I think we’ve all met “that” guy. After reading some book or “praying about it,” he decides it’s totally cool with God if he drinks alcohol like others drink coffee. Now his Facebook “Likes” are all breweries and local bars, and you rarely see him without a drink in his hand. Because, after all, he’s free now. If someone mentions to him about maybe toning it down, they’re usually met with an impromptu discussion on the evils of legalism and the beauty of grace, which implies that anyone whose opinion differs from his is probably just a legalist.

If you know that guy, I’m sorry. If you are that guy, I’m sorry I’m not sorry.

The alcohol conversation can certainly spark a lot of back-and-forth controversy among church-goers. 
Likewise, there are other topics that often end up going that same direction.

This isn’t one of them.
If the truth can be told, this isn’t one of them because most everyone already has his or her mind made up on the issue.  The issue gets shot down before it even gets brought up.
 And I can’t call it legalism, because there is no law for anyone to be “living by the letter.” 
The Bible doesn’t really seem to speak on the issue of discussion—which is why we shouldn’t necessarily call it “the road map for life” as so many seem to stereotype it.
 The Bible is not just the moral equivalent of  the popular diet book “Eat This Not That” as so many seem to treat it.
However, the Bible is the story of God’s people from one end of time to the other. 
It’s up to each of us to prayerfully find our place in that story and to determine how the Holy Spirit
 would have us walk in our culture—in our cities, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, and in our families.

With this being said, the topic up for discussion is this: whether men and women can just be friends. 
Whether they can be just friends. 
There really only seem to be two views. 
There are some people who say the answer is “No.” And there are some people who say the answer is “Yes.”

You’re welcome. 

Now, let’s take a look at the logic behind each of those.


  • Those Who Say "No"
Those who say “No” to friendships between a man and a woman typically think of the When Harry Met Sally relationship. 
Two people start as friends, but it’s inevitable that they will fall in love with each other—whether it takes several weeks, several months, or several years. 
Or the “No” crowd, at the least, believes that happens more often than not.

  •  Those Who Say "Yes"
 Those who say “Yes” to friendships between a man and a woman—well—there is no “typically” there.
 I don’t think that’s a very typical point of view at all. At least not among Christians. 
And I’m aiming this post at professing Christians.

Picture this: the Bible says we shouldn’t knowingly be joined in marriage with those who don’t share our faith in Christ. (How politically incorrect! Maybe we should vote to amend that. That’s the American way, right?)

So, if we know we shouldn’t marry those who are outside our faith, we probably shouldn’t date them either, because dating leads to marriage. 
Now, the Bible doesn’t say we can’t date them. It’s an argument from silence.
 But it is wise. Because dating does bind us to a person, emotionally, spiritually, et cetera. 

But to avoid dating someone outside our faith, we probably shouldn’t be friends with them either. 
Because friendship could easily lead to dating. 
And while we’re at it, we probably shouldn’t talk to people outside of our faith, because then we might become their friends.

So there you have it. 

The conventional wisdom is this:
 if you talk to someone who doesn’t share your faith in Christ, you could very well end up married to them. And that’s a sin. So check yourself.

Applying that to our topic of discussion looks something like this: 
the Bible says we shouldn’t have sex with anyone we aren’t married to—whether we are married to someone else already or not. 
And as we seem to all know, relationships between a man and a woman almost always end up hot and heavy. 
To avoid getting hot and heavy with someone we aren’t married to and won’t marry, we should avoid becoming friends—unless we’re part of a big group of friends that always travels as a group.
 Oh, wait. That’s how Christian high schoolers are taught to date.
 So I guess that’s still dating. Yeah, on second thought, it’s probably better if you just avoid becoming friends with anyone of the opposite sex. 
 Unless you plan to marry them. (What do you mean you can’t know that unless you first become their friend and get to know them?)

Realistically, the fact that we believe sex—I mean, romance—is unavoidable tells on us a little bit. 
It tells that we as Christians have reduced relationships to what we get out of them. 
We’re following our Western culture and looking for a return on our investment of time and interactions with others. And since sex is the maximum return, well, that’s where our minds go.


I’m going to say something crazier than a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest. 

Sex is not the maximum return we can expect in a relationship with the opposite sex. 

To me, I think the greatest return comes when we stop looking for one. 
When we start giving sacrificially without expecting any repayment at all. 
When we give to people who don’t have the means or the ability to give back. 

Now, let’s be real. 
Ninety-something percent of our relationships will be with people who can give back to us. 
What I’m talking about is a mindset. Putting it simply, there is more joy in being a giver than in being a taker,  to which most of us can attest. 
So when we stop worrying about what we can get out of a relationship, we are finally free to love those around us. And sex and romance aren’t even on the radar anymore.

Marriage is an analogy. It points to something else—something greater. 
And that, as every church-goer has heard at some point, is the union between Christ and his Church. Its the whole "two-become-one-ness" that will take place when heaven is joined to earth and the kingdom of God comes in full.
Marriage is a picture of intimacy between God and his people. But so is every other relationship. Even—maybe especially—the ones where you will never see a return on your investment of time and interactions. 
After all, what could ever do to repay God for what he’s done for us through the work of Christ and the gift of his Spirit? Let me say it one more time, because it bears repeating:
The marriage relationship alone is as incomplete a picture of intimacy as the male gender is an incomplete picture of the full image of God. 

Scandalous?  I know.
To really understand the intimacy we can have with God, we need to look at all of our relationships.
  If we’re married, that’s a picture of it. If we have a close friend, that’s a picture of it. If we’re parents, that’s a picture of it. If we’re children, that’s a picture of it.
Every healthy relationship we have points to the intimacy we can have with God—now and in the age to come.

To hear what I'm not saying, lets go back and revisit the story about "that" guy.
 The one who really likes all the craft beer?  Well, his story makes a point I'd like to mention.
Writing to the Corinthian church the apostle Paul said, “’Everything is permissible,’ but not everything is beneficial.” 
In other words, just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. 
...Or that you have to, in order to prove you aren’t a backwoods legalist. 
For example, if you struggle with lust, it’s probably not wise to start fostering tons of close friendships with people of the opposite sex. If you’re married and your spouse doesn’t feel comfortable with it, don’t do it. 
 Period.  (There are exceptions in cases of abuse, but that would be a different discussion altogether.) And I would even go so far as to say you shouldn’t seek these relationships out simply because I said it’s not a sin. The Bible tells us wine is a gift from God, but it also warns us of the danger of being led astray by it. 
So it is with male-female friendships.


---

I’ll admit this, in closing: I have a close friend of the opposite sex. But I didn’t seek her out. 
I didn’t decide one day that it was okay to take a drink, so to speak, and then fill three carts at the liquor store.
 God brought her my way. 

We've set boundaries so we wouldn't get sidetracked or be tempted by the siren song of the culture around us—the song that sings of nothing greater than what we can get out of something.
 Its the song that sings that there's nothing greater than sex in this male-female relationship. 

But we choose a different way.
 If we talk about anything, our spouses are both aware of it. 
And if they ever had to draw a line in the sand, we would never cross it.
 We know that as long as the culture around us continues to look for a return in every relationship, temptation will whisper in our ears. 

But the beauty of breaking free from the mentality that is so deeply set in the culture around us— the beauty of realizing that it really is more blessed to give than to receive—is that the temptation's whispers and the siren's songs lose their allure.

Why?  

Because the truth is, sex isn’t the only picture of intimacy.
 Neither is sex the inevitable end of every relationship with the opposite sex.
Christians - Followers of Jesus need to think outside the box as our creative Father thinks outside the box.  Relationships and community is no exception. 

 Unless of course you believe every relationship is meant to satisfy you.  Unless your definition of satisfaction in true relationship is really that narrow.