudden end?  The list is lengthy.  No pastor should place himself in a place where he could be tempted to fall or where he could be falsely accused of misconduct. The genius of the “Billy Graham rule” focuses on several key factors:

  1.  Honesty about the deceit of the human heart (Jer. 17:9).
  2.  The necessity of protecting your character as a follower of Christ (Prov. 4:25-27).
  3.  Protecting the sanctity of marriage in the eyes of a perverse culture (Heb. 13:4).

While the world laughs and mocks Vice President Pence out of one side of their mouth—they applaud the termination of Matt Lauer’s job for an accusation of sexual misconduct out of the other side of their mouth.  The world doesn’t possess a great deal of sanity.  If there ever was a day where great wisdom was needed in the area of mixed relationships in the workplace—it’s now.

I appeal to all Christian men—especially pastors—create laughter by embracing the “Billy Graham rule” rather than tears for falling into a sex scandal.


Ditch The Bachelor

Ditch The Bachelor

T he reality show The Bachelor is celebrating 20 seasons this year and kicked off a new season just a few days ago.  I can honestly say that I’ve never watched a single episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, but I know the show is very successful.  I also know enough about the show from advertisements and by information shared online to form a solid opinion about it.  What the soaps contained, The Bachelor has and much more.  Apparently, if you’re looking for drama filled awkward dating moments, you’ll be satisfied by The Bachelor.  Although I’ve never watched a single episode, their marketing department delivers the message well through their advertisements.  I’ll begin by saying that I think it would be wise for you to kick The Bachelor to the curb.  The Bachelor, and shows like it, have taken the modern dating practices to a new level of absurdity, and you can do yourself a favor by cutting it out of your life.

In a world filled with brokenness where divorce has become the expectation in marriage, why would you want to take the important task of finding a spouse and degrade it to a level of second rate entertainment?  Below I’ve included a list of reasons why The Bachelor should not appear in your list of evening entertainment and I hope you will take time to think through the issue.  As always, I’m seeking to look at this subject through a Christian lens that’s both honest and balanced at the same time.

The Bachelor Is The Wrong Marriage Planning Method

The Bible teaches us in Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.”  The entire show known as The Bachelor, is built around the idea of taking one man and parading before him many women on a weekly basis only to reduce the field down to his final selection in the final week.  The reduction process is based on relationships, looks, communication, and at times – physical intimacy.  At whatever level we can agree that this takes place, we must come to grips with the fact that it does happen.

What self-respecting woman would want to enter such a contest?  What self-respecting mother would encourage her daughter to engage in this type of contest if given the opportunity to find her future husband on national television?  What parent would want their little girl to go through a 6-week vicious competition to fight for a man who is making his choice for her based on the wrong reasons?  It’s simply the wrong road and it communicates a skewed concept to many young ladies who are preparing themselves for a future spouse.  I would argue for a method known as courtship to find a spouse, but that’s another subject for another day.  In short, women shouldn’t be treated like consumer products only to be returned if not satisfied.

Jesus said the following as He taught about marriage in Mark 10:7-9.  Notice, He quotes from Genesis 2:

‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The idea of being joined together to another human being is a very serious thing that must be approached with a tone of serious consideration rather than coarse entertainment.  What God joins together, no man should separate.  That’s God’s command and plan for marriage, and The Bachelor doesn’t uphold that commitment.

The Bachelor Promotes Unreal Expectations

How many times have you looked at a magazine photo of someone and had to bring yourself to remember that this image is not real.  It has gone through dozens of editing phases and has been altered in every way imaginable to create this stunning image, but it’s simply not real.  Under the makeup and hiding behind the editing software, a real person exists.  That real person has flaws, scars, bumps, and flaws that nobody can see in that magazine photograph.

In many ways, this is the same problem with The Bachelor.  You have a man who has been scripted, coached, counseled, clothed, styled, and altered so that the reality that everyone is looking for in the show is simply not going to happen.  On the flip side of the coin, the man who is on the show should expect the same thing from the women who are competing for his attention.

The Bachelor Perpetuates Unfruitful Relationships

Relationships take time to develop and marriage is no different.  If marriage is based on the way a person looked in an evening gown or in the bikini party held on the show, what’s going to happen if she gains a few pounds?  What happens when her body changes through pregnancy?  The entire concept of finding a spouse based on physical attraction and the way in which she kisses is simply unfruitful.  Relationships have many more levels to consider and to reduce it down to the the physical appeal and personality of an individual can be a recipe for disaster in the end.  If you examine the statistics of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, there are six couples that are still together out of the 30 seasons of the two series. [1]

The Bachelor Doesn’t Honor God

As stated from the beginning, I’m a Christian and therefore, I look at life from a distinct Christian lens.  Everything from money to marriage will be shaped by the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The idea of a finding a spouse is a serious thing, and to reduce it down to a big 6-week party full of sensual dating and partying is not the method that honors God.  This is evident on the basis of several reasons:

  • Physical Intimacy is a Sacred Thing

Hebrews 13:4 – Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

  • Divorce is Sinful

Mark 10:6-9 – But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

  • Lust and Adultery

Matthew 5:28 – But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to choose the wrong spouse based on a quick lustful decision under immense pressure on a reality television show?  The odds are stacked against these people.  Overall, The Bachelor is a poor choice of entertainment that promotes a wrongful picture of marriage, and it demonstrates a pattern that we do not want to pass down to our children.

What is marriage?  It’s a picture of the gospel.  It serves a purpose to glorify God, but it’s not the end goal of happiness in this life or throughout eternity.  Complete happiness and joy is rooted in Jesus Christ.  That’s what marriage should picture.  Marriage is the faithful covenant keeping love that is demonstrated in Jesus’ love for His bride – the church.  Unfortunately, that message is not found in The Bachelor and for that reason, I’m pleading with you to kick The Bachelor to the curb.

  1. These ‘The Bachelor’ Couples Are Still Together As of 2016!
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Yesterday I preached from Mark 10:1-12 on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.  What exactly does the Bible say about this often debated subject?  My sermon was one of the longest sermons I’ve ever preached and I sought to deliver it with pastoral sensitivity while not compromising one ounce of God’s truth.  I felt as if I had delivered a weighty message upon the completion of the sermon.  This is a very important subject in our age of compromise regarding marriage.

Jesus’ Ministry of Teaching (Mark 10:1)

Upon arriving in the Perean region beyond the Jordan, a great crowd came to Jesus.  Their agenda was to receive healing of physical disease and perhaps to see this man who had literally become famous through His preaching and miracles.  Jesus, as was His custom, taught the people.  While He did perform miracles, His foundational ministry objective was teaching and preaching.  This should be emphasized when reading about how Jesus ministered and it should not be forsaken in the church’s ministry in our present day.

Jesus’ Teaching on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage (Mark 10:2-12)

First, we must note the way Jesus ended up teaching on this subject.  The Pharisees were seeking to trap Jesus, and they raised a question about divorce.  According to the parallel account in Matthew 19:3, they asked, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”  Two competing rabbinical schools existed in Jesus’ day, one ultra liberal and the other somewhat conservative, both had opposing views on the subject.  The Hillel school purported the liberal position which created loopholes for divorce for almost anything.  The Shammai school taught a more conservative position.  Jewish history accounts for instances of men divorcing their wives on the basis of an inappropriately cooked meals, talking too loud, speaking to men in public, or dishonoring the husband’s mother-in-law.

The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus to see if He would deny the Law of God or align Himself with the conservative position that John the Baptist preached which would therefore position Jesus against the house of Herod.  In either direction, they were looking to trap Jesus.  Jesus pointed out that Moses never commanded the practice of divorce, but it was merely a concession based on the hardness of the people’s hearts.  Rather than looking at Deuteronomy 24 as the basis of His answer, He went back to the beginning of creation to establish God’s plan for marriage.  Jesus said:

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ [7] ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, [8] and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. [9] What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:6-9).

Furthermore, after entering a house with the disciples, they needed additional clarification on the subject and Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, [12] and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12).  In other words, don’t divorce your spouse.  God’s intention for marriage was not for the holy covenant to be broken by divorce.  God never created a pool of people for Adam and Eve to go shopping and find someone that they believed to be a better match for them.  God established their covenant and it was designed to last for life.

The question remains, based on the parallel account found in Matthew 19:1-12, is divorce ever permissible and what about remarriage?  There are a few positions on this subject in evangelical circles.

  1. The permanence view of marriage (no divorce and no remarriage under any circumstances)
  2. The semi-permanence view (divorce is permitted, but no remarriage)
  3. The permissive view: one clause view (one option for divorce and remarriage based on adultery only – Matt. 19:9 and Matt. 5:31-32)
  4. The permissive view: two clause view (two options for divorce and remarriage based on adultery and abandonment -Matt. 19:9; Matt. 5:31-32; 1 Cor. 7)

Although I fully respect the permanence view of marriage taught by many able theologians, scholars, and preachers – some of which are friends of mine, I simply don’t hold to that position.  I feel that the permanence view seeks to uphold and protect the sanctity of marriage, and for that I’m extremely grateful.  The reason I reject the permanence view (no divorce and remarriage) is based on the exception clause spoken by Jesus.  I recognize that Paul never used Jesus’ clause nor did any other apostle in the New Testament, but Jesus did teach it and it’s recorded in two places in holy Scripture.

I hold to the two clause permissive view that allows for divorce and remarriage based on adultery and abandonment of a believing spouse by an unbelieving spouse.  While that may seem like it’s a fairly cut and dry issue, it’s really not.  All positions embraced by evangelicals who truly seek to honor God and His holy Word will find many difficult circumstances to work through on a pastoral level.  For instance, in the permissive view (two clause), if a person claims to be abandoned by an unbelieving spouse, there is much work that must be done on a pastoral level before a pastor can condone the divorce and subsequent remarriage.  Were both the husband and wife unbelievers when they married?  How long until one of the two became a follower of Christ?  Exactly what caused the problems in the marriage?  Did the unbelieving spouse walk away based on a rejection of the gospel or based on other circumstances?  How much patience and true prayer has gone into a pursuit of reconciliation?  Is there any hope of saving the marriage?

The point is abundantly clear, God’s intention for marriage is not divorce and remarriage. We, as Christians, must not allow marriage covenants to end with the ease of instant potatoes or a drive-thru happy meal. God’s intention is for the marriage covenant to be kept in order to honor God and put on display the covenant keeping love of Jesus toward His bride – the church.  Even if a person is married to an unbeliever, Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 7:10-14, it’s best to stay married.  The goal is not divorce – the goal is to remain married in order that the believing spouse might win the unbelieving spouse with the gospel.  However, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 7:15-16, if the unbelieving spouse separates, the believing spouse is not held under bondage.

Based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19 and the Sermon on the Mount, I believe that the sin of adultery (porneia) is grounds for divorce and then a subsequent remarriage.  Based on Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7, if a believing spouse is abandoned by an unbelieving spouse, that is grounds for remarriage.  In a great number of situations that time does not permit me to explain, as a pastor I would be forced to counsel a person to remain single for life.  If a person divorces on trivial reasoning as a lost person and then after a period of serval years passes and he becomes a Christian, I can’t condone remarriage even after he has become a believer.  In such cases, I would have to counsel this brother to remain single.  As you can see, these issues can become extremely complicated, but we must honor God and His Word.

  • My pastoral counsel to the unmarried:  Remember that marriage is not a video game and God takes the marriage union seriously.  Enter into that union with humility and a desire to honor God.
  • My pastoral counsel to the married:  Create no room for divorce.  Remember, Jesus never commanded divorce.  Paul never commanded divorce.  Divorce is not forced on a couple – even when faced with the horrific sin of adultery.  Always seek reconciliation and restoration in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Seek to finish your course well and remain married for life.
  • My pastoral counsel to the divorced:  If you don’t have biblical grounds to remarry, lean upon God and remain single for life.  It would be far better to live a life of singleness and holiness as opposed to entering into a relationship knowing that you will be committing adultery.
  • My pastoral counsel to those who have been remarried without biblical grounds:  Confess your sin and trust that God is capable of forgiving you.  Adultery is not the unforgivable sin.  David found grace and forgiveness in God, but we must never use God’s grace as a license to sin.  We must never tempt God and play Him as a fool.

I conclude with words from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones regarding forgiveness:

“‘Have you nothing to say about others?’ asks someone. All I would say about them is this, and I say it carefully and advisedly, and almost in fear lest I give even a semblance of a suggestion that I am saying anything that may encourage anyone to sin. But on the basis of the gospel and in the interest of truth I am compelled to say this: Even adultery is not the unforgiveable sin. It is a terrible sin, but God forbid that there should be anyone who feels that he or she has sinned himself or herself outside the love of God or outside His kingdom because of adultery. No; if you truly repent and realize the enormity of your sin and cast yourself upon the boundless love and mercy and grace of God, you can be forgiven and I assure you of pardon. I hear the words of our blessed Lord: ‘Go and sin no more.’”

Lessons from Ashley Madison

Lessons from Ashley Madison

Life is full of choices and with all choices, there are lessons to be learned.  Sometimes we learn through positive or subtle ways, and at other times we learn lessons through brokenness, pain, and even failure.  Sometimes these lessons are learned first hand, and at other times these lessons are learned through the lives of others.

By now, everyone has heard the news regarding the hack of Ashley Madison and the subsequent pain it has caused many families.  There have been suicides, failed marriages, and broken relationships all as a result of poor choices.  This pain wasn’t caused by the hackers, it was caused by the choice to use Ashley Madison’s services to commit adultery.

Ashley Madison, a Canadian based company, started out in 2001 as a website based adultery service.  It quickly spread across the world boasting of membership numbers of 39 million people in 53 countries.  The name of the company was taken from two popular female names – Ashley and Madison.  The company’s slogan says it all – “Life is short.  Have an affair.”

In the Bible, we have stories of real life events, struggles, and pain that are provided for our instruction.  These events are not written down and preserved in Scripture to be an ongoing smear campaign for the people who are involved.  To be clear, God has provided these stories to us so that we can learn lessons about real people who made real choices and suffered real consequences.  After reminding the church at Corinth about the idolatry and sexual immorality of people from history, he made a very important statement in 1 Corinthians 10:11 – “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”

As we look back at the Ashley Madison debacle, what lessons can we learn?

Lesson #1 – Sin Will Find You Out

We have all heard Numbers 32:23 quoted regarding the exposure of sinful choices.  The reality is – we will have our sins exposed one day before the Lord.  What’s worse, having our sins exposed on the Internet or before the judgment throne of Holy God?  Perhaps what’s worse is having them exposed here prior to standing before God to give an account.

What Ashley Madison wanted its account holders to think was that it’s not just “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” – now it’s – “What happens through Ashley Madison stays in the database of Ashley Madison.”  However, the unthinkable happened.  Hackers gained access to the database and leaked out the information of account holders to the public leaving many people exposed and some of the people caught in this web of deceit are professing Christians.  Ed Stetzer, in a recent article following the hack, said the following:

Based on my conversations with leaders from several denominations in the U.S. and Canada, I estimate that at least 400 church leaders (pastors, elders, staff, deacons, etc.) will be resigning Sunday. This is a significant moment of embarrassment for the church—and it should be. To be honest, the number of pastors and church leaders on Ashley Madison is much lower than the number of those looking to have an affair. Yet, there is still much that we must consider in the midst of the embarrassment.

This is the danger of sin.  It looks nice, but it has a dangerous bite.  Sin attracts us through appealing to our fallen nature and then exposes us.  It brings about shame, regret, and sleepless nights of pain.  As we look back at the Ashley Madison hack, we can learn massive lessons – even if we’re not on the list of account holders.  God’s list is bullet proof.  He’s keeping records of our words, thoughts, and deeds.  Matthew 12:36 warns us, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”  The Psalmist said, “the Lordknows the thoughts of man” (Psalm 94:11).  We are told that God has books of our works that will one day be opened (Rev. 20:12).  Sin has a way of finding us out in this life, but be sure of it, we will all give an account before the throne of God for our sins.  It’s not about choosing better passwords or making more cautious choices in our sin – it’s about realizing that one day our sin will be exposed before God Himself.

Lesson #2 – Marriage Demands Commitment

Ashley Madison is a mockery to marriage.  The God ordained institution of marriage has been mocked from the beginning of time, and Ashley Madison continues to facilitate this mockery.  The adultery service is reprehensible in its covenant breaking service of sin.  God created marriage to be between a man and a woman for life.  From the very beginning, God ordained marriage to be a lifelong commitment.  This honors God.  Ashley Madison is a disgraceful and distasteful mockery to the God ordained institution of marriage.

Just as Christ is committed to the church as His bride, so should we as husbands be committed to the wife that God has blessed us with.  Anything other than a covenant keeping marriage is dishonoring to God.  In our pornographic age of decadent entertainment and debauchery – we have somewhere along the line lost our commitment in marriage.  Divorce is normalized in our culture.  Should we even be shocked about a line of greeting cards devoted to the adultery industry?  Perhaps in the wake of the Ashley Madison case, greeting cards seem somewhat tame.  But, the idea is very much alive in our culture.  The forbidden love of adultery is a lure that has captured many people in its web of deceit.  When we stand before our spouse and say “I do” – we should speak with words of commitment and our actions, words, deeds, and the secret thoughts and intents of our heart should uphold this devotion.

Lesson #3 – Take Heed Lest We Fall

As we look at the idolatry of Israel, we can learn lessons about worshipping a golden calf in the form of an iPhone or a red sports car.  We can learn lessons from the sexual perversion of Sodom as we make decisions in life.  These things are written for our instruction.  Ashley Madison is a very unfortunate story in a long line of unfortunate brokenness that litters human history.  It’s very unfortunate that marriages have been compromised, suicides have taken place, and families have been shattered in the wake of this tragedy.  But there is a very important lesson to be learned here.  Just as Paul was clear to warn the church at Corinth about the failures of people who have gone before them, he made a very important statement in the next verse, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Which one of us is immune to sin?  Wasn’t it King David who committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba?  If David committed adultery, who among us is immune to making similar mistakes?  That doesn’t mean that we have a license to sin because others have failed before us.  What that does mean is that real people made real decisions that resulted in real disaster – and we should take heed.  Imagine talking to David about his family and how his decisions to sin sent catastrophic ripples through his entire family.

As we look back and examine the Ashley Madison tragedy, we must learn lessons.  Our next step toward fulfilling a sexual thought with a co-worker, friend, or person on social media could end in public shame, a broken family, and humiliation before the enthroned Christ on the day of judgment.  May we learn important lessons from the Israelites, from David, and from those who failed through Ashley Madison.  Consider the reality that many people who have never visited Ashley Madison’s website have been committing the very same sin in secret, but one day, their sin will find them out.  Take heed, lest we fall too.  Remember the words of the Puritan Thomas Watson, “Sin has the devil for its father, shame for its companion and death for its wages.”

Bringing the Mistress Home to the Family

Bringing the Mistress Home to the Family

When I was a boy, I recall hearing of a massive sex scandal that derailed Sen. Gary Hart from his presidential bid in the late 80’s.  In the 90’s, the American public had to deal with the lies and unfaithfulness of President Bill Clinton.  Although he made the now famous speech, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” he later had to publicly admit to breaking his marriage vows in a relationship that he said was “wrong.” When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote his famous The Scarlet Letter a true fear existed in the culture and certainly within the church regarding the “scarlet A.”  Through much of our modern entertainment and political scandals, those fears have been desensitized to the point that today many men are bringing the mistress home to the family through sitcoms like “Desperate Housewives.”  What the family once feared and wept over is now celebrated and used for comedy relief and normal American entertainment.

The American Broadcast Company (ABC), in an attempt to up the bar in this increasingly competitive market in America is delivering a new show titled – “Mistresses.”  While mistresses once were an unspoken evil, they are now being delivered to your living room through the television screen in form of – get this – entertainment.  Has our culture really fallen to that low?  Are we truly being defined as a sexually open culture that fuels our economy through the exploitation of women and home wrecking sins?  The humbling answer to that question is – yes.

The statistics prove that what Americans once thought was evil and taboo – even from a non-evangelical Christian position is appearing in today’s mainstream sitcoms.  What was once reserved for the black covered magazines on shelves behind the counter at the local gas station is now appearing on free network television in the form of what some are calling – soft porn.  Is there any such thing as soft pornography? In a recent study through Women’s Health Magazine – it was discovered that 19% of women and 23% of men openly admit to committing adultery.  If the truth were known, those statistics seem very low in comparison to what R. Kent Hughes wrote back in 1991.

Recently Leadership Magazine commissioned a poll of a thousand pastors. The pastors indicated that 12 percent of them had committed adultery while in ministry – one out of eight pastors! – and 23 percent had done something they considered sexually inappropriate. Christianity Today surveyed a thousand of its subscribers who were not pastors and found the figure to be nearly double, with 23 percent saying they had had extramarital intercourse and 45 percent indicating they had done something they themselves deemed sexually inappropriate. One in four Christian men are unfaithful, and nearly one half have behaved unbecomingly! Shocking statistics! Especially when we remember thatChristianity Today readers tend to be college-educated church leaders, elders, deacons, Sunday school superintendents, and teachers. If this is so for the Church’s leadership, how much more for the average member of the congregation?Only God knows!1

recent Gallup poll, released on May 20, 2013 states that many Americans continue to believe that breaking your marriage vows is an unacceptable thing – even in our modern American culture, ABC is pushing their show forward and the people are buying it.  The latest statistics show that “Mistresses” is growing rapidly (an increase of 17% over the summer weeks) pushing ABC to the 2nd place in total viewers for Monday night (ages 18-49).

According to the reviews, “Mistresses” is a show about sexual scandals, adultery, and the decisions “to fall or not to fall into bed” with another person that you are not married to.  In an article published on The Daily Beast titled “Hey, ABC, so mistresses are OK now?,” Sophia A. Nelson claims that the show is a “provocative and thrilling drama about the scandalous lives of a sexy and sassy group of four girlfriends, each on her own path to self-discovery.”  Sarah Symonds, the founder of Mistresses Anonymous said, “Of course America is ready — we’ve been ready for years. It’s just the networks who haven’t been willing to take those risks. I for one am thrilled that ABC is taking this show on.  It’s very astonishing it hasn’t happened before because in the states you’ve got shows about everything.”  To sum it up, “Mistresses” is about the sin of adultery – perhaps on a different level than “Desperate Housewives” as it adds a bit of a serious plot to the show.  At any level, the fact that ABC would dump an enormous amount of money into this type of show that is successful in the early ratings is one more clear indictment upon America.

As the church continues to persevere in our evil culture that celebrates the most vile sins, we must understand the foundation and purpose of marriage.  The Bible is clear on both and it’s something we should never compromise.  John Piper has rightly said, “The highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and His church on display. That is why marriage exists.”2

1.  The Bible reveals that marriage has its source in God – not humanity.  God created and instituted marriage from the beginning and we see the first marriage performed by God as He literally presented Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Therefore, marriage cannot be altered and redefined by any culture regardless of time.

2.  Marriage is a love story between one man and one woman for life (until death separates the two), but it is intended to put on display a greater love story between Christ and His church.  Ephesians 5 points out clearly that Jesus laid down His life for His bride (the church).

Although our present culture desires to alter and redefine marriage based on the false premise that God’s way is outdated is completely false.  As the church moves forward in this sticky web of American sin, we must remember that the gospel was unpopular in Paul’s day and it remains the same in our present culture.  Adultery is not something that should be celebrated and used for entertainment.  What starts out with a show for entertainment leads to a desensitization of our hearts to one of the most vile and damaging sins – adultery.

Five ways to avoid the trap of adultery:

  1. Make sure that what breaks the heart of God breaks your heart.
  2. Flee from pornography – even if it’s labeled “soft pornography.”  Doing nothing is not an option.  Tim Challies, in his book, Sexual Detox, writes, “You can try to wall it off and prop something legitimate in front of it.  You can box it up and throw a blanket over it.  But it’s all just an exercise in denial.  Sooner or later the death you have tucked away is going to stink.”3
  3. Put to death the sinful lusts of the human heart and continue to wage war on your sin until you cross the finish line of life.
  4. Refuse to be entertained by sins that abuse women and peddle them as products to be sold in our marketplace.
  5. Remember that Jesus warns of committing adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:28).  This is a violation of your marriage vows.

We must work to build up walls that prevent us from risking our marriages and families.  The church should be a community that permeates the health and vitality of marriage and family.  May God be pleased to raise up a new generation of covenant keepers who put God on display through marriage.

Proverbs 6:32 – He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.

A sinner saved by grace,

Pastor Josh Buice

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1.  Disciplines of a Godly Man, Crossway Books, 1991, p. 21-22.

2.  This Momentary Marriage – A Parable of Permanence, Desiring God Foundation, 2008, p. 25

3.  Sexual Detox – A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn, Cruciform Press, p. 71.