March 7

Relating to the Opposite Sex, Part 4:

Standards and boundaries at school and work

Ephesians 4:1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.

In terms of the sexes, most of us live in an integrated world. Few experience men-only and women-only lives. If we are going to honor the Lord in our opposite-sex relationships, we have to develop standards and boundaries that guide our hearts, minds, and conduct.

Most of us have a few “must-have’s” and “thou shalt not’s” as part of our relational tool bag. There are things we just do as a matter of course (e.g., treat co-workers with respect), and some things we believe we would never do (e.g., pursue a sexual relationship with a co-worker). But have we established clear and definable boundaries in terms of relating? We might not be rude to a co-worker of the opposite sex (which is good, of course), but are we filled with His grace in our conversations, hoping to reflect Christ to them? We might never have a physical affair with a co-worker, but have we slipped into flirting, coarse talk (Ephesians 5:4), or a near-intimate talking relationship with a member of the opposite sex who is unavailable to us (either because of their life or because of ours)?

Some good questions to ask ourselves: Would my behavior or words change if my parents/spouse/small group leader/pastor were around? Would I let any of them read my email communications with this person? Role-playing a few “what-if” scenarios with a trusted friend or spiritual adviser may help develop strategies that will protect us and help us keep our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). Having these strategies in our hearts and minds frees us to relate lovingly and openly.

Remember that proximity can lead to intimacy. Spending one-on-one time with a co-worker of the opposite sex, for example, should be kept to a relative—and professional—minimum and should be “in the light” in terms of everyone knowing that you are meeting.

The best boundaries, of course, are internal and emotional, not external or physical. The strongest and most effective standards are those that are held deep inside and that are a part of who we are even more than what we do or don’t do. Once someone close to the author was told, “You are so married.” Working in a business atmosphere of near-constant flirtation, someone carrying a virtual sign of unavailability stood out. If we are content in Him, and content with our various relationships, 1) it shows, and 2) we’re safe from many possible hazards.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that you care and have wisdom for all our various relationships. Show me how to act in a godly manner when I’m not in church or in a godly environment. Thank You that greater are You who are in me than he who is in the world.