Blah blah men and women blah blah friends blah blah sigh.

We’re so hung up on this and it’s really not as complicated as people make it.

People who give advice in this area often use words like “friendly” and “boundaries” and spill a lot of ink over the verse that talks about treating younger women “with absolute purity” and stuff. But they forget about the middle of that verse, which says “AS SISTERS.” Not “as potential seductresses, with absolute purity,” or even, “know your own weaknesses, and therefore treat women with absolute purity,” but “as sisters,” in a passage that encourages us to treat older people as parents and younger people as siblings — i.e., family! The purity of relationships in the body of Christ is grounded in familial affection, not “boundaries.”

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t even have boundaries (and here I’m talking about relationships among peers, not pastor-church member or employer-employee relationships or whatever which will likely need a little more specificity and care). But if your boundaries preclude you from paying what you owe to your brothers and sisters, they’re too narrow and — dare I say it — possibly sinful!

We’ve gotten so negative on all this when I think it would be much biblical — not to mention more effective and less neurotic — to say, “Treat your friends of the opposite sex with MORE care, MORE genuine, selfless love, not less,” than to say, “Distance yourself from others because they’re a sin danger to you.”

Trouble is, the principle of love is always more complicated than a list of rules. We like rules. We think they make us holier, that they protect our reputation from the slander of the world, that they actually stop us from sinning. But they don’t. They might channel our sin in another direction, or give us the reputation of being fastidious or scrupulous or (best of all!) righteous, or make us look holier. But listen, if Jesus was slandered, we will be too, even (or perhaps especially) if we require of ourselves His standard. They’ll know we are Christians by our fussiness about boundaries? No, man. They’ll know we are Christians by our love for one another.

That means a mental shift — in fact, a behavioral shift without a mental shift is just going to get you in trouble. So, repeat after me: “This brother/sister does not belong to me. They don’t exist on this Earth to fulfill my emotional or relational needs. I have a joyful obligation to love them, serve them, and to consider their ultimate good above my desires, which necessarily precludes seducing or using them, but which also excludes coldness or distance or lovelessness.”

We are in the same family, y’all — we are actually truly really brothers and sisters. We have got to stop letting ourselves off the hook about loving one another by making a list of supposedly sin-preventing rules that distance us from one another. I honestly believe that what keeps us from sinning is not a longer list of rules but a bigger vision of Jesus. And I believe a bigger vision of Jesus — who He is and what He did to make us one with God and one with each other — will result in more love, more self-sacrifice, more connection, more genuine affection, more of just being the family that Jesus made us. More.

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14 thoughts on “Blah blah men and women blah blah friends blah blah sigh.

  1. Hm…I think realistically, though, if you spend enough one-on-one time with someone of the opposite sex, one or both of you will no longer think of the other as “just friends.” Also, it’s inappropriate for married people to spend a lot of time with someone of the opposite sex one-on-one. You can say that’s legalism, but I honestly think it’s realistic. And I love you, even if we disagree!! 🙂

  2. I mean, you can take the approach that I am a sister to this brother, so we can laugh over coffee and watch movies together on my couch. Realistically, though, someone will end up having “feelings” for the other. Plus, it doesn’t honor my husband…even if nobody confesses that they’ve developed feelings.

    • Hey girl, if anyone uses the Gospel, uses love as an excuse to spend lots of alone time with a brother or sister they’re not married to, or really as an “excuse” for anything, they need rebuked, and I hope you can tell that that is absolutely 100% not what I’m arguing for here. Note that I never said “one-on-one time” or anything of the kind. My concern is the heart attitude that drives people to refuse to pick up a sister who’s walking home in the rain or to shun ordinary conversation or kindness or to treat a brother or sister like a threat rather than, you know, a brother or sister — and you know that happens! — in the name of “boundaries.”

      • I agree, but what I’m saying is that many people wouldn’t use the Gospel as an excuse to hang out one-on-one with someone they aren’t married to. It can begin with pure intentions, but realistically ends in something else. For some reason, I just feel that this is the case more often than men and women totally avoiding each other and not being friendly at all. I hope my comments don’t seem far fetched! I’m writing in light of the video I posted a few days ago: Can Men and Women be “Just Friends”?

        As far as picking up a sister in the rain, conversing and being kind, I TOTALLY agree! I have male “friends” that I speak with weekly in the foyer or even email to ask for random help occasionally. I would absolutely pick up a brother walking in the rain! And I would be ticked off if a brother passed me in the rain only saying shrug and say “Sorry, but I don’t want to be in the car alone with someone of the opposite sex!

        Also, on a side note, if a man chooses to avoid a women completely, he might have really good reason. If he is attracted to her or she dresses immodestly, he may choose to avoid her completely. I have had several guy “friends” in this situation. They wouldn’t even start a conversation with certain females because their cleavage was too tempting. So maybe it is a little more complicated at times.

        And Laura, I love you! Thank you for taking the time to write on these issues.

        • I just keep coming back to the idea that a weak conscience is meant to be strengthened, not indulged. If a man is attracted to a woman he can’t date (he’s married, she’s married, whatever), he needs to pray and work toward the goal of being LESS prone to lust after and/or objectify his sisters.

          I think one unfortunate result of even good teaching on lust is that it tends toward the extremes (for obvious and understandable reasons) and often IME ends up talking about men as though they are constantly, minute by minute, just on the verge of committing an egregious sexual sin. Yes, we need to be on guard against sin, but we can’t continue to indulge weak consciences by hedging the Gospel with a bunch of laws. We have to instead work to strengthen consciences SO THAT men and women are able to fulfill their obligation to one another as siblings in a family. I’m not saying we’re there yet, especially not in America, but we should want to get to the place where men and women stop seeing each other as sin traps instead of brothers and sisters.

          I do think that my sisters being shunned and ignored, treated like seductresses, looked askance at when we talk with men, because someone has told us that we can’t be friends, is a problem. Whether we agree on the details or not, that kind of behavior needs to be corrected, not excused, you know?

          • Yes, in a perfect world this is possible. I recommend that you read a book entitled “Every Man’s Battle.” This will help you see how a man’s mind works and maybe that will help you understand why I believe men are doing good to avoid certain women. Seriously-it’s a very quick read and I REALLY recommend that you read it.

          • Yeah, I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m saying here. I’m not encouraging men and women to pretend like sexual sin isn’t a problem. I’m encouraging them to stop fighting sexual sin by focusing on their sin and shunning their brothers and sisters and to fight it instead with focusing on the gospel and getting a bigger vision of Jesus. That’s all.

            I’ve read Every Man’s Battle. Read it and loved it and think it’s helpful. But I think some people have gone too far to the “protect myself from sinning by avoiding my sisters altogether as though THEY are the problem” side, and this is meant as a corrective and a reminder that we can’t use sanctification as an excuse to fail to love one another. Ultimately, the problem is inside, not outside.

          • Just to clarify, I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the book and I don’t love the authors. However, it is a great tool for women to peak into the male mind and realize how differently we think. I was actually SHOCKED to read it and very upset for awhile. It changed my life for the better, though. The truth is that men DO battle with lust…a lot. We just have to be careful.

            And Laura, I hope this isn’t coming across as attacking you or anything like that. I think that single women SHOULD hang out with guys!! A LOT! I think I’m coming at this more from a married perspective. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and should act that way. The details and “how to” of it all can be difficult and complicated at times!

  3. Sorry-I sent that before I realized that you had replied. I do see what you’re saying and I agree! The problem is certainly a heart issue.

    • Thanks, Nik! Miss you, friend, and glad we can have this conversation as sisters who love each other and not as adversaries!!! Y’all coming up to Louisville for T4G next spring?

      • Yes–I DO love you, indeed! And I miss you much! JD wants to go to the conference and I just might tag along to visit friends. It depends on finding someone to watch our boys for that long!

  4. Hey Laura, was directed here from your comment on Boundless
    I feel I need to get the balance in treating christian men as brother. I measuring rule I have used in the past weeks is ‘love does not behave unseemingly’ 1Cor13;5
    I has really helped me. There is a lot to work through
    Always learning

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