Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why can't we be friends?

Lack of attention to friendship is an enormous gap in most evangelical discipleship.  I could build a very tall soapbox on this subject, but I have neither the time nor authority to offer a general sort of rant. Rather, I want to consider a question that becomes particularly troublesome for many young adults: the question of friendships between men and women.

I know that much of my joy and contentment as a single adult come from the fact that I have friends who are both men and women. I cannot assume that my experiences speak to general (much less biblical) truths.  However, I also know that these friendships can be complicated, and that some Christian leaders openly admonish Christians to avoid close friendships with members of the opposite sex. 

 I don't mean to minimize the real concerns many Christians have about these friendships, but I am convinced that in Christ, it is possible for men and women, whether married or unmarried, to be friends.  I also know that like most human endeavors after holiness, these friendships need a lot of grace to keep from going wrong. Today, I'm interested in naming that grace. To begin the conversation, here are a few of the principles I've derived from observing successful, even holy, male/female friendships:

* Like many strong friendships, they begin not with admiration of one another, but with some common interest or participation in a common work. Conversations and time together tend to strengthen these shared commitments.

* They are usually part of a larger friendship network consisting of both men and women, such as Sunday School classes or lifegroups.

* If one or both of the friends are married, spouses are integrated and welcomed into the friendship. 

Do you believe men and women can sustain strong friendships? How does the Bible guide us on this subject? How have you sustained opposite-gender friendships as an adult? 


  1. Bethany,
    Great questions. We have struggled with this recently in our community here in Florida. I don't have anything to add except thanks for asking and prompting discussion.
    ~Amanda Beck

  2. I wish I had a better example to look back on from the days when I was single....but honestly, I didn't do things well. Honestly, once a spouse is part of the equation, it gets much easier: you just involve them. As a married man, I generally make sure of three things:

    1) Avoid, if at all possible, being alone with another woman. Many people make this sound as if it is a huge deal...but that hasn't been my experience. Generally, my wife and I form friendships as a couple anyway, so we engage our friends as a couple. If my wife isn't available for whatever reason, I just ensure that everything is either within a group setting, or in a very public place.

    2) Avoid, if at all possible, the appearance of evil. Meaning, as a 20's guy, meeting a woman other than my wife in public requires caution. If the woman is of a similar age, will this look like a date? Would our conduct towards each other be questioned by those around us? This tends to not be as much of an issue once you start jumping generations....people rarely ask these questions when you see one person in their 50's or 60's and another in their 20's

    3) Maintain a low "freak out" threshold. I generally get uncomfortable with any sort of meaningful affection (even just friendly) from a woman. There are exceptions to this...but they are rare, and only in very close friendships (again, that my wife is a part of...and normally better friends with them than I am.)

    Honestly though...I'm not sure exactly how all that translates to the single person. I'll have to do some thinking on what the deeper principles are behind my practices.