Healthy friendship prior to dating
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I admit we're not talking absolutes here, but almost.In my experience counseling and writing on this topic, everybody thinks (or at least we'll end up in one of the situations you just talked about.
Essentially, the historical reality is that until 30 or 40 years ago, long, intimate friendships between men and women in which each served as the other's emotional confidante, relationship adviser and "best buddy" were far less common than they are today.
First Thessalonians 4:1-8 admonishes us not to wrong or "defraud" our brother or sister by implying a marital level of commitment (through sexual involvement) when it does not exist.
As I've discussed before, a broad (but sound) implication of this passage is that "defrauding" could include inappropriate emotional — as well as physical — intimacy.
Yet even with all this deep communication going on, at least one aspect of these friendships inherently involves a mixed message.
No matter how clearly one or both of you have defined what's happening as "just friends," your are constantly saying, "I enjoy being with you and interacting with you in a way that suggests marriage (or at least romantic attraction)." The simple reality (of which most people are aware, whether they admit it or not) is that in the vast majority of these types of relationships, one of the parties involved either began the "friendship" with romantic feelings for the other person or develops them along the way.
Yes, I know, the other person is an adult who is free and responsible to walk away if he or she is so unsatisfied, but like it or not, it tends not to work that way. Especially if it's the woman in this position (as seems to be the case more often than not) she will likely feel that if she pushes for something more than friendship, she may lose the interaction and companionship she currently has.
Still, given her desire for a husband — and perhaps to have man as her husband — the status quo of "just really good friends but nothing more for some odd reason" will leave her unsatisfied, frustrated and confused.
So is the trend toward intimate friendships between single men and women a good thing? If you haven't read my previous articles on biblical dating, you'll be helped in thinking through this issue by reading "Biblical Dating: How It's Different From Modern Dating." Based on some of the principles found there, let me offer a couple of practical reasons why I believe such friendships to be generally unwise, and then I'll suggest a positive role for friendship among singles in the Christian community.
In this series of articles, I've raised several biblical principles regarding the way we should treat our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Bottom line: I believe it is difficult and rare — as a practical matter — to honor these principles in the context of a close, intimate friendship between two single Christians of the opposite sex.
(For the verbally precise among you, I think such friendships between non-single Christians are also a bad idea, but that's not what we're talking about here.) Intimate friendships between men and women almost always produce confusion and frustration for at least one of the parties involved.
Romans 13:8-14 calls us to love others, to work for their souls' good rather than looking to please ourselves.