Lunchtime Gossip

By Jamie Neben

I recently joined a female friend for lunch, and during our conversation she casually observed how nice it was that we were both single.  Otherwise, getting together wouldn’t have been possible. Her statement confused me because I didn’t understand why an innocent meal between friends would suddenly be off limits if one of us was unavailable.  She informed me that, as Christians, we are not to put ourselves in situations that could lead to rumors and gossip. Essentially, that means any person in a committed relationship is not to be alone with someone of the opposite sex. No lunch dates, no business meetings, not even elevator rides, unless other people are present in each case.   She further noted that following this rule also prevents the onset of temptation and weakness.

Although I was raised in the church, I was not aware of the particular spiritual policy my friend was feeding me. After we said our goodbyes and parted ways, I found myself wanting to dig deeper into this topic. More specifically, I wanted to find Biblical scripture that supports it. After all, I know of many passages that admonish us not to gossip. But how can we avoid being gossiped about? Eventually, I found the likely source in Ephesians 5:3:

“Since you are God’s people, it is not right that any matters of sexual immorality or indecency or greed should even be mentioned among you.”

While I don’t believe the scripture specifically forbids men and women that are “spoken for” to meet alone, I wholeheartedly agree that some common sense parameters ought to be in place.  First, I hold my views with the assumption that the relationship is decidedly platonic. If romantic feelings exist on either side, the situation becomes potentially dangerous and should be avoided. Also, pre-planned events should be fully disclosed to significant others and then only go forward with their approval. To keep a secret is to plant the seed of a lie that could grow into a bigger betrayal than the act itself.  Finally, for the purposes of my argument, all activities are understood to occur in public settings such as restaurants and offices, and during reasonable hours.

Before we circle back to the Bible verse, we better talk about temptation. For the good, honest men and women who are not prone to cheating, and are in happy relationships, the risk of suddenly becoming weak is presumably minimal. After all, we’re talking about the company of friends and co-workers. Not strangers.  Do people change the very minute they commit to someone? A lifelong friend one day automatically becomes a conquest the next? I suppose it could happen on rare occasions but, on the other hand, what about trust? If partners can’t trust each other, or themselves, there are far greater issues needing to be addressed. I am especially perplexed by why a mature Christian would run away from the mere possibility of temptation. Confronting temptation is not the same thing as embracing it, and we would be wise to remember the difference. Moreover, one would think that our spiritual strength could help us keep our carnal urges under control (at least long enough to have lunch).

So, how can we ensure that something harmless isn’t mistaken for a secret rendezvous (or, in other words, a matter of sexuality immorality or indecency)?  Simply put, it’s damn near impossible to prevent, at least altogether.  Loose lips always look for exercise, and truth is often unimportant.  Some random acquaintance might jump to the wrong conclusion but I refuse to give them the power of determining my social interactions.  If we even attempt to adhere to such high standards, where do we draw the line?   For instance, what happens with family members?  A father cannot spend time with his daughter, nor can brothers and sisters be alone, if they’re not all single?  What if we’re with a gay friend?  Except in the smallest of towns, how would anybody know better?  Short of making public announcements every place we go, I’m not sure how to completely shut down the rumor mill.

In closing, common sense should dictate whether we’re in violation of the scripture.  I don’t feel that we need to place undue restrictions on ourselves based on what is a broad interpretation of the verse.  If we behave in a way that still honors our commitments, I think we’ve fulfilled our spiritual obligations.

We are all human beings and we should connect with each other whenever we have the opportunity.  We shouldn’t use gender as an excuse to interfere with the connection.

5 thoughts on “Lunchtime Gossip

  1. Wow. I’m impressed! I’m glad you got around to temptation because that is usually the vehicle for avoiding such encounters. And, “lust in your heart” is another avenue for such meetings. But, I agree that a simple lunch shouldn’t be the fodder for such gossip, especially if it’s not a scheduled, ongoing event. Even then, it’s nobody’s business and it would be wise for the gossipers to approach one or the other to find out the real reason for the luncheon to get the “real” story. Matthew 18 speaks of 1-1 conversations if there is a reason to be concerned with a perceived transgression. It might be discovered that the two were meeting to plan a birthday party for a mutual friend or even a spouse.

    So, I appreciate your subject matter. It’s good to have the ones like this discussed from time to time.

  2. Thanks Lynne!

    This represents a slippery slope in many ways, but I don’t think swearing off all encounters that can lead to gossip is the answer unless there is there is a history of trouble or some other obvious reason. In that case, gossip shouldn’t even be the issue.

    When you’re in a relationship and meeting someone for personal reasons (e.g. lunch), it’s probably best to actually invite your better half. If they choose to join, then great. If not, and they give you their blessing, I don’t know what the big deal is. They already know what you’re doing, so any gossip that comes out of it is worthless.

  3. When I go to lunch with somebody I don’t even think about the gossip unless I would be doing something unethical within my own mind. That has not been the case, so all those persons with judgmental minds should really find something else to do and concentrate on their own behaviors.
    I’ve gone to business lunches with male colleagues before without any problem because it was within the realm of the activities of the day. It was always in a neutral setting. No issue. I don’t think anybody would go out to lunch with male or female friends if they thought they would be the topic of gossip. In reality, it’s like the dance floor. Some may be concerned about how it might look, but 99% of the other dancers are worried about how they are doing.
    I trust you’ll have many good lunches to come!
    Thanks for your answer to my comment.

  4. Restrictions on a man and woman meeting alonein most situations are common practice among serious Christians. Yes, there are the temptations of the flesh. There is the possibility of infidelity if someone is in a relationship or married. In many cases there is not such a risk. Yet many consider avoiding even the appearance of evil. I guess 1 Thess 5:22 in many translations says to avoid all appearance of evil. So even if there is no actual chance of infidelity, many have taken the practice of not meeting with a member of the opposite sex alone as a protection from the appearance of evil. I think it’s kind of like abstinence — works every time it’s tried 🙂

    Personally I don’t take this as a strict rule. There have been times when a female boss took me to lunch to discuss business. But, hey, there were lots of people around! In the end it’s what God sees and He is the One we will all have to answer to. Christians will have to answer to God and, although saved from the lake of fire, He will judge His own house first.

  5. Bob –

    Thank you for your comment!

    Yes, we should be careful about what we do and how it might appear to others, but I don’t think we should give anybody power over our lives in that way (I think we both agree that the Bible isn’t asking us to). For those who interpret the scripture more strictly, I can certainly respect that. We all have to conduct ourselves in what each believe is the right way. But you’re absolutely right that God will judge us and our ultimate responsibility is to Him.

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