When I think of the possibility of a man and a woman being “just friends,” I get scared and hopeful at the exact same time. I get scared because human beings have crossed relational lines that have led to so much brokenness and scarring. I get hopeful because God is bigger than our misinformation. He is interested in shalom. He is the designer of all relationships.
Many cross-gender relationships start with good intentions. Not everyone wants to sleep around. Not everyone wants to fill voids by using one another at any cost. But most well-intentioned people lack purpose. When we look to Scripture, we see that God is consistently forming friendships with a purpose, with a larger goal in mind, with something that goes beyond the human desire to relate to one another and fill up space. Every relationship has the fingerprints of God in it. It is up to us to either trace the markings of Jesus or make assumptions and default to our emotional responses and desires.
When we think of someone from the opposite gender, we can think of them as the sole possession of God. We can think of relating to God before we relate to them. When we are fully aware of the Spirit within the context of our relationship, we can experience a freedom like never before. Most of us find this type of spiritual life as one of restriction. But these restrictions are freedom in disguise. It is health and wealth and everything else that rhymes.
It is ridiculous to believe that friendship is reserved for your own gender. We would miss out on the other half of our Creator. We would walk into marriages and dating completely unaware that men and women are extremely different—good different.
We must be people who are bold enough to get know each other, and wise enough to know the amount. In our Western context, and especially in a Christian one, it is assumed that everyone has to know the deepest, darkest secrets about one another. I have found that this assumption is the biggest obstacle or challenge to having amazing cross-gender relationships. Our distorted view of friendships presumes that you must divulge everything to be “close” to someone.
This is because we are broken. God is compassionate and works with us. It is not the end of the story. There is redemption and we can be a part of this. Do you ever stop to ask why you are telling someone something? Do you ever question the boundaries you are placing on your mind and heart? As a married man, I recall conversations that I have had with my female friends in the past. All I can do is smile, laugh and thank God for His amazing grace—and thank my wife for hers. I am almost ashamed at what I have “divulged.” I find it hysterical that I thought I would be close to certain people who have nothing to do with my life. Am I ashamed of my vulnerability? No. I am ashamed that I gave my deepest emotions to women who were not my wife. I could have instead been genuine, yet more reserved.
There is a problem in our Western, Christian context. It has to do with community being an idol. When anything is an idol, it gives way to a distorted view of intimacy. Men and women can be friends. But friendships require wisdom and boundaries. Not in the spirit of restriction, but in the spirit of freedom and shalom. Peace and much love to you.