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In this is love,

not that we have loved God

but that he loved us

and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another,

God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

(1 John 4:10-12 ESV)

Below is a video that Challies linked to a few days ago where college students were  interviewed over the question, “can men and women just be friends?” The result from the video was very fascinating (Note: video interviews can be deceptive things. One can just choose to include the interviews the person wants to include and so show the results they want to. So that warning must be understood and considered when watching such things). In the video several men and women are asked the question. All the women shown give the initial answer that they can be friends with no hesitation. The men, however, give the exact opposite answer stating it cannot be that men and women can just be friends. You can watch it below,

This is a very important topic because relationships play such a prominent aspect of each of or lives. And as believers relationships take on a very important role. Our God is one who exists in relationship and so have crafted His creatures as those who need relationship.

On top of that He has created different genders that are to relate to one another. They are different in that they are created equal in worth and dignity while intended to fulfill different roles. The differences are not part of the problem but instead part of ascribing glory to the God who created them. And the primary purpose of the created difference is that man can cleave to a women in marriage to fulfill the creation mandate (Gen 1:27-28). Thus, man and woman have woven into the fabric of their structure the functions of relationship and desire that will pull them towards marriage when they relate together.

Yet, there is more about how they are interact than just match making for marriage. The church is made up of both men and women. And these two genders are given commands to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor,  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly, Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 12:10, 15-16; 13:8) and many other commands of love, service, and exhortation.

I remember hearing about a distinguishing mark of Christian churches in Turkey not to long ago. And the mark was a fascinating one. Out of all the things one could think of when the believers I knew met with these churches one of the things that stuck out to them was that men held conversations with women. In the surrounding culture you do not see men holding open conversations with women. Rules, regulations, and inward chauvinism keeps that from happening. But when Christ does a transforming work, by the Spirit, with the gospel relationships change. Men and women who are made anew in Christ start treating one another as family and the weirdest thing happen…they start talking to one another.

Believing men and women  are called to live together in community. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Christ calls His people to become part of Him, one body united, “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,” (Philippians 1:27). Thus, as members of the same body, Christ, there is more to the relationship than just finding who to marry.

So how does this all work out when we come to this issue? Is is right or wrong for men to make friendships with women when there is no intention for marriage.

As already laid out there is to be a relationship between believing men and women which is not mere acquaintance but which is not marriage. We could not fulfill the Biblical commands listed above if either of those were the case. So maybe it is how we think about what is a “friend” and what constitutes “friendship.”  I believe that Scott Croft gives some great guidelines about what constitutes a friendship that the bible envisions between brothers and sisters. He answers how brothers and sisters are to interact with one another,

First, with care and concern. We should be concerned for each other. First and foremost, each other’s relationship with Christ. But additionally how are our lives being shaped to be more Christ like. Furthermore, we should treat each other with care. Protecting the reputation of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is part of glorifying the Lord.

Second, with interest. Relationships require some knowledge. Now I want to be careful here because the world will often tell us that more knowledge is always a good thing. In fact, that might well be inappropriate. But I think you will all agree that it is nearly impossible to have a relationship without any knowledge. Generally knowing each others lives is critical to brotherly or sisterly relationship.

Third, with encouragement. We should be spurring one another on in the faith. To do so, we need to know each other generally. We need to sit under the word together, be shaped and molded by the public proclamation of the word, discussing it and its implications.

Fourth, with service. We should be serving one another. Sacrificing our own needs and time for each other in order that others might see we are Christians in the way we love and serve each other.

Finally,…with absolute purity. Knowing how sin has twisted the good gift of sexuality , Paul exhorts Timothy to be pure so that his relationships with sisters in the faith might glorify God and not confuse or obscure the Gospel.

I think this is very helpful in understanding how we relate to one another. As different situations arise these principles of loving, honoring, protecting, and serving one another can guide us to the most faithful actions. If this level of relationship exists between us I believe it will produce much good. But beyond this I believe there is danger.

Sin is a ever present reality in our lives which works to destroy the joys of relationships. One of the things that stood out in the interviews is that both parties are working from a mentality of using someone to get what they want. Men enter into the friendship so that their might be the possibility for something more. Women enter into the friendship so that they can get what they want. Notice that most of the women knew that their guy “friends” had feelings for them that went beyond friendship. In other words they liked the attention and knowledge that a guy liked them. Lets call the drive for a lot of “friendships” for what it is, selfish ambition. Both parties are just putting themselves in a position where they can use the other to get what they want. This is in complete contradiction to the biblical command for believers to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Sin brings its destructive effect upon relationships in many ways such making people, “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

Also, It is the reality that God designed men and women to marry. There is a level of relationship between a man and a woman which is only to be reserved for progress and attainment of marriage. “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). The Lord knows how he has created us. Men and woman are designed to be attracted to one another so that they can become married. Their relationship capabilities are created for that end. We would be foolish to live as if this did not exist. Thus, our relationships should not communicate what we do not intend for them to communicate or try to live as we are not made to live.

When these two things are combined I think it is a strong word about not developing deep friendships with members of the opposite sex (and by deep I mean a relationship that is more than the the guidelines laid out by Croft). We play with fire where one can read more into the relationship than there is and we can easily be using one another for our own selfish purposes.  The dangers out way the pros in this case.

In Conclusion, we should not retreat from brother and sister relationship. Instead, by God’s grace, we can move forward in growing to become better brothers and sisters of the risen Lord. And because we want to become better brother and sisters to one another we will guard one another in how we relate to one another. If we understand friendship in the parameters mentioned above I believe that we can live in harmony, joy, and holiness together. Yet, we must be careful that we do not let sin slip into our relationships where the only thing we are concerned about is ourselves and getting what we want.

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