Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Friday is for Friends

posted by xscot mcknight

The 11th chapter of Epstein’s Friendship: An Expose concerns friendships with the opposite sex. He writes eloquently — why even mention his habit? — of Samuel Johnson and Hester Thrale as well as of Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford. Then he explores his own friendships with women.
The problem here is singularly lurking: opposite sex friendships can lead to intimacies that destroy marriages, and Epstein has already gone on record with the observation that the two don’t mix well. At that point I disagreed and said I thought our spouses ought to be our best friends. Well, no need to return to that.
It made me think of my friendships with women and of Kris’ friendships with males — nothing, really, to make much of. I’ve had good friends, with whom I have coffee or with whom I visit in their office or in my office at school, and Kris has friends at both Wheaton College and at the Meier Clinic.
Both of us made commitments long ago — not so much verbally but at the visceral level — that we would remain one another’s best friends and that friendships with those of the opposite sex would never get close. They’ve always been that way.
I’m wondering what you think about this matter?



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Ted Gossard

posted September 1, 2006 at 6:03 am


I would agree that we have to guard friendships we have with the opposite sex.
As an evangelist, Billy Graham has been known for doing that, to the point that he offended some (I gather).
But pastors do have to get closer to their flock, including those of the opposite sex. But in doing so, they must be guarded. And above all, must keep a strong relationship with their spouse grounded on a firm faith and walk in God.
I think the key is distance. Be as friendly as friendly can be. But from the proper distance. Help as fully as you can help. But from the proper distance. Especially emotionally.



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James Petticrew

posted September 1, 2006 at 6:18 am


12 years of pastoral experiences tells me your wisdom is bang on. However my wife and I have been aware of single males and females who in church often feel alienated and miss out on the aspects of friendship which someone from the opposite sex can bring and so we have tried to develop friendships as a couple with single people of the opposite sex being careful not to meet them on our own unless for an agreed purpose and that the other partner is aware of meeting.



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Susan

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:00 am


As a single female, I resonate with what James just wrote. I have found the need to develop some “ground rules” that help me create and keep healthy boundaries in friendships with persons of the opposite sex, in particular when they are married persons (which at my age is most often the case):
1) you will NEVER be, and should never TRY to be, this person’s best friend! If you are becoming so, something is wrong. Spouses ought to be best friends and if they are not, that is where the work of friendship-building should be happening, primarily…maybe spend a little less time with those other friends and work on your marriage! but I digress…
2) when I talk to that person, I am in essence talking to their spouse, too. Unless there is some very good reason, I consider the things I share as shared with the spouse. Spouses have no secrets.
3) if there is even a hint that the person is developing an unhealthy attitude or is not a safe person, I back off!
Hints are
a) they begin to disparage their spouse when they talk to you
b) they do things like shut office doors or want to be somewhere “private” all the time
c) they tell you things they should only tell a spouse
d) they ask you things only a spouse should reveal
e) they rely on you for emotional support where their spouse should be doing this for them
this list could be longer and unpacked, but no need. The idea is that there are intimacies in relationship that are not sexual, but are equally belonging only to the marriage relationship and out of bounds for friendships outside of marriage! If singles truly have a high regard for marriage, they will respect the boundaries and so will the married person.
That said, I have many nice friendships with male co-workers and brothers-in-Christ, and we enjoy sharing different perspectives and lively conversation!



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Scot McKnight

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:15 am


Susan,
Great one. Kris always talks about the importance of “emotional” boundaries, and once they are crossed a relationship can be affair-like. And that there is not that much difference between an emotional affair and a physical affair.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:39 am


Oh goodness, where to start?
On one level, I dont have a problem if someone (Billy Graham, a local pastor, or just a “regular” person) wants to put up high boundaries between with the opposite sex such as never riding in an elevator with them, or never being in a car with them alone, etc. It’s each persons right to choose their own comfort level…but on the other hand, isn’t this what Scot describes as zealotry? To add on all these extra rules to cross-gender friendships denies the sufficiency of scripture.
Now before someone brings in the “avoid any appearance of evil” logic, let me quote what Scot says in his post on zealotry, “Zealots think their zeal makes them immune to criticism because they are so zealous for God; their zeal never to get close to breaking any commandment makes them better than others. In other words, zeal shows just how deeply committed a person is to God and therefore immune to criticism.”
I want to suggest that sometimes, in people’s zealotry on this issue, they are blinded to an area where some criticism might actually be due. When a man says to a woman, “I wont ride in an elevator with you” or “I wont talk to you with the door closed” or “I wont be your friend” one of the messages he is sending to her is that she is dangerous. He is making her nothing more than a sex object. He is rejecting something very core about her, and teaching her that its not good to be female. He might avoid some cultural criticism from fellow believers, but he has dehumanized another person in the process.
Now, I understand that we want to avoid the appearance of evil. That is a good thing. But friendship isn’t evil. If we applied this fairly across the board, Christian men with homosexuality in their past would simply have no one to be friends with. If we agree with Harry (in “When Harry met Sally”) that sex always has to get in the way of cross-gender friendship, then we are saying we are determined by our sexual drives. We are saying that if we feel an attraction, we must act on it. This is not the Christian way. That’s the worlds way. I know cross-gender friendship isn’t for everyone, there are defiantly some people who have no business with it, but let’s at least be open to the idea that some people can practice this without automatically falling into sin.



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Kevin

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:58 am


One huge problem is that in our culture, and Christian subculture, we simply have no template for cross-gender friendships. That’s sad and unfortunate. I’m inclined to agree w/Jennifer–the hyper protective mode reveals the extent to which we have capitulated to our culture in thinking that men–all men–are consumed with sex and unable to engage in relationships w/women without being driven by sexual interest and desire, and that women–all women–are objects (or mere objects) of men’s physical/sexual desires.
Cross-gender friendship is vast, unexplored terrain within our culture and w/in the church. If ever there was a book in practical theology that is sorely needed, it is a book that explores this issue. I think we (I) need guidance beyond the “erect huge walls of separation for protection from ourselves”. Though I agree we do need boundaries.
One last thought. Should there be no emotional intimacy whatever in cross-gender friendships, especially when at least one of the parties to the friendship is married? I don’t see how a friendship can exist at all w/o some emotional intimacy.
Kevin



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:06 am


Kevin,
Friendship without intimacy is impossible. You can be friendly, but not friends.
I know Scot mentioend the danger of an emotional affair, and I agree with him that such things do happen…but not all intimacy between a man and a woman is an emotional affair.
And I think you are right on about how this is a great subject for a book on pracitcal theology. I’m not aware of antyhing already published even comes close to giving this a deep treatment. But I do know that Dan at http://danbrennan.typepad.com writes a lot about these issues and is working on a book about it. (and in the interest of full disclosure : Dan is a very close friend of mine :-) )



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Susan

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:12 am


Jennifer,
There is a big difference between the zealot who makes rules and thinks the rules will do the work of truly pious living for him/her, and the person who loves God and wants to live a life that respects and protects singles and honors the marrige comittment of others and therefore is disciplined in their behaviors toward the opposite sex.
When my male friends do things like praise their wives, leave the office door open (unless it truly is a conversation that needs to be protected this way), and keep conversation within the bounds of propriety, I feel honored and protected. If a man starts treating a woman like she is “dangerous” perhaps this is a sign that there is something wrong, and questions need to be asked to get to the bottom of it. This takes a willingness to be real and honest. Not everyone can do that, unfortunately.
I agree with Harry’s funny remark in that movie up to a point: the sexual aspects are indeed always there, like an elephant in the room! It’s best to be honest about the elephant, so it can be managed with integrity.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:17 am


Susan,
Sure, you can be honest about the elephant in the room – but that doesnt mean you have to lay down and get stepped on by it.
Do you think its possible for a man to honor/protect you AND have close friendship with you?



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Susan

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:35 am


Jennifer,
Yes! If they did not do the former, there would be no latter! All my close male friends are protective and honoring toward me.



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Kevin

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:39 am


Jennifer,
Right; no doubt one can be friendly w/o emotional intimacy. But friends are more than friendsly, no? Friend-ship seems to me to require some degree of emotional intimacy. How to modulate the intensity or degree of that intimacy in cross-gender friendships is, I guess, the issue.
Thanks for the link to your friend’s site!
Kevin



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Dan Brennan

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:46 am


As someone who enjoys a “best friend” relationship with my wife, along with a couple of deep intimate friendships with the opposite sex, I do heartily affirm in the emotional and spiritual depth of such possibilites.
Is it possible to close cross-sex friendships while enjoying close intimate friendship in marriage. Yes, we are emotionally and spiritually complex beings–made in the image of God.
I think in the new heavens and the new earth we will enjoy embodied close friendships–with the same sex and the opposite sex.
I do see William Webb’s redemptive hermeneutic as fleshing this out culturally as we live between the “now and the not yet” of God’s kingdom. This hermeneutic, I suggest not only has implications for woman’s roles in society and pastoral roles, but friendship intimacy that goes beyond being merely “friendly.” Hence, I would differ with those that married people can only be “friendly” but not close in friendship towards the opposite sex. There is a world of difference between friendly and friendship intimacy. Cross-sex friendship intimacy could be, and is, I suggest, a practice of justice towards gender reconciliation when it is lived out faithfully before the Lord.
My cross-sex friendships are always in “front of” of, and “with” my wife. She is passionately involved in them. Early on, in the development of these friendships, I included my wife in the relationship. So, that meant she overheard my discussions with my female friends. One of my closest female friends who is single, ended up staying with us for 6 weeks when she moved into the area.
Conceptually, in the New Testament, the difference between friendly and friendship intimacy in cross-sex friendships (as well as same-sex friendship intimacy) would play itself out in the emotional and spiritual depth of Christian love and kindnes–with agape and the philadelphia dynamics overlapping. One can have a significant emotional friendship without falling into lust, or worse yet, adultery. I think we lose out when we socialize or sexualize the possible friendship intimacy. I think if we don’t read the New Testament in a flat way, Jesus opens the door for such in his reaching out to women and allowing “intimacy” (the almost R-rated version of woman who was a “sinner” repeatedly kissing his feet. Jesus referred back to her entire acts of devotion to him, a man, as “love”)with women. Indeed, think about in cross-sex friendship terms, a man and a woman with no one else around them, talking about her sexual relationships.
Trust and care are significant issues in the development of, and the navigation of cross-sex friendship intimacy. In my experience, and research, such intimacy is possible and happens. In America, such intimacy is more accepted among “secular” friends as well as non-evangelicals. That’s my impression, anyway. As I have read on this issue more egalitarians are open to this, than complimentarians, although I don’t want to over generalize.
I liked what Susan wrote. I would nuance it a little more. I go for emotional support to my wife that’s exclusive. However, I have rich, additional, not-competing for the exclusive emotional support from my cross-sex friendships–including my single female friend. That’s totally within the presence of wife, who has deeply supported my cross sex friendships.
Growth in close cross-sex friendships means pressing through stereotypical boundaries, boundaries as Jennifer has pointed out, may be more to do with “zealotry” than careful but bold trust in God and others.



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Dan Brennan

posted September 1, 2006 at 9:13 am


Kevin,
I do agree about a practical book. A pracitical book along providing theological and hermeneutical foundations for such a Christian practice. Lord willing, I hope to do such. My friends and my wife think I should write one.



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David

posted September 1, 2006 at 9:40 am


When I was college one of the adnimistrators was a POW in Vietnam. While he was in Vietnama his wife left him for their minister who was probably trying to console her during a very troubling time. The line was crossed. Susan’s five suggestions were great and I think that although “Jesus opens the door for such in his reaching out to women and allowing “intimacy” #12 we are not Jesus and therefore should take steps to ensure that we are not being pulled into something that ends up being destructive. What is the number one reason why pastors get burned and leave the ministry?



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David

posted September 1, 2006 at 9:42 am


Actually I was never college, I went to college though and Vietnama is not a country but Vietnam is. Sorry for the typos.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 9:54 am


David,
Yes, some people cross the line from friendship into an affair but should misuse = no use? The woman you spoke about who left her husband wasnt practicing friendship, she was practicing immorality. Practicing friendship with someone of the opposite gender is not immoral…I think this is where zealotry comes in. We all want to avoid the sin/heartbreak of adultry, but in our desire to do that, let’s not make rules that are bigger than what the Bible makes.



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Dan Brennan

posted September 1, 2006 at 10:01 am


David,
Yes, I too, apologize for my typos in my first post! Your point is good. However, I suggest a more thicker account is possible. Understanding “consolation” as a vulnerable path to intimacy, both pastoral and/or friendship intimacy, is an important consideration in contextualizing mercy. I suggest it’s important that great care is needed to practice mercy amongst cross-sex relationships.
Yes, I agree with you that “we are not Jesus.” However, his example as the God-man should not be entirely dismissed, either. Many egalitarians point to his friendship and respect towards women as a decisive model in affirming and blessing women today. Surprisingly, this is not just a contemporary issue. There have been rich, intimate cross-sex friendships in Christian tradition. These men and women have looked to Jesus as our paradigmatic model for pursuing cross-sex intimacy.



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Jen O

posted September 1, 2006 at 11:37 am


Cross-sex friendship is beginning to look to me like the biggest controversy running under the radar in Evangelical circles. As a single woman who lost my father at a very young age, I am deeply grateful for the men, including and particularly pastors along with bosses, co-workers, and peers, who through my adult life have defied the traditional “rules of thumb” for interacting with women not their wives and have developed close, deeply affirming relationships with me *as a woman.* They have had closed-door private meetings with me, taken me to lunch (even on something approximating “father-daughter dates”), treated me affectionately, and more than that, treated me as an attractive woman with a heart worth being intimately known, and as a woman worth being respected holistically. They have informed me, both verbally and by their actions with me, of how I should be treated by men who would pursue me romantically. I have been so deeply blessed by men who have spoken into my heart and life with the strong, loving, affectionate voice of a father, brother, and/or intimate friend. They have diffused the (unintentional) messages that I am inherently dangerous. They also helped me realize that so much more is possible than I had realized in healthy, appropriate, intimate relationship with a man outside marriage. More than any other thing, that awareness helped me come to both a place of dealing well with my own singleness and a healthier understanding of what I need and want in marriage.
With some of them, I have been embraced as family, and have come to know their wives and children very well. With many, while I have met their wives, circumstances haven’t allowed any real intimacy with them. With all, their wives are part of who they are and so are loved and respected by me whether I know them well or not. And like Susan, I assume anything I tell one spouse may be shared with the other.
People often mis-use Luther’s “Love God, and sin boldly!” But I think there’s a healthy, balanced approach to living the Christian life which Luther is advocating. It might be paraphrased, “Love God, and do not live in a spirit of fear—not even of sin!” Fear can cripple us and keep us from embracing the good gifts God has for us. I find this to be particularly true with cross-sex friendships in our churches. (And with that, I am with Jennifer on wanting to strongly affirm and support any man’s decision about where his own personal healthy boundaries with women need to be.)
The problem, as I currently see it, is that we too often accede to the culture’s approach to sexuality and react to it, rather than being truly, radically counter-cultural. We understand so little of sexual formation as an integral aspect of spiritual formation, and when you dig into what we do teach in churches about dealing with ourselves and others as sexual beings, there’s a big air bubble where a theology should be. It’s as though we see any kingdom fulfillment in this area as something exclusively of the after-life and settle for merely managing our fallenness in the here-and-now, rather than embracing and pursuing a leaking of the fulfilled kingdom into this life and seeking to build radically redeemed relationships.
Sorry to be so long-winded here, but there’s so much more to be said and explored. I’m looking at pursuing a master’s thesis in this area, actually, and try to contribute a bit to filling up that air bubble.



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Makeesha

posted September 1, 2006 at 11:51 am


I think Susan said it very well. And I think each person is going to have to evaluate their own “place” in each relationship on an individual basis. My husband has had to sever a friendship with a woman because he noticed she was getting too attached. He had to keep a further distance than he had to with other women. There are so many factors that come into play that I don’t think you can necessarily make hard fast rules but I think that Susan’s “guidelines” are very wise and apply to pretty much every one.



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Sarah

posted September 1, 2006 at 11:51 am


As a rule, I never discuss anything with my male friends that I have not already discussed with my husband. This is another boundary, a la Susan’s comments, that protects me from ever isolating my husband and turning to others to replace his emotional support.
I am okay with a wide range of people–both male and female–supplementing my husband’s input and support. But not replacing it or superceding it.
It is important to make these distinctions, especially in my generation and coming ones where opposite-sex friendships are more common/encouraged. Most people do not set out to have an affair (either emotional or physical). However, the slippery slope begins with a lack of awareness or self-control in sometimes small things (such as paying extra attention to physical appearance when in the presence of opposite-sex friends).



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 11:58 am


Jen O,
Grrrreat comments! Its good to see you here.
I am right with you about being affirmed *as a woman* and being related to *as a woman*.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 12:02 pm


Makeesha,
I pretty much agree with Susan’s list, and yet, even within that, I have found great feedom to have intimate cross-gender friendship where deep heart sharing can take place.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 12:08 pm


Sarah,
Personally, I have found great freedom to enjoy cross-gender friendship because it is happening in front of my husband – even if he rarely is around for my actual interactions with my male freinds. My whole life happens in front of him, even though we spend our days apart with out own commitments (work, etc).
If I’m in the middle of a deep conversation with my friend, and someting occurs to me that is very personal, I dont stop myself from saying it just because I haven’t told my husband. However, I do make a point of telling my husband about the conversation after the fact. This allows him to feel like he is being kept in the loop, while allowing me the freedom to relate and process in the moment. My husband has blessed and encouraged this.



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Sarah

posted September 1, 2006 at 12:27 pm


I use this as a a general principle to guard myself against compromise, Jennifer, but it not completely rigid.
I agree that there are some cases where I would choose to do as you do–and bring my thoughts to expression at the moment–but relate the exchange to my husband after the fact.
Either way, the mark of the conversation’s health is–in part–the lack of secrecy.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 12:46 pm


Sarah,
One of the unexpected delightful surprises for me in cross-gender friendship is how much it has caused my relationship with my husband to grow. The trust that my husband expresses (verbally and nonverbally) has helped to shape our marriage in a way that influences all of our interactions together. It makes the love and trust I have for my husband grow. One very practical way this happens is that for the last few years, 2 or 3 times a year, my husband pays for an airline ticket for me to visit my male friend – there are often other reasons for my visit too, including visiting with my friend’s wife who has become a dear friend also, or attending events, or something else. But every time I leave for a trip my husband blesses me with such freedom to go and have a good time, that he will take care of everything at home. This in return, makes me want to love/trust/serve my husband more.
My relationship is also made better with my husband because of the conversation I have with my male friends – often topics come up that my husband and I have not gotten into on our own (even some things that are intimate and deeply personal), and those conversations with my friend serve as a great jumping off point for new conversational territory with my husband.



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Dan Brennan

posted September 1, 2006 at 2:07 pm


Sarah,
I concur with you observations about the slippery slope. However, I also don’t want to rule out a thick possibility of developed and nurtured trust where some high walls of protection are able to be reevaluated in light of solid trust in God and others. I agree with Jennifer’s reference to Scot’s recent series on zealotry. All throughout that series I was saying, yes, yes, and yes when it came to applying wise insights into this area. High boundaries, important boundaries in the beginning, may end up being a bit more permeable in the context of relational trust in the Lord and others.
While I know some may interpret this in a way to pursue sin, boundaries may shift or change somewhat, (such as perhaps meeting behind closed doors in particular circumstances) in an atmosphere of deep trust that the Lord is in this relationship and our own knowledge of our vulnerabilities. Along with Jen O, I want to suggest there is not only conceptual space, but relational and spiritual depth between our fallenness and redemptive awareness and maturity in the relationship. One of the things I have encountered is this explicit assumption among certain men and women that if there is sexual attraction, or emotional depth, that must either lead to a Potiphar’s wife/Joseph temptation scenario, or it leads to emotional adultery which trumps emotional intimacy with one’s spouse. Both of those are possibilities; real possibilities. I’d like to suggest though, those are not the only two alternatives.
Anyone old enough to remember Joseph Aldrich’s *Lifestyle Evangelism* where he deals with fears about evangelizing, because of falling into certain sins, are also applicable here with thick and then permeable boundaries, depending upon trust, our own vulnerabilities, and where we have a solid sense of one another and the Lord’s hand in it, too.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 1, 2006 at 2:08 pm


We just got to NY where I’m speaking … I wouldn’t have connected my post to the issue of zealotry. It could become that — and no doubt has.



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RJS

posted September 1, 2006 at 3:27 pm


This topic is, I think, deeply connected with the series of posts on Zealotry and with some of the cultural influences suggested in the post on Women in Ministry.
Ironically, through work I have many non-Christian friends and acquaintances, the overwhelming majority male, with whom I can talk about work and politics, the stresses and strains of what is a very competitive job, mentor and be mentored by, brainstorm, bounce ideas, etc. We can have coffee, or lunch. Some of them are here at this university, some are from other schools and I only see them when traveling. Although affairs can certainly happen (I am not that naïve), they are rare, and it is not the default suspicion. We deal with each other as people first – view each other as human beings, not potential dangers.
On the other hand I have no Christian friends or acquaintances with whom I can have coffee or lunch, talk about the stresses and strains of this type of job, mentor or be mentored by. While I know other Christian professors, here and elsewhere, they are all male, and all of the issues and attitudes brought up in this post and the subsequent comments prevent casual one-on-one interaction. The default attitude is that if there isn’t an obvious reason for association – it should be avoided.
Something to think about when setting boundaries – to be safe.



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RJS

posted September 1, 2006 at 3:33 pm


Let me clarify this sentence:
Although affairs can certainly happen among men and women who who work and associate together (I am not that naïve), they are actually very rare – at least among my peers. It is not the default suspicion. In this community we deal with each other as people first – view each other as human beings, not potential dangers.



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Dan

posted September 1, 2006 at 3:48 pm


Hi RJS,
Your experience supports my research and experience. My wife, many years ago, back in the 70’s, when she was not walking with the Lord, was a teaching assistant in the math department at University of Illinois. She was in a small office and was the single female with nine other male assistants and professors. She developed a close intimate friendship with one of the married males. They had a significant friendship doing things, together alone, and sometimes with his wife. They were just friends. As my wife has said, the friendship didn’t come with any warning from the surgeon general.
Meanwhile , as I began to develop a cross-sex friendship intimacy as an evangelical, I have experienced quite a few hostile reactions within the evangelical sub-culture, with zealotry in full speed. Even with the full blessing and support of my wife, I’ve been told it’s flat out wrong to go have a beer with my female friends, for example. That’s just one a small example.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 3:56 pm


RJS,
I can understand your comments. I cant think of how many times I’ve heard Christians say something like, “If I came into a restaurant and a man and a woman I knew, and who were not married to each other, were there having a meal, I’d assume they were having an affair” That’s the default assumption. I sat with a woman just a few weeks ago who chastised me for meeting a male friend for a drink on a weekday afternoon. I’ve heard the same logic about men and women riding in the car together. It’s sad, not just because it makes cross-gender friendship harder, but because it reveals how obsessed with sex Christians are.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 3:59 pm


Scot,
Thanks for the affirmation that this could be an issue where zealotry is applied. Personally, I’ve seen 2 situations where pastors applied the rules so strongly that a person involved in a cross-gender friendship was said to be sinning because of it.



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Jen O

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:04 pm


I’d further your observation, Jennifer, by noting that it reaveals how obsessed Christians are with *genital* sex. I fear they/we are far too uninterested (if not oblivious) to a more holistic sexuality and its (very beneficial) role in all our relationships. We are sexual reductionists, and in that sense, I fear we are not “obsessed” with sex nearly enough.



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Dan Brennan

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:15 pm


On the subject connecting zealotry, I’ve been urged by several well meaning friends to not write a book on this because it will lead people to situations that will cause people to fall into sin. Jen O, I love your comment that we are “not obsessed with sex nearly enough.” In the evangelical sub-culture, I agree with you that we have become sexual reductionists.



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Sarah

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:33 pm


I understand your encouragements, Jennifer and Dan. And rest assured, I do not sacrifice quality of relationships or broad relational input in overprotective zeal.
It is my default to value freedom as well and to know that, when common sense is applied, cherished healthy relationships with both men and women develop.
In addition to my genetic brothers, I have several other male friends I count ongoing investors in my life. My comment was simply made to emphasize the importance of maintaining equal and greater ties with one’s spouse in the context of other relationships.



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Dan Brennan

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:38 pm


I am thankful Scot, for your openness to this issue apart from zealotry. I respect and support any couple’s decision to keep cross sex friendship intimacy within the intimacy of marriage.



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kent

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:40 pm


I agree with Jen O in #33. We all to often in the church, in our general culture reduce one another to level of major appliances, items for our gratification, or the danger there of. The women who are on staff with me show me a perspective I am woefully impoverished in. We work well together. We enjoy going to lunch as a staff, and we have fun together as a staff. But we each other as people first not as sexula objects.
Of course you have be aware and be careful any time in many situations but this is true of other areas beyond sexuality. Once you get careless, once you assume you are above it, it gets dicey. I wonder if much of our righteousness is simply a lack of the right opportunity.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:51 pm


Sarah,
I really do agree with you about maintaining equal or greater intimacy with one’s own spouse as a good rule…and yet, I think there can be exceptions to that along the path. In the right situation, I think learning to expereince intimacy and vulnerability in another relationship can translate into learning it in marriage. This would be a pretty unique situation, I understand, but I do think its possible.



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Jim Martin

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:51 pm


Scot,
Your reference to what Kris says regarding emotional boundaries is so important.
I’ve witnessed so many “train wrecks” during 27-28 years of pastoral ministry.
Friendships? Yes…but with clear emotional boundaries and wisdom.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:53 pm


Jim,
I agree with you about emotional boundaries and wisdom. But I think a close, intimate connection can be contained safely within good boundaries. This isnt for everyone, but its possible.



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Jen O

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:59 pm


It may be important and helpful to think about “zealotry” more broadly. On the one hand, there are those who in their “zeal” for holiness and healthy living profer simplistic rules which paint with a broad, generalizing (and reductionistic) brush. To some degree or another, I think that’s a temptation for all of us. On the other hand, a zeal for the kingdom of God and the growth and wholeness of the people of God can drive us to challenge simplistic “rules of thumb” and risk much for the kingdom, in faith and grace knowing we will not get it all “right”, but still hungering for what God has for us beyond our current imaginings. This is a grand zealotry! May it’s tribe increase! I’m not so sure it is zealotry that is the problem so much as the vision that drives it. If it is fear, then we are enslaved; but if it is hope, then we are set free.



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Makeesha

posted September 1, 2006 at 5:22 pm


Jennifer, I would not be comfortable having deep heart sharing with a man besides my husband and I would not be comfortable with him having a relationship like that with another woman. I don’t believe that level of emotional intimacy is appropriate when one or both persons are married. I also don’t feel that it’s wise to have cross gender friendships that are viewed as opportunities to learn things to help the marriage. Cross gender friendships can certainly happen and maintain good boundaries but one must use wisdom and discernment, esp. if one is in the “public eye” of ministry.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 5:31 pm


Makeesha,
I absolutly bless and affirm your freedom to choose that for yourself and your marriage. In no way would I ever want to say this is for everyone. But, for some people, cross-gender friendship can work beautifully without falling into sin. It’s worked for me and for others I know.



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Susan

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:17 pm


Makeesha,
I’m in agreement with your comment #42. This is wisdom.
That Christians are more careful about relationships than non-Christians is not necessarily because they are uptight about sex! To suggest that is as much a condemning attitude as the one that asserts a man and a woman are necessarily having an affair just because they have lunch together.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:44 pm


Susan,
I would simply assert that your stand is the best stand, and the best wisdom *for you*. But others have much freedom to engage in close cross-gender friendshp, and there can be much wisdom there as well. If you’re uncomfortable with being close friends with a man, then you shouldnt do it. Just recongize that for others there is a different level of comfort and freedom.



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Susan

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:13 pm


Jennifer,
I am not sure how you have arrived at the conclusion that I do not affirm what is being called here cross-gender relationships. I have no-where stated that friendships are not allowed between men and women, or that they cannot be meaningful, precious, and life-giving. Neither have I said that men and women cannot “do lunch,” talk on the phone, ride in a car or elevator together and so on.
I think what I and others here are defending is the exclusive nature of marriage. There is a sacred quality to the marriage relationship that is not “trifled with” without consequences, even if those consequences are not immediately apparent.
That it “works for” some people, or that others are “comfortable” to be particularly close to someone of the opposite sex, who is not your own spouse, is not enough evidence for me to agree that it is ultimately a helpful pursuit.
The apostle Paul wrote, as it is recorded in 1Co 10:23-24, “I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” — but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
It is very important today that we not treat one another as necessarily dangerous just because one is of the opposite sex. That we reach out to one another in love and in mercy as Dan has very wonderfully explained here in several places is very important. This is what Jesus did. But I believe that is different from cultivating close intimate relationships that are “just friends” with persons of the opposite sex who have taken vows to love another exclusively, particularly, uniquely, sacredly…you get the picture.
Some of us feel it is important to hold firmly to this distinction. But this distinction does not disallow friendships. It merely gives us pause, and requires that we walk with care in those relationships. That would seem to be the way of true love.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:20 pm


Susan,
What I hear you saying is that cross-gender freindship is okay as long as it’s not close or intimate. Is that right?
I do want to stand with you in your protection of marriage. I too believe marriage is sacred, unique, and precious. However, I dont believe marriage was ever intended to meet every single need for friendship. My husband is my best friend – but he is not my only friend, and I dont think he was ever meant to be. We share a unique and precious intimacy, but that is not the only intimacy in my life.



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Dan

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:40 pm


Sarah,
On # 35, we’re on the same page.



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Sarah

posted September 1, 2006 at 10:29 pm


The longer I think about it, the more I want to revisit this page and cast my vote more strongly in favor of applying wisdom whenever possible.
I have had more than one friend–all strong thinkers and devoted followers of Christ–who believed that their behavior in engaging close friendships with members of the opposite sex was helpful and harmless, but who later reaped consequences that tragically scarred them and their credibility in the community as a witness for Christ.
Again, I do not believe any of them intended to walk into disloyalty. However, the emotional deposits they were putting into cross-gender friends, eventually held more worth than the ones they were making with their spouses.
I am not suggesting that every opposite-sex pairing results in compromised marriage. Not by a long shot. I do value opposite-sex friendships, even close ones, within the boundaries of common sense and Christian accountability. But while we are of course FREE and perhaps even purely-motived in indulging social engagements with opposite sex companions, our choice to exercise every freedom we have–especially in excess–is not always wise.
I ask that caution be remembered…because in the end, if we become even emotionally disloyal to our spouses, we cheat ourselves out of God’s fullest blessings for our union and we also, more importantly, sacrifice kingdom good.
I don’t want to look back on this sort of failure one day and know that I compromised what God was doing in my life. That is the kind of regret that, despite God’s healing and forward movement, sticks to you for life.



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Makeesha

posted September 1, 2006 at 10:33 pm


Susan shares my thoughts eloquently. I also agree with Sarah that (and susan) just because we are advocation caution, it doesn’t mean we are suggesting that all cross gender friendships are bad.
I personally don’t hang out with other guys by myself…one on one…it’s just never come up. I have lots of girl friends, mixed gender groups of friends and of course “couple friends” but I don’t have any reason to spend time one on one having heart to heart chats with guys. I don’t have a need to fulfill in that arena that isn’t being fulfilled by my husband.
Jennifer, I think basically we are repeating what just about every secular and Christian psychologist/counselor asserts – emotional infidelity is a real thing and it’s serious. It’s also insidious. There is a level of emotional intimacy and relational connectedness that should be reserved for marriage…and that’s wisdom across the board for both Christians and non. In fact, my non Christian friends seem to “get” this problem more than my Christian friends. Women in particular are at risk for this type of infidelity since they often feel more “emotionally neglected” than men do.
I’m not suggesting you’re doing anything “wrong” Jennifer, but I DO disagree with a message that I’m hearing (and I might be wrong)from you that says each person should decide for themselves what is “appropriate”. I actually think there is a marked danger in certain behaviors and signs (Susan mentioned some) that should not be ignored and are pretty universal.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 10:43 pm


Sarah,
You said : However, the emotional deposits they were putting into cross-gender friends, eventually held more worth than the ones they were making with their spouses.
And I agree with you. Someone who is doing that isnt practicing the kind of cross-gender friendship Im talking about.



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Jennifer

posted September 1, 2006 at 10:52 pm


Hi Makeesha,
You said : emotional infidelity is a real thing and it’s serious.
Of course it’s real, and serious! I’m with you there. I am not advocating emotional infidelity by any means. I think we disagree when we try to define what emotional infidelity actually is. I dont think a good, solid, intimate connection with another person of the opposite gender is infidelity. Intimacy does not automatically equal infidelity.
I havent disagreed with Susan’s list. If those things are happening, you’re probably not talking about friendship, you’re talking about something else.
But of course certain things are appropriate for some, and not for others. You said that you enjoy cross-gender groups, but there are probably some people who would struggle with even that level of freedom. Does that mean you should be kept from enjoying male freinds in mixed groups just because there are others who would struggle with inappropriately sexualizing friends in a group setting? If you dont have any reason or desire to have close conversations with cross-gender friends, that’s fine by me. I think you have to listen to your own sensibilities on that. But its an issue of zealoty to apply that standard to other people(adding rules to the scriptures beyond what is actually communicated there). Pastors do real damage when they practice zealotry over people in their congregations.



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Makeesha

posted September 2, 2006 at 2:37 pm


wow, you just made a huge jump there from advocating that a person set healthy boundaries to pastoral zealotry and control. not very fair.



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Dan

posted September 2, 2006 at 3:45 pm


Hi Sarah,
Re # 49
“I have had more than one friend–all strong thinkers and devoted followers of Christ–who believed that their behavior in engaging close friendships with members of the opposite sex was helpful and harmless, but who later reaped consequences that tragically scarred them and their credibility in the community as a witness for Christ.”
I hear you. Any steps into towards cross gender extramarital intimacy must be communal and wise steps.
You also expressed:
“Again, I do not believe any of them intended to walk into disloyalty. However, the emotional deposits they were putting into cross-gender friends, eventually held more worth than the ones they were making with their spouses.”
I agree again with this observation–it can and has led to this kind of wrong investment. I think if I am hearing you right, you have affirmed the value of close opposite sex frriendships. I hear you exercising cautious wisdom while in investing emotional energy towards cross gender friendship.
“I am not suggesting that every opposite-sex pairing results in compromised marriage. Not by a long shot. I do value opposite-sex friendships, even close ones, within the boundaries of common sense and Christian accountability.”
I appreciate your balanced perspective.



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Makeesha

posted September 2, 2006 at 4:07 pm


I agree Dan, Sarah has said it well. I was just discussing this with my husband. I cannot tell you how many times I hear “it just happened” “I didn’t mean for this to happen”. So then how do we help people prevent infidelity from happening? Certainly not by saying “well hon, you just make up your own guidelines as you go along, you set your own boundaries, whatever works for you is fine by me”. We help the members of our communities navigate the often confusing landscape of cross gender relationships by working through with them what is wise. Legalism and zealotry are not the same as wise counsel and sound guidance. If we aren’t providing insight and wise counsel to our fellow saints, then what’s the point? Why be in community at all?



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Jen O

posted September 2, 2006 at 4:09 pm


One thing I’d note here is that what looks like common sense to one person or community may be very different from what looks like common sense to another person or community, *without either of them being unwise.*
In the area of my cross-sex friendships, there are communities and people whose accountability I am more open to than others. That’s true for me in other areas as well (theology, ethics, career choices, etc.).



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Jennifer

posted September 2, 2006 at 4:15 pm


Makeesha,
Can you elaborate a little more? What do you see as “wise boundaries”?



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Jennifer

posted September 2, 2006 at 4:17 pm


Jen O,
I agree…and I would add that what is wise in one relationship in my life, may not be wise in another. Context and trust have a lot to do with what’s wise.



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Dan Brennan

posted September 2, 2006 at 4:52 pm


Hi Makeesha,
“I was just discussing this with my husband. I cannot tell you how many times I hear “it just happened” “I didn’t mean for this to happen”. So then how do we help people prevent infidelity from happening?”
Great question. Simultaneously, though, I am going to ask, alongside that question, “How do we walk with those who see the hand and blessing of God in their developing and/or close cross-gender friendship?”
Makeesha: “Certainly not by saying “well hon, you just make up your own guidelines as you go along, you set your own boundaries, whatever works for you is fine by me”. We help the members of our communities navigate the often confusing landscape of cross gender relationships by working through with them what is wise.”
I do want to clearly go on record that personal relativism or a pursuit of one’s own pleasure or freedom, is not the wise way to go. However, there is much wisdom, freedom, caution, warning, adventure, risk, grace, and blessing in the relational and communal space between situationalism and principalism. This is especially true where friendship/relational intimacy is so contextual and cultural.
I think there is communal wisdom and communal discernment between the legitimate dangers and risks on deep cross-gender intimacy beyond one’s spouse, and the deep blessing, affirmation and community of cross-gender intimacy beyond but including the spouse. In my vision, as I understand it, the spouse is somehow, always “immediately present” in extramarital intimacy even though he/she may not be literally there at every moment. Freedom within cross-gender intimacy is tempered, monitored, channeled, encouraged or blessed within heart-and-soul intimacy within the marital community.
In my experience and model, I have relied upon a stable, mature, family man who knows me, my past, and my wife intimately more than anyone else on the face of the earth. My wife trusts him. As I developed friendship intimacy with women, he was an accountability partner for me. I have a deep intimate relationship with him. I would urge caution for any one, more specifically, males, since the culture generalization is that we fall short when it comes to vulnerability, self-disclosure, etc. against pursuing cross-gender intimacy if they have not already been practicing it to some extent with a male friend and their spouse.



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Dan Brennan

posted September 2, 2006 at 5:44 pm


Hi Jen O,
“One thing I’d note here is that what looks like common sense to one person or community may be very different from what looks like common sense to another person or community, *without either of them being unwise.*”
I think that’s true–especially when we are talking about “intimacy.” I want to express the need for caution and care while concomitantly, observing what is considered “wise” may be imposed man made boundaries that are not wisdom from Above. “Common sense” in one faith community be a flat application of Col. 2:22 “Do not handle, do not touch” etc. in regard to cross-gender intimacy. That may be “common sense” in some friendships, but not all. “These have indeed the appearance of wisdom in promoting self-nade religion and aceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23).
Scot, I know you were applying it to other issues, but having navigated through some of this issues, at least, uncharted territory initially, I was struck by your wisdom on zealotry as it applies to this issue:
“If I had an easy solution to the problem of zealotry, I wouldn’t need to write about it because an easy solution would create a situation were zealotry would not appear. The issues are complex, they involve human nature, and they involve the hopes of people. So, here are my suggestions, and I’m open to hear your suggestions as well.
Before I say anything this should be observed: we have to avoid making fences ourselves that will keep us from falling into zealotry. There is no solution other than to love God, to love others, to trust in God, to trust in others — that sort of thing. Rarely in life are their simple solutions to anything — and those who propose so are always mistaken. Sure, if you love God aright you won’t be a zealous, but loving God is obviously not quite as simple as it is right.”
There aren’t “simple solutions” to cross-sex friendships in staying clear of them or in pursuing them. But I believe the Lord provides us wisdom.



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Makeesha

posted September 3, 2006 at 6:42 pm


dan, good comments. Jennifer, I just cringe when I hear people suggesting that a pastor or fellow believer can’t offer some wise guidelines or at least suggest that guidelines should be in place without someone accusing him/her of being zealous and legalistic. So if you’re not saying that then we’re kosher.



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Von

posted September 3, 2006 at 9:13 pm


Ted said:
“pastors do have to get closer to their flock, including those of the opposite sex.”
But I would question this in the light of Biblical teaching, particuarly where the opposite sex is young. We read Pauls advice to Timothy as to how to deal with the various groups in his church:
“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
2That the aged men be … 3The aged women likewise, …
4That they may teach the young women … 6Young men likewise exhort … ”
And we see that while he is to teach the all men and the aged women, he is not to teach the young women. He was to indirectly teach them through the older women.
I can see no Biblical reason for a pastor to have a young woman alone in his office at all. He can counsel her and her husband, or her and her father, or he can delegate the task to an older woman. But to counsel her directly is to form a bond with her that belongs only to his wife.
In Scripture we never see any examples of this kind of one on one privacy. And any proposed examples may well merely be where unimportant others were ‘left out’ of the narrative, as we see in many cases in the synoptic gospels. And why would we have this burning desire for cross-gender relationships when our marriage relationships and same-gender relationships are in such disorder?



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Jennifer

posted September 3, 2006 at 10:16 pm


Makeesha,
I am not against wise guidelines. Not by any means. I think I would just like to see pastors offer guidelines besides something like, “no real closeness or intimacy is okay. Do things in groups and dont get too clsoe”. Those are appropriate guidelines for some people, no doubt. But I dont see those are what everyone has to live under, and to teach people that they must abstain from something where the Lord gives freedom is zealotry.



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Von

posted September 3, 2006 at 10:38 pm


A couple of comments on this:
“to teach people that they must abstain from something where the Lord gives freedom is zealotry.”/i>
Did not Paul say,
“19Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.”
And is it not written:
“14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
and
“19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”



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Jennifer

posted September 3, 2006 at 10:51 pm


Von,
I see cross-gender friendship as something that can be edifying and make peace. I know in my life, the Lord has worked powerfully through one particular cross-gender friendship. One of the things that was drilled into my head though sexual abuse by my youth pastor was that I am dangerous, and any man would have given in to the sexual desires this pastor was giving into. My cross-gender friendships have taught me that is not true. Thats just one esample of what I have learned experienctially through friendship with men that I never could have learned with women, or through something cognative.
I’m not saying the Lord is always in cross-gender friendship, but let’s keep open the idea that its possible.



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Von

posted September 3, 2006 at 11:15 pm


I’m not saying the Lord is always in cross-gender friendship, but let’s keep open the idea that its possible.
As I point out in my ‘can’ vs ‘should’ post on my blog, many things are ‘possible’ that are nonetheless ‘forbidden’, whether for individual believers or all Christians (see Romans 14).
And obviously One particular cross-gender relationship is not only possible, but for most of us commanded, for it is written:
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
Other than that I have not seen, nor been shown, any Scriptural mandate for cross-gender relationships. I am open, however, to being corrected.



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Jennifer

posted September 3, 2006 at 11:21 pm


Von : Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
Jennifer : Well, I do have my own husband, and I’m not looking to add another. :-)
I cant see how you can call cross-gender friendship forbidden since even Jesus had women friends that he had deeply intimate exchanges with.



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Von

posted September 3, 2006 at 11:32 pm


I cant see how you can call cross-gender friendship forbidden since even Jesus had women friends that he had deeply intimate exchanges with.
Three things here:
1) I was responding first of all to your suggestion that they were ‘possible'; pointing out that not everything ‘possible’ was ‘not forbidden’ (again, see Romans 14).
2) I think you have your grammar backwards to say ‘even Jesus’. What is possible, and even right, for God Almighty on earth may very well not be possible/right for us. Even if Jesus had the kinds of exchanges you suggest (which Scipture does not support) he is the second person of the Trinity, the person who created each of our very bodies/souls etc.
3) Scripture does not support ‘intimate exchanges’ between Jesus and women of the kind I propose are forbidden. We have no record of Jesus alone, in private, with individual women discussing ‘personal things’… unless you count salvation itself as a ‘personal thing’.
Certainly women as well as men were disciples… but when he went off to ‘be alone’ it was with Peter, James and John. NT Culture would have had a fit if a man was ‘alone’ with a woman, so Scripture would not need to point out the fact that ‘others’ were there… any more than you would need to mention that a nurse was present (in American society) when the doctor gave you a physical. It is simply ‘not done’… but a European reading your description might very well not know that a nurse was present, since they don’t do that.



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Jennifer

posted September 3, 2006 at 11:47 pm


Von,
Jesus didn’t abandon his humanity when he was with women. Yes, he was God, but he was also man. He faced the same temptations that you or I would. I’ve seen he logic you give come up often on this issues – and I always am amazed that it is the only area where Christians tell each other to *not* be like Jesus.
I don’t know, I think Jesus had some very intimate exchanges with women – talking about their sexuality even. I think Dan mentioned earlier about the very intimate nature of the woman washing Jesus feet, and he allowed it despite her trashy reputation, and the guilt-by-association it might cause others to worry over.
For me, it comes down to this…the Lord has worked through cross-gender friendship in my life and my immediate community supports that friendship. I didn’t seek it out specifically that way , but scripture is full of God working in unexpected (even seemingly scandalous!) ways.



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Von

posted September 4, 2006 at 12:00 am


I’ve seen he logic you give come up often on this issues – and I always am amazed that it is the only area where Christians tell each other to *not* be like Jesus.
I don’t know, I think Jesus had some very intimate exchanges with women

Two things here:
1) My point two was an ‘even if’. You notice that I said ‘Even if Jesus had the kinds of exchanges you suggest’… and followed it with “(which Scipture does not support)” and an entire third point denying He did any such thing.
2) What am I to make of your saying, “I think He [did]?” Are we to do our theology based on your thots, or what is revealed in Scripture. Scripture is full of statements telling us to avoid/flee sexual temptation. We have no suggestion at any point in Scripture of Jesus being accused of sexual immorality… which would have been the automatic accusation if he was alone with women. And nowhere does it suggest He was.
The examples such as the washing of feet took place in the most public of settings. We don’t see Jesus taking the woman into some private room for ‘counseling’.
It is written:
23For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: 24To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. 25Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.



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Jennifer

posted September 4, 2006 at 12:03 am


Von,
But not all women are “evil”. I’m not talking about lust. I’m talking about freindship. Friendship is possible without lust.



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Von

posted September 4, 2006 at 12:26 am


But not all women are “evil”.
It is written:
3This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
and
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;



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Von

posted September 4, 2006 at 12:30 am


Friendship is possible without lust..
Did a Bible Gateway search on ‘woman’ and ‘freind'; found one verse:
Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.
and even it was talking about a woman friend of another woman.
You and others may believe it. Scripture does not support it.



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Jennifer

posted September 4, 2006 at 12:31 am


Von,
By that logic, you cant be friends with anyone ;-)



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Von

posted September 4, 2006 at 12:44 am


By that logic, you cant be friends with anyone
Did a Bible Gateway search on ‘freind'; found ninety-nine different verses, including:
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
and
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
and
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Friendship is highly prized in Scripture. Cross-gender friendship is not. The appropriate cross-gender relationsips are sister/brother, father/daughter (uncle/neice etc.), and husband/wife.
Timothy was told to:intreat … the younger [women] as sisters, with all purity.
That culture would have understood ‘with all purity’ to include ‘not being alone with her’. It is our society that has attempted to deny the obvious power of sexual attraction and the incredible damage it can cause in the improper place.



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Jennifer

posted September 4, 2006 at 12:50 am


Von,
I agree with you that imporper sexual attraction can cause great damage. But, when cross-gender freidnship is done properly (without sexualizing the other person inappropriatly or lusting after them for your own pleasure) it has an equal power for good. God can work through it. I’ve seen that in my own life, and in the lives of people I know.



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Von

posted September 4, 2006 at 12:58 am


God can work through it. I’ve seen that in my own life, and in the lives of people I know.

You may believe that. It may accord with your experience. But does Scripture support it? Often times we operate based on our own (limited, sin-filtered) experiences, and ignore Gods clear instructions. This may even seem to work for a while, but as Solomon points out:
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
instead he advises:
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:



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E. B.

posted September 5, 2006 at 5:45 pm


Jennifer,
When you discuss your relationships with the opposite sex, the most prominent words that you use are approximately: “I”, “My”, “Me”. Being that it is impossible to ever know what the heart of another person is tempted by, and reluctance to admit temptation thus ending the relationship, it is not yourself that you should be most concerned.
Scripture instructs us to not become a stumbling block for others, and while you may not intentionally be a stumbling block or an active temptress, you may very well fullfill that roll unwittingly. A biblically feminine woman is attractive to a biblically masculine man, and attractiveness cannot be turned off like a light switch. However spiritual growth can be achieved by overcoming temtation, and moderating our desires, therefore in at least this one aspect of opposite-sex relationships, the relationships can lead to spiritual growth and therefore holiness.
As psychologists have been telling us for numerous years, there are significant differences in the ways men and women foster and develop relationships. Women we are told are more emotive by nature, thus the conversation and social interaction they experience with men is an objective of marital relationships. In light of this, wouldn’t it be more likely that a woman would be less likely to attach negative connotations to a non-sexual relationship? Wouldn’t the temptation for a woman be that the non-sexual relationship with an opposite sex or same sex friend being able to determine when it is becoming substitutionary?
Isn’t faithfullness to our vows to God and our spouses our primary objective?



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Jennifer

posted September 5, 2006 at 7:06 pm


E.B.
I’ve tried to be careful about talking directly about my experience, and not over-applying it by saying that everyone should be doing this…thus lots of ‘me’, ‘my’, ‘I’. If I seriously thought my cross-gender friendships were a stumbling block for anyone involved, I wouldn’t pursue them…but that isn’t even on my radar screen of things to consider because of the trust that exists in my immediate community. Part of that is because in a sense, I agree with you – attraction happens in friendship. None of us form friendships with people we find wholly unattractive. And I totally agree with you when you say, “A biblically feminine woman is attractive to a biblically masculine man” My point isn’t that attraction never happens in friendship. My point is that it doesn’t rule the day, and that not all attraction has a sexual end. If all “biblically feminine women” were attracted to their “biblically masculine” pastors (or vice versa, depending on your theological openness), in a way that had to have a sexual outcome, then every time he preached a sermon that struck an emotional cord, he could expect dozens of women in the church to throw themselves at him after the service. But that doesn’t happen because those women can be drawn to, or attracted to, the good in him without needing to be in a sexual relationship with him – same if the pastor was a woman and the men were drawn to her – same in friendship.
In my background, I was sexually abused by one of my pastors. His logic was that any reasonable man would do the things he was doing to me, it was a temptation no one could be expected to resist. I believed him and that caused so much damage to the way I saw myself and to my femininity. Now, 20 years later, when a male friend treats me as a beautiful woman with qualities that are attractive, it undoes that damage done by that pastor. It takes trust to get to this point, but when I can receive close friendship from a man who is not trying to get me into bed, I feel like I am being treated as a human and as a woman – not as a sex object. That is part of how God is redeeming me, how he is bringing me out of the shadows and into the light. That’s not a dynamic a female friend could draw out of me (though my female friends draw out other things my male friends cant)…or with a male friend who treated me as gender-neutered.
You lost me on your last point (“In light of this, wouldn’t it be more likely that a woman would be less likely to attach negative connotations to a non-sexual relationship?”)



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Malcolm Kern

posted September 9, 2006 at 10:54 pm


Trackback doesn’t seem to work for me. Nevertheless, my extended comments at http://mkern.blogspot.com/2006/09/cross-gender-friendships.html focus on whether it’s really the intimacies developed in opposite sex relationships that are the cause of the marital “train wrecks”. Maybe we ought to focus more on building a close intimate relationship inside our marriage more than on limiting intimacy outside the marriage.



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