Changing Standards for Changing Times? Not So Fast.

She still laughs about it, even though it happened a half century ago.

Gail had arrived in Columbus, Mississippi, to be interviewed for the position of Baptist director of college ministry. She would be the BSU director for the local campus of Mississippi State College for Women, or MSCW, now called Mississippi University for Women, or MUW. Since the position was paid by the First Baptist Church, the pastor, Dr. S. R. Woodson, was interviewing her and would be her primary supervisor.

After the interview, the pastor wanted to show Gail the nice building on College Street, some half-dozen blocks away.

The question was how to get her there without him, the preacher, sharing the automobile with her. A man alone in a car with a woman not his wife was unthinkable.

“I walked the entire six blocks,” Gail laughs. “With him driving his car alongside to make sure I was safe.”

Changing times? You bet. These days, almost every pastor I know would have said, “Come on and get in, and I’ll run you over there,” and not given it a second thought.

Changing standards? That’s another question altogether.

We’ve all heard Billy Graham say he decided early on in his ministry he would never be in a room alone with a woman not his wife, mother, daughter, or sister.

What about meeting a woman for coffee? Having lunch with a woman in a very public restaurant? Anything wrong with that?

Ah. Good question. One we’ve been discussing lately.


Confession: I’ve done that–taken a woman to lunch–but it’s been a truckload of years ago. And I felt awkward at the time, like maybe this should not be happening.

Today, as I write, I’m meeting two young women on our seminary campus–in town for preview weekend–and giving them a quick tour of New Orleans. Later, we might even go to lunch together. But there’s two of them, so no problem.

What if it were just one?

When Lauren–who is like a niece and precious to our whole family–was passing through town and had time only for lunch, I asked daughter-in-law Julie to join us. Since she also adores Lauren, it was a good thing to do.

When Holly visited a local church where I was preaching and wanted to do lunch, I arranged for my two granddaughters to go along. An instant friendship developed between them.

But do it alone? Not a good idea.

Why not? Isn’t this old-fashioned? An out-of-date standard that should have been tossed out with spats? Aren’t we living in modern times when people are beyond those old hypocritical restrictions?

Let’s talk about it.

1) People are still the same.

They still sin, they lust, they steal and cheat and lie. They find themselves in the middle of temptation before they realize what happened. A wise person will shield himself/herself against every entrapment they can.

2) The “times” has nothing to do with anything.

Every generation that has ever lived on this planet thought of itself as the latest model from the creator and superior to all the previous versions of humanity. “Finally, He got it right! He made us!”

The egotism of each generation is a given. And is a con.

To repeat 1), people are still the same. We never outgrow our love for sin, our blindness to our own foibles, and our need for protection.

3) Some things are right and always will be.

It has always been right to love God and love our neighbor, to give to the needy and to forgive sins. Right does not adapt itself to the calendar.

4) Some things are wrong and will always be wrong.

Lust, murder, adultery, thieving–they’re all wrong. Always have been; always will be. The fact that we are living in the “modern age,” the age of Post-anything, has nothing to do with anything.

5) There is a quick test which I recommend.

Ask your wife. She will tell you the truth.

Saturday while I was drawing at a car show in New Orleans, I overheard two women as they talked about a cat which was allergic to other cats. I found that so bizarre, I interjected myself into their conversation to inquire about it.

“That’s not the worst of it,” the woman said. “She’s also allergic to herself. If she licks her own fur, she breaks out in a rash.”

I said, “I’m a preacher, and I guarantee you there is a sermon illustration in there somewhere!” She laughed.

That cat–like many of us–is his own worst enemy. We sometimes do things against our best judgment, knowing they are wrong and going on regardless, and end up paying severe consequences.

The standards of accepted behavior may be adjusted back and forth a little over the generations, but not so much that we should condone crossing those invisible lines of male-female connections and then try to justify it by rationalizations.

12 thoughts on “Changing Standards for Changing Times? Not So Fast.

  1. Fantastic, Dr. McKeever! Shielding ourselves from entrapments will always be relevant. I was facing this exact dilemma earlier today and possibly for tomorrow as well. Thankfully, everything worked out today and I did not have to ride in a car alone with a sister-in-Christ. I have also made arrangements for tomorrow. Thank you for obeying the Holy Spirit and writing this. It has confirmed so much. You have been used of the Lord tremendously!

  2. Fantastic, Dr. McKeever! Shielding ourselves from entrapments will always be relevant. I was facing this exact dilemma earlier today and possibly for tomorrow as well. Thankfully, everything worked out today and I did not have to ride in a car alone with a sister-in-Christ. I have also made arrangements for tomorrow. Thank you for obeying the Holy Spirit and writing this. It has confirmed so much. You have been used of the Lord tremendously!

  3. Another great article!

    Here in Saudi Arabia, if a man and a woman will be caught together (i.e. Eating in the restaurant, walking together in the mall or together in a car) and they can’t present a marriage contract they were thrown directly to jail. In our BS program we greatly emphasize that a man going alone with a woman not his wife will not only disobey the law of Saudi Arabia but it is inappropriate and must not be tolerated. This kind of prohibition is an advantage to them as it will shield them against any sin.

  4. Another great article!

    Here in Saudi Arabia, if a man and a woman will be caught together (i.e. Eating in the restaurant, walking together in the mall or together in a car) and they can’t present a marriage contract they were thrown directly to jail. In our BS program we greatly emphasize that a man going alone with a woman not his wife will not only disobey the law of Saudi Arabia but it is inappropriate and must not be tolerated. This kind of prohibition is an advantage to them as it will shield them against any sin.

  5. I understand what you’re saying and I do agree overall with what you’ve written. However, I cannot help but wonder if there is a “but…” that should be injected here. For instance, John chapter four tells us that Jesus sat down and talked with a woman. As far as we know, Jesus talked to the woman…alone. The conversation probably lasted more than 10 minutes…alone. The woman obviously had a bad reputation, not exactly someone any pastor would dare be with…alone. Jesus talked to her about eternal life and it was just the two of them…alone. Most pastors wouldn’t dare spend time sharing the Gospel with a woman alone. I’ve often wondered about this scenario: what if my mother was driving to the store one rainy afternoon and her car broke down beside the road. Having no cell phone, she cannot call for help. So, she gets out of the car and tries to wave for other drivers to stop and help her. No one stops. So, after a long time of trying to flag down some help, she decides to walk home in the cold rain.

    Then, you happen to be driving on the same road and you see my mother walking in the rain, wet and cold. You recognize my mother, but you dare not stop and pick her up. Why? Because you know how’d that look, right? If you offer her a ride, why my mother would be in your car with you…alone. My point is simply this. Sometimes we’ve just got take that risk. There is a time NOT to be alone with a woman. BUT, there is a time when you’ve just got to do the right thing and help someone, even if it is a woman, off the street…alone.

  6. Great article. For some 41 years in ministry, I have maintained two of those “out dated life issues”. I agree wholeheartedly with the Article and add that, I would never handle the Church money either! A lot of good men (including Pastors) have gone down because of a “short Drive’ with a woman, other than his wife, or got a ” little bit” involved with the church’s money.

    Thanks Dr. Joe

  7. Great article. For some 41 years in ministry, I have maintained two of those “out dated life issues”. I agree wholeheartedly with the Article and add that, I would never handle the Church money either! A lot of good men (including Pastors) have gone down because of a “short Drive” with a woman, other than his wife, or got a “little bit” involved with the church’s money.

    Thanks Dr. Joe

  8. Great article I fully agree. Jesus and the woman at the well were in a public place where they could be observed by any passer by. I am sure Jesus would not have gone into a building alone with her.

  9. Being alone with a woman, that’s nothing! Now you have to be much more concerned about being alone with a child that is not yours. At our church everyone that has any ministry lay or clergy has to take a course in Safe Guarding God’s Children and God’s People. All office doors must have windows including the Rector’s office. If I as a grown man walk into a rest room and there are children in there I must immediately leave that restroom. And oh yes do not dare even touch a child in any way except a public handshake. There has been so many bad things go on in the world around us specifically involving churches and children you almost can’t get anyone to work with children for fear of being accused of something.

  10. Great article, Joe. Much needed words for our time. Avoid all appearance of evil is what the Good Book says.

  11. Dear Dr. Joe,

    Thank you so much for this timely wisdom from the Lord. My husband just recently returned from a missions trip, and was asked by a christian, married woman who would, “love to talk to him about his trip”, to meet with her. I initially thought that it was “old fashioned” to share with him how uncomfortable I felt

    about that. However, thankfully, the Holy Spirit comforted me otherwise. I also sought the counsel of a woman of God to share my concerns and for guidance. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”, (Jeremiah 17:25). May the Lord bless you for standing up for righteousness!!!

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