My work requires me to travel regularly, sometimes with colleagues. Occasionally, I’m assigned to a trip with someone of the opposite gender. As a Christian, I’m not sure how to handle that. I’m not afraid of having an affair, but I don’t want to give even the impression of impropriety. What should I do?
If you polled a room of well-meaning Christians, you’d get various responses to this question. The question of travel is one of many we face regarding boundaries with the opposite sex.
Should I have a closed-door, one-on-one meeting with someone of the opposite sex?
Should I meet off-site for lunch or coffee with someone of the opposite sex?
Should I text a coworker of the opposite sex?
Should I hug a coworker of the opposite sex who has returned from bereavement leave?
It’s easy to fall into extremes here, especially in our overly sexualized culture. On one end, we can avoid even the most innocent of interactions, seeing every person of the opposite sex as a likely stumbling block. On the other, we can act as if gender doesn’t matter and shouldn’t influence our interactions at all.
Both approaches miss the mark. We should build sensible and wholesome relationships that allow us to thrive at work and, most importantly, in our Christian walk (1 Thess. 5:11).
Honor God and Avoid Sin
Your question is one I’ve thought about a lot. I’m a married woman who commonly meets with both male and female clients in one-on-one settings. Sometimes it’s over Zoom and sometimes it’s over coffee or in an office. We may discuss the difficult feedback he received on a 360-degree review. We may work through her uncertainties as a leader. We may plan for how he can best navigate a heated conflict brewing within his team. It’s a privilege to come alongside these clients in their challenges, and I recognize these aren’t conversations people want to have amid the hustle and bustle of a busy lobby or another public space.
In addition to my current work with clients, I’ve traveled with male colleagues in the past. We’ve shared client notes, flights, Ubers, and sometimes a table at the airport food court.
How can we pursue godliness in our interaction with the opposite sex? We need to examine the specific details, contexts, and relationships at play. The Bible doesn’t tell us to avoid sharing a taxi or a table or an office with a person of the opposite sex. It also doesn’t tell us to never be alone with a person of the opposite sex.
The Bible doesn’t tell us to never be alone with a person of the opposite sex. Even so, it’s far from silent on how we should conduct ourselves.
Even so, the Bible is far from silent on how we should conduct ourselves. As Christians, our aim should be twofold. First, we should behave in ways that honor God and his design for our relationships. Second, we should avoid sinning (1 Cor. 6:18) or putting others in situations that might cause them to stumble (Luke 17:1).
When you apply these standards to travel decisions or meeting locations, it’s helpful to consider a few guiding questions.
Is It Public?
It’s often in private that boundaries are crossed. Keep interactions as public as possible. Don’t meet at the dining table in his hotel suite to go over notes before the client meeting. Meet in the lobby of the hotel, a conference room with windows, or at the coffee shop down the street. Leave no room for secrets, or even the speculation of secrets.
Keep all details of your trip “public” to others, such as your spouse, other colleagues, or a mature Christian friend. If that person is uncomfortable with anything you have planned, put more boundaries in place.
Is It Professional?
Some professions require meeting with people in private settings. Consider a medical doctor, a therapist, an executive coach, or a human resources manager. For each, professional ethical codes should guide appropriate interactions.
Consider the body language, tone, and content of your interactions. If a relationship seems even somewhat unprofessional, look for ways to create more distance. For example, don’t spend every minute of a business trip together. You might sit in a different row on the flight. You might check out a different restaurant for dinner or invite clients to join you in a group setting. Such boundaries aren’t only professional but also wise.
Is It a Doorway to Sin?
Many years ago, I served alongside a young couple at the church I attended at the time. While the husband was never unfaithful to his wife, he felt himself becoming too close to a woman he worked with. The job required them to spend a lot of time together, traveling from site to site. They formed a friendship. He began to feel an attraction. He knew it was unwise to continue in a situation that might put him on a path toward sin. He was transparent with his wife and, in what remains one of the wisest decisions I’ve seen, he changed jobs.
If you’re married, your level of intimacy with your spouse should be greater than with any other person (Gen. 2:24). If you’re single, remember your married colleagues need to be closer to their spouses than to you. If you and your colleague are both single, remember God’s good design to keep sex inside of marriage.
Physical intimacy isn’t the only challenge. So is emotional intimacy. Was it wrong for this man to ride in a car with a female coworker? Not in and of itself. Could it have led to sin down the road? He knew it could have.
If you feel any attraction toward a coworker, or if you suspect your coworker is attracted to you, it’s important to set tighter boundaries. You’ll often see the red flags. Ask the Spirit to guide you in making wise decisions (Gal. 5:16).
Is It a Doorway to Sharing Jesus?
While some interactions can put us on a path toward sin, others can put us on a path toward sharing the gospel.
Ask the Spirit to guide you in making wise decisions.
Many people come to Jesus because someone of the opposite sex was open to discussing his or her faith. Sometimes that person is a coworker, and it’s fair to say some of those conversations have happened during flights or while sharing a ride to the conference center. Don’t miss those opportunities to share Jesus with both brothers and sisters.
I hope these questions support you in prayerful consideration. Even if things seem perfectly acceptable on all fronts, follow the Spirit if you feel led to create additional boundaries. Walk in step with his leading.