Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen have a rule for relationships. “Don’t travel or dine alone with a person of the opposite sex who isn’t your spouse.” The Vice President sees this a healthy guardrail to protect him and his family from even the appearance of impropriety. He’s not the first to implement such a policy. Billy Graham did the same. I’ve known men and women of less status yet equal resolve who have made the same choice.
One might think that the Vice President’s boundaries would be robustly and widely applauded. The #MeToo movement has called each of us to a higher level of vigilance and concern. Inappropriate actions from one gender to the other can wound a person, deeply and permanently. What’s more, many of us have expressed concerns about tones of indecency about our national leaders. We might think that news of a leader’s rigorous resolve would be a model to follow. Curiously, some are hesitant to do so. Today’s release of a new, less than complimentary book about the Vice President (The Shadow President by Michael D’Antonio) has rekindled the disdain some feel for the “Pence Rule.” It has been deemed as the source of a double standard and a new barrier for women in the marketplace. The rule is perceived, by some, as sexist, suggesting that women lack self-control. (See “Why Women Hate the Pence Rule”)
Hmmm, perhaps the opposite might be the case? I’ve self-imposed similar boundaries, not because I don’t trust female colleagues, but because I know I don’t trust myself. And, even more, I don’t trust the devil. Given the right (or “wrong”) set of circumstances, the people of strongest character might make the worst of choices. I, for one, salute the Vice President and his wife. I have expressed concern over indecency in D.C. I want to be equally vocal about the appearance of decency.
The family is the most ancient battlefield on the planet. The devil plotted against the first family in the Garden of Eden and has schemed against each and every one since. Each husband and wife must develop a plan, in concert with one another, to protect their family. “Honor marriage and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex” (Hebrews 13:4 MSG emphasis mine).
The call of Scripture is to guard our marriages. Build a fence. Post sentries. Create boundaries. The intimacy of marriage is too valuable to be left unprotected. Be quick to understand: God is not anti-sex. Dismiss any notion of God as anti-affection and anti-intercourse. After all, he developed the whole package. Sex is his idea. From His perspective, sex is nothing short of holy.
He views sexual intimacy the way I view our family Bible. Passed down from my father’s side, the volume is a century old and twelve inches thick. Replete with lithographs, scribblings, and a family tree, it is, in my estimation, beyond value. Hence, I use it carefully.
When I need a stepladder, I don’t step on the Bible. If the foot of my bed breaks, you won’t find the family Bible serving as a prop. When we need old paper for kindling, we don’t rip a sheet out of this book. We reserve the heirloom for special times and keep it in a chosen place.
Regard sex the same way; as a holy gift to be opened in a special place at special times. The place is marriage and the time is with your spouse.
Intimacy outside of marriage pretends we can give the body and not impact the soul. We can’t. We humans are so intricately wired that whatever touches the body impacts the psyche as well. The phrase, “as long as no one gets hurt” sounds noble, but the truth is, we don’t know who gets hurt. You may think your dalliances are harmless and years may pass before the x-rays reveal the internal damage, but don’t be fooled. Casual sex is a diet of chocolate–it tastes good for a while–but the imbalance will ruin you. Sex apart from God’s plan wounds the soul.
Husbands and wives must take steps to “guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy.” Toward this end, I promised Denalyn that I would never meet with a woman behind closed doors or travel alone with a female companion. Does this decision come across as old-fashioned or unfair? If so, I don’t intend it as such. Yet, my number one aim is not the opinion of the people with whom I work, but the woman to whom I pledged my devotion.
Two events prompted my strict guidelines.
Some thirty years ago, a pastor who was well into his final years of ministry, asked to show me a list he’d compiled in the flyleaf of his Bible. It contained the names of ministers who’d lost their marriages and ministries due to marital infidelity. The list was long enough to take up the entire page. I did not read the names, nor did I want to do so. But I left with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Then, about twenty years ago, a friend gave me this counsel. “Make a list of all the lives you would impact through your sexual immorality.” I did. Every so often I re-read it. The list includes the names of my wife, my three daughters, my son-in-laws, my grandchildren. Every person who has ever read one of my books or heard my sermons. My publishing team. Our church staff. The list reminds me: one act of pleasure would be a poor exchange for a lifetime of lost legacy.
Can I encourage, no, implore you- make a plan to protect your marriage. Husbands and wives, sit down and sketch out a strategy. You think the “Pence Rule” is too strict? Fine. Create the plan that works for your family. Be assured the devil has one against you.
The “Pence Rule” is a good guide. Consider drafting your own. The details of your policy are open to discussion. The decision behind the discipline, however, is worthy of emulation. Fidelity in marriage matters. I, for one, salute the Pence family for seeking to protect it.
© Max Lucado, August 27, 2018