Are you ready to tackle this one? It's a good one:
How do we handle friendships with Christians of the opposite sex?
This one's tricky in a spiritually unequal marriage, right? It's not just about what is; it's also about how things look to others, and how our spouse feels.
For most of us, the minute we go near church we're not exactly going to be like a monk or nun, hanging out with our own gender. Actually, Jesus hung out with a group of women who loved him dearly (Luke 8:1-3), as well as his male disciples. And life in church means we do end up with people of the opposite sex who become important people of faith to us.
I've had a few of those: brothers in Christ of different ages who've been really important friends. Still, for our spouses' sake and our own we have to be mindful because we're human, and one of the ways the enemy could attack our marriages is by putting a Christian member of the opposite sex front and center and tempting us to look at them instead of our spouse. I guess we have to have some boundaries that we figure out in advance.
You know, one of the hardest things that's ever happened to me in my SUM was when a single man at church developed a strong desire to be a close friend with me and started texting me frequently. I was partly to blame because when I first met this man I behaved in a very friendly manner and shared my faith heart with him. I still do that with people. Anyway, the situation became un-comfy for me.
Honestly, that one became SUCH a difficult situation. There was Bryce, at home, extremely unhappy about my churchgoing; and there was this man at church wanting my friendship. During the week, my phone would pop up with messages from him. I felt if I addressed it, I would be turning it into something that it wasn't. So I let him keep on messaging me, and nearly fell over from anxiety about it all.
What I should have done is quite simply explained my boundaries to this man and said 'Because you're male and my husband's not a believer, I can't receive these texts any more, I'm sorry, please understand'. But somehow I found the whole situation so difficult I didn't, and instead got myself wound up into a state of anxiety. Oh dear!
We live and learn.
That experience taught me that the whole opposite-sex thing is something I have to navigate reasonably proactively. So now, I have a few rules in my head. For example, when working on the prayer team at church I won't pray on my own with a man my age. Even if we're different ages, I don't put my hand on a guy's shoulder when praying like I would with a woman. Well, sometimes I might ... It depends on who it is and the situation.
As a woman, I find that if a guy has strong boundaries of his own that feels instantly easier; and most guys who I come across in church circles do have those safety boundaries. However, we may find at church that not every person has good boundaries, and if a situation arises that makes us uncomfortable we have to be courageous enough to express our own limits.
Ultimately, from a spiritual point of view other believers are our family, and so I personally don't shy from connections with Christians of the opposite sex. I have brothers in the church, and they are exactly that: brothers. But I do tell Bryce about my friendships and connections, and his levels of comfort are a good gauge for me.
All in all, then, we connect with the Body, stay open-hearted in love, and do our best to stay in a place of integrity.
Now over to you in the comments: Have you had Christian friends of the opposite sex, and what boundaries do you put in place?
Love to you all!
Lynn, I couldn't stop reading this book! It is the best you have written! It's a "self-help-bible-based-do-it-yourself-demon-slaying-victory-winning book" like no other I've ever read. I learned some new prayer points as well as clarification on what exactly does my situation mean. Everyone who reads this will want their bible, notebook and the Holy Spirit sitting next to them as they strategize with the tools you've given! -Barb