Friends of the female persuasion

January 22, 2013

in None of the Above

A while back, my bride wrote a post entitled Men Friends on The Generous Wife blog. The outcry has been as predicted (more by email than in the blog comments.)

My wife hardly needs me to defend her, but this is an issue that cuts both ways, and I don’t think I have addressed it. I also suspect that some of the angst over this from women is not about their friendships with men, but rather about their husband’s friendship or potential friendship with other women.

There are two general fears as far as I can see: 1) that friendship will lead to sexual temptation, and 2) that the relationship will “look bad” or “be a bad witness”.

The appearance of evil: 

Avoiding the appearance of evil is one of those faulty teaching we have all heard. Yes, I said faulty. Let’s look at 1 Thess 5:22 more closely:

Abstain from all appearance of evil. [KJV]
Abstain from every form of evil. [NKJ]
Abstain from every form of evil. [ESV]
abstain from every form of evil. [NAS]
Avoid every kind of evil. [NIV]
Throw out anything tainted with evil. [MSG] 

The original King James stands alone here on the idea that we must avoid the “appearance” of evil. The problem with this translation is that it conflicts with what we see Jesus and the apostles actually doing. When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, He was way into what would have appeared evil to the Jews of the time. Even if the woman was not a prostitute, she was sexually immoral and a social outcast (going to the well in the heat of the day meant she was avoiding others). Had Jesus followed the “avoid the appearance of evil” doctrine, the woman would not have believed in Him, nor would her town have been reached as it was. Most of the apostles also violated social and religious norms, thus taking on the “appearance of evil”. This mis-translation has probably done a great deal to hinder the spread of the Gospel! 

Years ago a well known preacher/evangelist said that if he were driving alone and saw a woman from his church broken down on the side of the road, he would not pick her up. He said he would drive to the nearest pay phone (this was before cell phone) and call some help for her. That sounds good until we realise that Jesus condemned this kind of thing in the story of the Good Samaritan. Besides, what if another car did stop – driven by a rapist? Is the “reputation” of the pastor more important than the life and safety of a woman who needs help? How can we become so twisted in our thinking?

Tomorrow: sexual temptation and female friends.

 

20 comments
Alecia
Alecia

I think we would be wise to ask ourselves if it is we who need to be helping someone. Lets be careful with the excuse "if I don't help him/her who will?" I'll give an example: my husband often used that excuse in life and ministry. They needed a shoulder, they didn't have anyone else, it was his "job" and it lead to an affair. One of my first reactions to him was "it wasn't your place to listen to her problems, etc." what he should have done was lead her to a quality woman to speak with. There are always ways to help people without putting ourselves on precarious situations.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Alecia - I agree that is a question we should always ask ourselves. Even if helping where we should not does not get us in trouble, it might harm the other, or keep them from being helped by someone who would help them better. We might also rob the one who should help them of a blessing. I have often said "Just because I can do something does not mean I should". OTOH, we must be careful to not neglect someone we should help. "Someone else will do it" is as wrong as "if I don’t help him/her who will?"

Tom
Tom

We crazy Catholics call setting these boundaries "avoiding occasion of sin". Y'all might see us as legalistic, but like modesty, it's just a practical way to keep ourselves from falling into error.

Some married guy
Some married guy

I'm more inclined to believe this is a misinterpretation of the KJV. The idea is avoiding areas in which evil appears, not avoiding actions which others think to be evil. With the former, we can use Biblical standards for where we willingly go (ie not voluntarily going to a brothel.) With the latter, our standards are the views of others, which may or may not be published or known. How many times was Jesus castigated for healing on the Sabbath (appearance of evil)? How does anyone else know one is not having a homosexual relationship with same-sex friends (thus not avoiding the appearance of evil)? To be legalistic and avoid the appearance of evil, we should avoid alone time with anyone else other than our spouse and even that may be questionable. Affairs (and any other sin) happens, not because our boundaries get "fuzzy", but because we follow the process in James 1:14, 15 and take our eyes off of our Savior.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Some married guy - Your final thought is certainly true and important! As to what we do and where we go, the real issue is to be led by God. Where and can and should go, and cannot and should not go, depends on where I am in my walk, my maturity, and what God has called me to. I know people called to dark places where I should not go. As long as they are hearing God, they are safe. When they get their eyes off of Him, they are in trouble no matter where they go!

Tony
Tony

Boundaries do not preclude you from helping others. As I cited before, you can help the woman on the side of the road. Just don't get in the car with her. Stop, ask if she would like you to wait with her to make sure she's OK. Don't give her your cell phone number and don't take hers. Ask her if someone who she trusts is coming and so forth. I mentioned the gym spouse or the work spouse because I've seen people appear to dance on that edge. Getting closer than I would feel comfortable with with respect to safe guarding my marriage. I totally agree, it's about wise boundaries, not being legalistic.

workinprogress
workinprogress

And really, what is the harm in being "legalistic" about this? It would be a bit hard to have an affair if you never allowed yourself to be alone with someone of the opposite sex. I have to agree with Alecia. This isn't about being legalistic, it's about setting boundaries to protect your marriage. Affairs happen because men and women allow the boundaries to get fuzzy.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

workinprogress - Legalism sometimes seems like a good idea, but it never works out that way. Jesus seemed to hate it, and Paul certainly was no fan. The real problem is that law has never been able to keep anyone from sin.

workinprogress
workinprogress

The Greek word translated 'form' here in the NAS is "eidos" meaning "the external or outward appearance, form figure, shape, form, kind" so actually the King James isn't an inaccurate translation. While I agree that legalism in this area is not necessary, and there is no reason to leave a woman stranded on the side of the road, I do think that there is wisdom in exercising much caution in regards to the opposite sex. Especially for those in ministry... I think that men and women in a role of church ministry need to be above reproach and be very wise in how they interact with those of the opposite sex. Setting boundaries and letting your congregation know what those boundaries are is a very wise practice.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

workinprogress - Yes, what the KJV says is one possible translation of the word, but that does not make it the right translation for this verse. More to the point, how we read that choice of words today gives us an idea that the scripture could not mean, unless Jesus was wrong for talking to the woman at the well. The problem is not as much the translation as the "doctrine" that was created from it.

Tony
Tony

I think the scripture that helps address this is Matthew 10:16-18 and perhaps more. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles."

Alecia
Alecia

I think you're probably right to a degree. This verse is telling us to abstain from things that "are" evil that just appear to be evil. But, its a slippery slope. The Bible also reminds us in 1 Cor. 10:23 that while something might not be "wrong" or "evil" it also might not be beneficial or good for us. Having been in the ministry as a pastor's kid and a pastor's wife I can tell you emphatically that (while, yes, some people do take this verse to the legalistic extreme) there is something to be said for being "better safe than sorry." My dad didn't not take girls home from church without another adult woman in the car because it "looked" bad he did it because it protected him and the children from EVERYTHING (temptation, allegation, etc.) And while its sad that we have to think like that, in the world we live in, the plain and simple truth is that we do. When it comes to the sanctity of our marriages, we need to also be as vigilent. While it may seem legalistic to tell our co-worker that we will drive seperately to the working lunch or to CC our husband in on an email to another man or to meet someone in a public place rather than a private office it is for our own protection and the protection of our spouse and our marriage. And I would go so far as to say that we may do well to (referring to your wifes blog on this subject) NOT meet someone of the opposite sex even in public. We risk all sorts of things when we meet privately with people of the opposite sex, even in public. Sharing too much, getting too close, revealing too much of ourselves...The point isn't whether or not you are doing it in public or private, the point is whether or not you are building a connection/intimacy with someone other than your spouse. Those are the types of "evils" we need to think ahead about and build (healthy) boundaries up for within our marriages.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Alecia - That verse is certainly a great balance! And yes, allegation and misunderstanding are now huge issues beyond any wrong doing. I still see how the enemy could use that to keep folks from getting real help they need. Based on the culture, Jesus so totally "messed up" with the woman at the well. This is way, way, way beyond meeting someone for a meal in a public place. And yet He did it, because He cared more for her soul than His reputation.

PastorTripp
PastorTripp

I have several friends that are female. They come to the office where we meet in the open. They are also happily married and friends with my wife. I would never meet with them in private or have lunch or dinner with them privately. That's reserved for my wife. Better safe than sorry. We try to go by the Billy Graham rules of ministry. Good stuff.

Jay Dee
Jay Dee

We have to be very careful with the bible and its translations. Every translation has the translators theology embedded in it. So many false doctrines because of a misplaced comma, let alone a bad choice of a word.

Russell
Russell

Paul, Head of the nail, you. Thank you for this post. I have thought this for years and have found myself in the minority.

Tony
Tony

Dr Willard Harley talks about extraordinary protections for your marriage. I think it follows closely with the idea of this article. Basically your spouse should be the number one person meeting your emotional needs. I've seen things that while they may be innocent, are not worth the risk placed on the relationship. We all know of gym or work spouses. That person of the opposite sex who seems to be with someone else at the gym, at work, the factory floor, etc. Not a good idea to be buddy buddy with someone of the opposite sex in environments where you spouse is not there. Instead put protections into place. Don't be alone with folks of the opposite sex. Even if you don't plan to have an affair, how do you know she doesn't view you for a conquest? So while it may not be a good idea to give a strange woman a ride alone with you in your car, or take your secretary to lunch, etc, there are things you can do such as stop by her broken down car and wait with her until a tow truck comes, etc. Be alert and vigilant about protecting your relationship with your wife.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Tony - I am all for extraordinary protection for marriages! However, I find that too often this is a one size fits all kind of thing that is too much for some and not enough for others (not aiming that at Harley). This can easily become a form of legalism that keeps some from doing what God would have the, do, and allows others to sin by meeting the letter but not the spirit of the law.

Mark
Mark

Every appearance: every time and in every form that it appears. I do not believe the KJV was a mistranslation (although the others a certainly more clear); perhaps, rather, some of us have lost the poetry of our language?

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Mark - When I said miss-translation I did not mean the KJV, but rather the doctrine we have build around the KJV verse that is a poor translation for modern English. The New King James has corrected this issue.

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