Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cornerstone Questions: Are Friendships With Members of the Opposite Sex Okay?

I have received numerous questions by people in my church in my current sermon series on the family. I thought I would take the time to answer many of them here on the blog. Yesterday, I dealt with a question I received on parenting. Today, I wanted to answer a question on marriage.

Question: When it comes to friendship with members of the opposite sex: (1) Are they okay? (2) Are they healthy or bad for a marriage? (3) What about opposite "online" friends like Facebook or various "forum" friends?

In answering this question, I need to make a distinction between married couples and single people. While many of the points I will share below could be applicable for the single person, they are directed towards the person who is married since the question is obviously asked from the perspective of the married person. Should the husband pursue friendships with other women? Should the wife pursue friendships with other men?

Let me begin by saying that there is nothing wrong in friendship. And there is nothing inherently wrong in friendships with those of the opposite sex. But maybe to justifiably answer this question, we have to get back to the purpose of friendship. As in all things, friendship (for the Christian) should be primarily about individuals coming together for the purpose of spurring one another on in their relationship with God. And Jesus Christ should be central in all relationships. Including friendships with those of the same sex, and friendships with those of the opposite sex. If Christ is central in those relationships, then I would say that it could be healthy. But if not, then I would say that it definitely could be bad.

Yet even when I write that, I realize that there could be the temptation from someone to even trick themselves in friendships. They might think it is about spurring one another on in their relationship with Christ, but their heart is being pulled in a unholy way towards that person. Because of this temptation, I have developed some rules in my relationship with other women that I would recommend to you as well.

1. My Wife Must Approve
I would never have a female friend whom my wife did not know. I would never spend anytime around another woman in which my wife did not know about. She is the dictator of any relationships I have with other women. I like to think more like I grow in good friendships as family friends.

2. My Wife Has Access
She knows any passwords to my FaceBook or Twitter accounts. It only makes sense that I would never have some account that is secret from her. She can look at my text messages anytime she wants. Just to be clear, I hardly ever text another woman, unless it has to do with church related things.

3. No Confidential Information
I will not share anything personal or confidential with other women. A general rule of thumb might be that I would not share anything with them that I would not want shared over a mass email to my church. Obviously, the purpose is to keep hearts being drawn to each other through personal information.

4. No Time Alone With Other Women
I will not spend alone time with other women. That is simply just not something I do. I will counsel some women with my door open during office hours when other people are around. And my wife has access to my calendar, so she knows when and who those appointments are with. But I do not socialize or spend time with other women by myself.

5. I Will Give Them Up
Sorry ladies, but if my wife ever told me that she felt uncomfortable with a certain relationship, I would gladly give it up. I would unfriend someone from FaceBook. I would stop following someone on Twitter or delete them as a follower. I would delete their number from my phone. She has the right to tell me she feels uncomfortable.

I gladly count some of my wife's best friends as my friends. I think I am a better husband, pastor, and Christian because of those relationships. But I have to have some framework that guides my relationship with them. But I also realize that rules can simply become rules. Everything comes back to the heart. Which is why, I would characterize a few warning signs that might help you think through whether you are leading down a wrong path with a friendship with someone of the opposite sex. You might be in danger if . . .

  • You think about that person often.
  • You look forward to a text or phone call with that person.
  • You look at their FaceBook status or pictures more than anyone else.
  • You talk negatively about your spouse to them.
  • You wish to be around them.
  • You spend social time alone with them.

I am sure there are others. It all comes back to the heart.

If you are uncomfortable with a friendship that your spouse has with a member of the opposite sex, you must tell them immediately. And if your spouse tells you, you must get rid of that relationship. There's no other way to say it.

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