Being Intentional: “Deep Christian Friendship”
This October, the Lifegroups at FBCA are engaging in a series of discussions around the topics of relationships, dating, and marriage. The simple fact is that we are bombarded on every side with how the world views sex, marriage, dating, and relationships. How does a Biblical worldview stand in contrast? How does God intend for men and women to live in Christian community with one another? We desire to be a people who pursue the abundant life promised by Jesus (John 10:10), living under God’s Truth as we live in the culture and context of 21st Century America.
In Lifegroup last Sunday, each of our groups worked together to develop a definition for being intentional with friends of the opposite gender (whether there is romantic interest or not). Here are a few thoughts from some of our various Lifegroup leaders.
From the guys:
“Being intentional” with friends of the opposite sex means you engage your mind and not just your heart and desire. An intentional relationship is one that is thought out, not just one that you “fall” into. Allowing our emotions and desires to control our behavior will lead us into compromising situations. When we are intentional about relationships with the opposite sex we consider how our behavior will effect ourselves, the other person, and the testimony of God.
Being intentional is a convicting thought in and of itself: because I don’t think we are very intentional with “friends” of the opposite gender. To be intentional recognizes that there is a deeper meaningfulness to this relationship. We need to really actively care for our female friends, viewing them as sister’s in Christ (and not just as a cliche). Being intentional means that we’re not passively “keeping the door open” that it “might become something more.” If feelings begin to develop, then we need to acknowledge those feelings to ourselves; and that may very well mean we do not act on them. In a strong Christian (girl) friend, we have been given a gift of community, personality and perspective that God can use to speak truth into our lives. And we should care for them as we would our own sister. Additionally, the primary variables that lead to infidelity in marital relationships are “time” and “proximity.” Namely, it’s not lack of love or happiness in the home, necessarily, but it’s usually a sizable amount of time spent in close proximity with a friend of the opposite gender. In our society, many affairs happen in the workplace because of time and proximity. Being intentional with “friends” of the opposite gender obviously also applies to those who very well aren’t believers or are outside the circle of friends you have “in church.”
From the girls:
A primary characteristic of being intentional is being selfless. Check to make sure your close friendship with someone of the opposite sex is not just an unconscious effort to fill the void of not being in a dating or marriage relationship. I believe in the broad concept of the Harry Meet Sally philosophy, which is that someone within the male/female friendship will likely end of developing intimate feelings for the other as a close, isolated friendship continues.
I agreed with much of what she just said in that it can be easy to blur the line with friends of the opposite sex. I think both women and men can find an attraction to the other person when so much emotional time is invested in the relationship. It’s like, we are already so close, so why not date? A good example of this was my relationship with my old coworker “Al.” Al and I worked together during the week and also on the weekends (we both were employed by two different places). Strange situation, but we got along great. I knew from the get go that Al was becoming a Jew after leaving Catholicism. We spent so much time together that pretty soon we were getting very close emotionally. I started to find myself becoming attracted to Al because of our close emotional ties and knew I had to make an intentional decision. Was this a man I could become romantically involved with? The answer was no. I actually had to tell Al that I couldn’t spend as much time with him due to my attraction – knowing we couldn’t date. He was very surprised by this bold decision and was confused, but I knew it wasn’t right for me and in the long run not good for him either. Bottom line- it’s easy to start using people of the opposite sex as a crutch for your loneliness. Being intentional with members of the opposite sex means monitoring the time and emotional energy you put into the relationship. Make sure you aren’t spending time with someone who isn’t emotional available in order not to get out there and date. Also, you need to be intentional with the other person’s feelings. Another example I have is that I stopped talking to a man in my building because he wanted to be more than friends. We kept trying to Hang Out, but inevitably he would keep bringing up dating. I had to stop and think what was best for him? Clearly spending time with me was hurting him, so I intentionally stopped the relationship to protect him.
From Tim Keller’s the Meaning of Marriage:
Recognize that there are seasons for not seeking marriage. There are many times or seasons in which active dating and seeking marriage do not have to occur. Anyone who always needs to “have somebody” is probably into marriage idolatry. When you are going through a significant transition – starting a new job, starting a new school, dealing with the death of a parent, or some other absorbing time or event – it might not be a good time to begin a relationship. After some emotionally charged times in your life, you might want to deliberately avoid seeking marriage. In such situations, your judgment may be cloudy. During times of healing or regrouping, you probably need deep Christian friendship more than dates and ideas of marriage. (Keller, p. 207)
I sincerely hope that we are all experiencing what Tim Keller refers to as “deep Christian friendship” at FBCA. I value this community SO much and you all mean so much to me. God is doing great things in our midst and I pray you are growing deeper in relationship with each other as you grow deeper in relationship with Jesus.