Sexual temptation and female friends.

January 23, 2013

in Seeing Clearly, Sexuality, The "D" word

Yesterday in Friends of the female persuasion I suggested that “avoiding the appearance of evil” is not biblically valid, much less commanded. The comments, both on the blog and in my email, require a follow up, but today I want to look at the “female friends are an affair waiting to happen” line of thought.

Looking to cheat © Alexandre Miguel Da Silva Nunes | Dreamstime.com

Certainly being friends with a woman makes it easier to end up in bed with her, but I think cheating is more about our hearts than it is about circumstance and opportunity. If most men were the sex crazed monsters some think we are, then avoiding any hint of friendship with a woman might be a wise, but completely useless precaution. Let’s face it, if most men were as given to sex with any woman, any time, there would be no need to form a friendship to end up in adultery!

Are there men who will have sex with just about any woman they can get? Yes. There are also men who are so afraid of germs they will not go outside their own homes. Neither group is the norm, and neither group should be used to decide how the majority should act. Despite the bad press the male sex drive has gotten the last few decades, most men do not think primarily with their penises! What’s more, despite the fact that some men excuse their affair or porn use on a lack of sex with their wife, most men will not commit adultery simply because they are “not getting enough” at home. (They may well do it because of anger or frustration over a callous lack of caring for their sexual needs, that is about love and respect, not sex.)

My view, and some will argue with me strongly on this, is that adultery is not something one “falls into”. It does not happen because of an unfortunate set of circumstances. Adultery is an action that follows a choice or series of choices made days, weeks, or months before the sex happens. Adultery is not about a sexual attraction to another person, but about trying desperately to fill a need that is not being filled. While I cannot say that need is never sexual, I am confident it is rare that the real need is sexual. Sure sex feels good, but most folks who cheat are looking for something other than an orgasm.

Yes, having a female friend might make it easier for some men to get up the courage to commit adultery, but the friendship is not what causes the affair. The reality is anyone who wants to cheat is going to find it sadly easy to do so. Thinking that not having female friends keeps one safe from an affair is like thinking closing your home’s windows will prevent you from being robbed when your front door is standing ajar!

To me this is about knowing yourself and being wise. If you are sexually satisfied, you are not at risk. If you are sexually frustrated, then you need to be more careful, but the real issue is more about your relationship, why you are sexually frustrated, and how you feel about that. If your wife is chronically ill, or dealing with being molested as a child, you may not be having any sex, but you understand that and you are not mad at her about it. If she is just saying no, or a legitimate reason has gone on for a long time with her refusing to deal with it, then you are mad about it, and that anger can easily be used to justify adultery. Adultery is not a result of men not having sex, but it is often a result of men being angry about not having sex.

Another thing to consider is attraction – if you know you are attracted to a woman, then be wise and do not give any opportunity for inappropriate feelings to grow. The tricky thing about this is it means we have to be honest with ourselves. If we just deny all our feelings about all women, then we are blind to potential problems. If we admit what we think and feel, then we can deal with those things in a wise and godly manner. While many men commit adultery with women they are not at all attracted to, there is certainly wisdom in not putting yourself where you are going to feel things you should not feel about a woman other than your wife.

The bottom line: Hungry people are far more likely to steal food than those who are well fed. Yes, the sexually starved are probably at a bit more risk, but what really drives adultery is being emotionally malnourished, relationally hungry, or starved for respect. These hungers are the hook that opens a man to adultery. If you have any of these, you are at risk, and you should know that and take precautions. If you are not hungry in any of these ways, you really are not at risk unless your penis actually rules you.

Tomorrow: Dealing with sexual anger. (A post requested because I just reran Angry about sex?, and a great fit with where this post went).

Image Credit: © Alexandre Miguel Da Silva Nunes | Dreamstime.com

 

71 comments
HMT
HMT

I did not post the following: HMT January 26, 2013 at 10:12 am I believe that any invested-in or pursued relationship with a member of the opposite-sex is an invitation to trouble and problematic (which I think we agree on). I do think that contact- such as in the workplace or at church- incidental or group contact with no such pursuit, investment, or personal attention involved- whatever you want to call it- is still viable.

HMT
HMT

Sorry to get in to the tail end of this: From a viewpoint of being married a long time: At some point, you don't see men as men and women as women, but if you are happy in your marriage, everyone else is just "people". If I can't have lunch with a guy, or with a woman, and talk "tech" with him or her, without ever thinking about having sex with them, there is something fundamentally wrong with my marriage. Well, there's not, and I have lots of female friends, who would be incredulous if they thought that I ever had a remotely sexually thought about them. And guess what? I don't. This is something that needs space. If you are happy, sexually well-adjusted, and you think that 51% of the population is off limits because you "might be tempted", your relationship with your spouse needs serious work.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

John Delcamp mentioned above that technology lacks the personal element of face to face communication. I appreciate that folks here are aware of this and doing well with it. I've been doing on-line message boards since '97, and I generally assume anything that sounds rude was not intended that way because I know how easy it is to mean one thing and have something else heard.

HMT
HMT

"I believe that any invested-in or pursued relationship with a member of the opposite-sex is an invitation to trouble and problematic (which I think we agree on). I do think that contact- such as in the workplace or at church- incidental or group contact with no such pursuit, investment, or personal attention involved- whatever you want to call it- is still viable." Andrew, when you've lived a bit longer, you'll realize that your wife is your wife; friends are friends. It has nothing to do with sex. I can have friends, men and women, and know where the boundaries are. Dude, the fact that you are so worried about scares me. You must really have some unresolved issues, if you think you can't be friends a with a female without having any possible temptation of sleeping with her. Like I say, Dude. Examine your life.

Gary
Gary

@Andrew-Yes I believe that clarifies it sufficiently. I think our main contention is caused by varying ideas in what constitutes a friendship. As I said I believe a relationship to be less than a friendship only when the purpose of interaction between the individuals is overwhelmingly utilitarian, with virtually or actually no colloquial exchanges. And I appologize for any past and subsequent responses that may seem "aggressive" in any way. I mean no offense and am neither offended by your disagreements, but sometimes my debating style unintentionally conveys the contrary (or so I'm told lol).

Gary
Gary

@Andrew-I also don't see why these incidental contacts could not be considered friendships. Levels of intimacy on an emotional level are variable in friendships. I have friends that I hang out with often and intentionally and others that I only talk to or participate in events with when they are incidentally involved. I don't see how both groups can't be considered as friendships simply because the desire to spend time in their company varies. I would say the only time such a relationship would not be considered a friendship as I define it is when the purpose of interaction is overwhelmingly utilitarian.

Gary
Gary

@Andrew- I'm not sure why you continue to argue against a proposition I never made. I explicitly said in both my posts that such friendships **should not** be pursued, simply not rejected by default. Go over and read them again carefully if you must.

John Delcamp
John Delcamp

I have found this amazing that this is such a hot issue. Several warnings with this type of emotionally charged discussion - 1) Be sure that we are looking at our circumstances through God's word and not the other way around. It makes a temendous difference in the interpretation of Scripture. 2) It is necessary to guard our lives from evil in every area, even in the good things because when good things take the place of God, they become sin. With that in mind, our relationships with the opposite - married or unmarried, must be protected and guarded from evil. 3) Just because you "minister" to the opposite as a couple, does not mean that you can leave your guard down. There are certain things that open the door to temptation that we must guard ourselves from whether we are with our spouse or not. 4) The next step into a "big" sin is only the same size as the step before it and the one before that, which moved us closer and closer to falling into the "big" sin. God extend us grace, mercy and forgiveness so that we would extend it to someone else. God adopted us into His family so we would show others they could be adopted into the family of God. Therefore, it does not matter the color, religion, sex, or lifestyle of a person, they need Jesus and we are to be that mirror that reflects an authentic image of Jesus to them. To do that, we must minister to the opposite sex, but we must do it in a manner that shows the purity and holiness of Jesus.

J (Hot, Holy & Humorous)
J (Hot, Holy & Humorous)

I have long been an advocate of not having close friends of the opposite gender once you are married. I have a personal rule that I do not spend time alone with a man who is not my husband or a relative. Because I know what I came from, who I was, and don't want to ever tempt that in any way. I have no attraction to others--just my husband--but I am careful nonetheless. I think it's a matter of where the line is drawn. What I find happening more often is spouses not able to draw a line and getting too close, too fast, and then if their marriage suffers difficulty, they are tempted to find comfort and ease with that "just a friend." So that's what I tend to warn against. All that said, I have male friends. We just don't hang out alone. There are a few men I would likely have lunch with (for instance, an old college friend I'd love to see sometime), in a very public setting. And OF COURSE I would stop to help someone I knew in an emergency--regardless of gender. There is a point where our hedge can indeed become less like a wall and more like a battering ram. Interesting give-and-take here, Paul.

Alecia
Alecia

I agree with Nate. I think you end up making the counter argument within your post. Also, have to say that Rosemary is spot on as well. Just because you believe all your needs are being met within your marriage and that you are completely satisfied with your spouse does NOT mean that having a friendship with the opposite sex comes risk free. My thoughts: I do agree that cheating is absolutely, foundationally, an issue of the heart. But, I respectfully disagree on your second point. It is also absolutely contingent on circumstance and opportunity. No, we don't just "fall" into adultery. It happens as a result of dozens of tiny, inconsequential choices we make along the way that (as I said in a past post that I'll link up) "They may seem small. They may seem like they don’t matter. But all they serve to do is bring you closer and closer to a line you thought you’d never cross. Until you do." Because it is the little choices that matter, we DO need to be extremely cautious about things like burgeoning friendships and forging connections with the opposite sex. Those are EXACTLY the steps that lead to an affair. Even if you believe you aren't at risk for one in your marriage. Someone once said that (might be Harley, author of "Surviving an Affair") given the right circumstances ANYONE could have an affair. So, again, it IS those little choices and those seemingly insignificant circumstances and opportunities that are what create an environment that make an affair possible. Your premise about attraction seems off (in my opinion) as well. If I'm reading it correctly it seems you are addressing physical attraction. So, basically "don't be friends with someone you think is hot." So let's be honest. We can think someone is hot. We can find someone attractive. But "attraction" isn't about looks when it comes down to it. It grows and happens over time as a result of getting to know someone, building a connection, creating little moments of intimacy. When you allow that to happen, you are already so invested in the friendship, already so close to that line you didn't think you'd ever cross, it can be incredibly difficult to not cross it and completely cut ties. It is not a matter of health in your marriage, needs being met, its a matter of being wise enough to know ahead of time what "could" happen as a result of the choices we are making today. I say, and will always say, better safe than sorry. No friendship is worth risking my marriage. Ever. If there is a friendship that I have that I deem worth the risk, then there is a good chance I'm getting a need met through that friendship that I should be attempting to get met through my marriage or through a same sex friendship. http://marriagelifeministries.org/?p=554

Gary
Gary

@Andrew- I agree and did say in my original response that such relationships should not be pursued, espescially since such intentional effort would be an indicator that your wife's friendship and/or emotional/physical relationship with you is unsatisfactory. Naturally that would present a great risk to your fidelity. Additionally, I agree it would be unfair to the wife regardless of motives or potentialities to expand this friendship past it's circumstantial necessity (such as inviting a female co-worker to your home, even if your wife is present). My main point is simply that opposite sex friendships are not *intrinsically* problematic. And in Paul's defense I do believe he was merely stating that insufficient emotional intimacy associated with sex was the primary cause not in the sense that it is always a factor but rather exists as the most significant one in a majority of cases.

Rosemary
Rosemary

Please read "Not Just Friends" by Shirley Glass. Her extensive research into infidelity dispels a lot of myths, including "If you are sexually satisfied, you are not at risk" and some of the other ideas you mentioned here. Yes, it is often about something that is missing in the relationship, but not always. I am not suggesting that we cannot have opposite-sex friends. Of course we can! But many married people - even some happily married people - do indeed drift into affairs because they gradually crossed friendship boundaries in small increments that they weren't consciously aware of at the time. Yes, at some point they made the decision to go forward with the affair, and there is absolutely no excuse for that. But getting to that point often was not something they intended or planned. Many people really don't understand the subtle danger signs of a friendship that is starting to take a wrong turn. This is especially true of emotional affairs, which can be just as devastating to a marriage as physical affairs.

Gary
Gary

@Andrew, It seems explicitly clear to me that the entire point of this post was that adultery is an issue of the heart, so I'm not sure why you are contending it as indicating the contrary. Regardless, I think it goes without saying that Paul recognizes that fact but was addressing particularly how adultery is roused and developed in the heart and subsequently manafested physically. I also must disagree with your assertion that mere prolonged proximity and platonic interaction to a person of the opposite sex is a problem in itself, and is actually sometimes necessary (such as in the workplace or ministry). Certainly friendships with the opposite sex should not be pursued or emotionally invested in (beyond what you would naturally have with a same sex friendship), but when circumstantially required they should not be reject as intrisically evil/problematic either. Ultimately I think the core of the problem with adultery is that, even for those who do not consciously perceive it as such, subconsciously (no matter how deeply burried therein) the door is being left open a crack to the idea of other women as potential sexual partners. A simple way to demonstrate this is to ask yourself how likely it would be for you to cheat on your wife with one of your sisters, or even your mother, given enough time and non-sexual interaction. I'm betting the very question repulses you, nevermind the idea or an actual occurence of such a thing. But why is that? Because you believe such a relationship to be highly inappropriate and quite simply and absolutely disgusting. If you genuinely recognize that God sees extra-marrital sexual relationships with non-familial women the same way, all you need to do is conform your mind to His and develop the same mindset you use to quite easily prevent any sexual feelings, thoughts or advances towards women who belong to your immediate family. Putting it in that perspective has allowed me personally to resist adulterous thoughts with much greater effectiveness. It's also a reminder that it is very much possible to restrain the growth of sexual desire for the opposite sex when such a relationship would be inappropriate and genuinely recognized as such.

Amy M.
Amy M.

Hey, Paul -- I had male friendships prior to meeting my husband. Every one of them teetered at some point -- hormones and small needs or fleshly desires can do all sorts of things to the mind, and Satan gets a step up through those avenues. In every male friendship I had, once that man found a girlfriend or wife, I found myself less one friend. When I was younger this did not compute. Now, I certainly understand it. We DO NOT KNOW the other person's heart deficiencies. We do not know unmet needs. We can only believe what we hear, see and experience. The heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) ... even if a man or woman has proper care and feeding of needs, temptation can invade. We are to not set ourselves up for temptation. My husband fell into an emotional affair -- we each left needs unmet for each other, but he's the one who fell away. He escaped from anything relating to God as quickly as he could manage it -- he knew his wrong deep down, but the surface showed vindication, pride, self-righteousness and blame. I don't think anyone can possibly justify opposite-sex friendship on a true, emotional level ... knowing that any small chink in the armor can allow The Tempter easy access. Affairs do not start quickly. They develop. The participants can be fully knowledgeable, or ... they can be tricked, misled, and creatively tempted. When you find a nice woman at work who suffers with a negligent husband, you feel sorry. You offer a listening ear. Satan begins to whisper. Godly men and women have fallen -- and admit they had not reason to do so. Temptation won, and they skipped the many safe zones and exits God provided because the call of The Wild spoke louder. I respectfully disagree, believe that many people are misled by these relationships, and in today's society, this kind of relationship provides more temptation than good.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

HMT - The comment uses the same email (which anyone could have entered) but also comes from the same IP# as your other comments. So it came from the same Internet connection.

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

HMT- I have lived long enough to recognize that temptation can strike anyone, at any age, when given an open opportunity. I saw it happen to a man in his... 70s, I think, married for many decades- an unwise friendship that became an affair, and a tearful confession before the church- shortly before he hung himself. I am not worried about my own life beyond the knowledge that I am as fallible and susceptible to sin as any man, and I don't want to disrespect my wife to the degree that I put myself in any position that could even potentially open that door. I'm not taking this position because I'm worried about my own life- I am taking it because I believe it to be a wise principle that every man of faith, every man who respects his wife, and every man that is not so arrogant as to believe himself above temptation, that he can 'handle it' and doesn't need to avoid emotionally risky situations, should abide by. Maybe that's my youth speaking, maybe it is some form of legalism as has been suggested- but frankly, I don't understand how anyone with any discernment can advocate such a risky, unwise, foothold-granting position as 'don't worry about opposite sex friends- as long as you know boundaries and have your needs being met, there's no risk of falling.' I'm sorry, my friends- but that is not human nature, that is not reality, and that is not wisdom. It is a selfish and risky indulgence that is disrespectful to your wife- and justifying it on the flimsy notion of an imagined potential-ministry with someone of the opposite sex that God might someday call you that only you can fulfill and which you will miss (because He can't call you specifically if you have a principle in place, apparently) does not in any way, shape, or form change that fact. Apologies for any offense- and I'm sure there will be numerous- but examine you OWN life, dude; I don't think my position is the one that has potential to cause harm.

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

@Gary - I have been told much the same thing. :-) I also apologize for any 'aggressive' responses. (Likewise for the blog author.)

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Gary - You bring up a good point; we have not defined "friend". I suspect we have a wide range of meaning for what we mean by that word, and that may be adding to the confusion and disagreement.

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

@Gary ...Which you'd already addressed in your next post, so here I am being redundant once more. :-) I don't want to split hairs, here- perhaps it would be easier to simply restate my point in light of this discussion. I believe that any invested-in or pursued relationship with a member of the opposite-sex is an invitation to trouble and problematic (which I think we agree on). I do think that contact- such as in the workplace or at church- incidental or group contact with no such pursuit, investment, or personal attention involved- whatever you want to call it- is still viable. Does that clarify things and/or put us on the same page? :-)

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

@Gary - Sorry, no such intent. I was attempting to clarify that your second point, that 'that opposite sex friendships are not *intrinsically* problematic'. I was attempting to communicate that I believe they are, because any such friendship would inherently involve that kind of investment or pursuit that we are agreed on as negative, whereas the relationships you cited as safe examples, co-worker and co-minister, were not the same thing as such friendships. I am sorry for the lack of clarity- I didn't mean to keep things going around in circles.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

John Delcamp - All great points. The first point is one that bothers me a great deal. Most Christians have never been taught how to study the Bible: no understanding of hermeneutics, no concept of a consistent theology. Most of us rely on confirmation bias to understand the Bible!

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

J - It seems to me you are setting reasonable lines based on your past and on circumstances - bravo! What concerns me is one-size-fits-all rules that are applied regardless of circumstance or situation. I think this is why the "good Jews" passed by the man who had been beaten by thieves, and only the "Good Samaritan" stopped to do what all of them should have done. Do we take Jesus seriously when He says "if you do it not to the least of these, you do it not to me"? (Matt 25) Do we think we can avoid that by saying "But Lord, I have a line to keep me from sin, and helping that person would have meant crossing my line"? The Sheep & The Goats Lyrics Keith Green Lord, I mean, when were you hungry Lord And we didn't give you something to eat? And Lord, when were you thirsty, and we didn't give you drink? I mean, that's not fair, well, would You like something now? Would one of the Angels like to go out And get the Lord a hamburger and a coke? Oh, You're not hungry, yeah, I lost my appetite too Uh, Lord uh, Lord, when were You naked? I mean Lord, that's not fair either Lord We didn't know what size you wear Oh Lord, when were You a stranger Lord You weren't one of those creepy people Who used to come to the door, were You? Oh Lord, that wasn't our ministry Lord We just didn't feel led, You know? Lord, when were You sick? What did You have, anyway? Well, at least it wasn't fatal, oh, it was? I'm sorry Lord, I would have sent You a card Lord, just one last thing we want to know When were You in prison Lord? What were You in for anyway? I had a friend in Leavenworth... (Enough!) In as much as you've not done it unto the least of My brethren You've not done it unto Me in as much as you've not done It unto the least of My brethren you've not done it unto Me Depart from me and these shall go away into everlasting fire. (Full lyrics http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-sheep-the-goats-lyrics-keith-green.html)

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Alecia - As to attraction, I did not mean physical attraction, although that would be an issue. I think emotional attraction would be a far greater concern. Thanks for the post link, I will go over it carefully before I do a planned post in this series that will deal with some of those same issues. Also, thanks for the hard discussion. I respect your thoughts and how you express them. I am glad to see the ongoing iron sharpening iron in this thread!

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

Gary, I'm afraid I must continue to disagree. I believe the things that you're stating- the workplace/ministry are incidental relationships quite different from an intentionally-pursued friendship. The examples you are using don't fall within the realm that I would define a 'friendship' in this sense- merely places of incidental contact from which one can arise, if that co-owrker or co-minister is given personal attention and investment. (Unless I have lost what I am responding to in this chain of replies. ;-) ) Therefore, while I may agree that not all opposite-sex *relationships* are inherently problematic- because those with co-workers and co-ministers can certainly exist on that incidental level- I believe that all *friendships,* anything intentionally pursued and personally involved, are.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Rosemary - I think it is like what happened to Lori and I before we were married - our relationship grew to the point where sex was a natural next step. In our case the error was not getting married sooner. The man or woman who gets too close to someone other than their spouse is the same - they can reach a point where sex is the next logical step. In that case the error was in getting that close. They crossed a lot of lines. Frankly I would say they were in sin long before they had sex, the sex was just a natural outgrowth of their sin. BTW, when I say sexually satisfied, I mean a lot more than many mean when they say that. It's a great deal more than just "getting enough". It is a way of life that is rich in every way, including an integrated sex life. A person who has that is not open to the intimacy that eventually leads to sex.

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

@Gary - I was speaking primarily to the closing statements in that; and the implication that it is primarily hungers- including emotional- that drive a man to an affair. My intended point was simply that I think emotional connection can form entirely independant of any hunger; or more simply, that an opposite-sex friendship can grow into an emotionally unhealthy, problematic or even affair-risking relationship without the man going looking for something of that sort; that it is not simply a matter of seeking an alternative to unmet needs. Sometimes, temptation can present itself without an actual hunger to sate- much as people often snack even when they're not actively hungry... simply because a tempting food is placed in front of them. I agree with you that 'mere prolonged proximity and platonic interaction to a person of the opposite sex is a problem in itself, and is actually sometimes necessary (such as in the workplace or ministry).' On the level of a coworker, interaction itself is not necessarily the issue. But I think any friendship or investment of time/grown closeness beyond that can easily constitute or open the door to 'be pursued or emotionally invested in.' Certainly, you can't always help who you are around in the workplace or chuch, but I don't think that's quite the same thing as pursuing a friendship; one is intentional, and the other incidental. I'm just saying that, unless you can show me a man who has conquered temptation in his heart completely, pursuing such friendships represents unwarranted and unfair risk to your spouse. It's playing with fire. Even if you're doing so in carefully controlled, well-regulated, conscious-of-the-risk ways... there's still a greater potential for you and your bride to get burned than if you simply weren't doing it in the first place.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Amy M. - There is an interesting interview video on youtube in which college students are asked if men and women can be "just friends". The women all say yes, the men all say no. When asked why, the men indicate that there will always be a sexual tension. So I do hear what you are saying, and I do realise this is how the world is. But we are not of the world. Can we be better than that? Can we, in God, reach a point were a man can see a woman and not see "potential sex partner"? I believe we can. Yes of course it puts us at risk, but that is the nature of the battle we are called to fight, and it is why we must be strong and wise. In talking about demons in the preface of The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis says "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight." I think the issue we are discussing here is much the same - we can error in either direction, being too concerned or not concerned enough. Either error leads to being out of God's will, and of no use to Him in spiritual battle and the winning of souls.

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

Ummmm... could be wrong, but I thought I posted that. (just before I dropped out of the discussion for a few weeks.) HMT posted it as a quote from me; he/she did not post it originally.

HMT
HMT

No offense taken. It looks like some of this comment above is not my writing, but some of it is. In some professions, like mine, where 90% literally are females, there is just no choice. I have literally been the only male in my workgroup of 16 people. Am I tempted? Not really. Do I need to make a living and pay my mortgage. Yep. I think some of my comments are coming from another author, because some of the stuff above attributed to HMT beginning, "I believe that any invested-in or pursued relationship with a member of the opposite-sex is an invitation to trouble and problematic (which I think we agree on). I do think that contact- such as in the workplace or at church- incidental or group contact with no such pursuit, investment, or personal attention involved- whatever you want to call it- is still viable." I didn't say. There is a problem with the blog, because those are not my words. The part called, "Andrew, when you've lived a bit longer"; that's mine. I stand by it. It just isn't a temptation to me, but I am sad to hear about your friend in his 70's. That is indeed sad, but you just can't not deal with 51% of the world. They're female. Do I put myself purposely in a one on one situation? No. Do I find myself there?

John Delcamp
John Delcamp

I believe the church must do a much better job at just teaching the concept that you must look through God word at your situation and not vise-versa and it needs to be done from the pulpit as well as from small groups. Many church people don't really want to understand hermeneitics or consistent theology in an acedemic sense, so it was be done more practically. The only problem today is that for many, church is not their connecting point to God (for many reasons that could be discussed) and therefore, if they don't take advantages of the opportunities to learn about God and about the application of His word to their lives, then they don't know or understand. I have come to the conclusion that people only get as much of God as they want, enough so they are not uncomfortable. It is like pulling into a service gas pump and asking for $3 when it takes $50 to fill up. The $3 will get you to where you want to go which is not very far but it will not get you to where you need to go.

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

At the risk of becoming the thread rabble-rouser, I think that's disingenuous. :-) In no way does avoiding personal friendships with members of the opposite sex preclude you from helping them, becoming a good Samaritan, offering aid for a broken-down car... or even calling in someone else more trusted to do the same, in extreme cases. There is no reason that not forming an individual, personal friendship with someone precludes you helping- or in areas where emotional investment is required, referring them to someone who can safely help them. It's a false choice to say that it's one-or-the-other.

Rosemary
Rosemary

I agree that the first error is in getting too close in the first place. Like the infamous frog in the pot of boiling water, I think that sometimes it happens in such small increments that they don't really notice what is happening until they reach that point where the temptation is too great for their weakness. I am not saying this excuses what happens next (or what happened on the way). Luckily, this hasn't happened to me because I have been acutely aware of the boundaries most of my life. But I have seen it happen to friends who I know didn't start out with the intention to cheat. You are certainly right about the integrated and emotionally intimate sex life. That makes a huge difference.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Andrew Gilbertson - While none of us will ever overcome all temptation, I think that we should all overcome temptation in some areas, and the number of areas where we have overcome temptation should increase as we grow up in the Lord. I realise this goes against a common thread I see some teaching, but I find it not only correct, but also necessary to do what the Bible calls us to do. If we never take any risk, we still will not be completely safe, but we can pretty well ensure we will never do what God has called us to do. And frankly, I think we are in far more danger when we are falling short of what God has called us to do than when we are "in the front lines". Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevails against us. Gates don't move, and they are purely defensive. Cleary we are to attack those gates, to go to war with evil, to overcome and rescue and lead.

Alecia
Alecia

"you can't always help who you are around in the workplace or church, but I don't think that's quite the same thing as pursuing a friendship; one is intentional, and the other incidental." Excellent point. Wise.

Amy M.
Amy M.

Ack! Lost my reply! Yes, we can err in either direction, but I do believe Christ's example of speaking with the woman at the well speaks well to this, as does the vow that I made on my wedding day: cling to each other, forsaking all others ... Sex is, to put it mildly, inconsequential in the face of emotional ties. Sexual satisfaction matters, but it does not guarantee anything. Satan has jimmied more locked doors in marriages, and the divorce rate grows. Emotional affairs ravage more than physical, because the giving of the HEART makes it addicting. Those deep feelings are to be shared only within the bounds of your marriage. Pursuing friendship with the opposite sex, in my mind, indicates a need for something. Excitement? Diversion? Need to share an interest? Red flags, all. At work, as Andrew so deftly put it, relationships happen either intentionally or incidentally. I have worked with many men and joked, bantered and discussed life -- but nothing important and nothing heartfelt. Many people do not catch the difference until they have gone under the waves of feeling and found themselves in too deep. I live with my own sense of watchfulness, willingly reaching out to others whom I detect in struggle. I can go at it from a teacher's perspective -- helping and instructing and feeling compassion. I know when to stop. I know that about myself. I married a man who has felt inadequate in many ways since birth, and all of my attention, all of my affection and all of my giving would have not covered all of his vulnerabilities. Now that he has seen and felt the trap, he has awareness. It has to stop before that, but when a person has a deep-seated desire that he doesn't understand himself, how does he protect himself, especially when he truly believed he started out as a "big brother?" People are more complex than this subject allows. There's no way to sufficiently discuss it. The Bible tells us to not lead others astray by our own actions, not to lead the new believer or the "baby Christian" into the path of wrong because we can handle it. That is a great measure to use.

Amy
Amy

Paul, I agree that we can go with ignorance or overprotectiveness and err on either side, and yes, there is always a middle ground. Yes, we can be better than all of it. We are to work toward Christ-likeness, and we are to avoid becoming what the world decides and to live in it ... not of it. In the realm of opposite-sex friendships, I think possibility exists in the platonic, but I think that it happens best when we befriend our opposites in the form of couples. Society has not always acted so outwardly in friendship. Business used to be business, home life offered respite. Now, everything should be fun and friendship so everyone feels comfortable and happy. It's society winning. It's Christianity going light and standing for what feels good. Opposite-sex friendship are not crusades for souls. Something more along the lines of acquaintances might mark a one-one-one relationship, but emotion sparks action sparks fire so many times in our present age. Emotional affairs are rampant, more than physical affairs. Worse, emotional affairs are invisible and affect the heart. Friendship is of the heart. I believe Christ gave us an example of the woman at the well for a good reason. He did not have to enter her life to change it. We live our faith, not envelop others with it and offer them more security than they can get at home, or learn their entire past in order to get a better bead on their salvation. We can spread the Word without sharing life to the degree that we begin to feel like Personal Saviors. Everyone can, everyone should, not everyone does.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Yes, it does look as it it was a quote and reply. I will make that more clear.

John Delcamp
John Delcamp

This is in response to Alecia's apology. While technology is awesome the problem with it is that it lacks that personal element of face to face communication, because body language is what we use to interprete words and with technology we can't see the other person's body language. In my relationship with God and with my wife, I have come to realize the more I learn about love - loving God and loving my wife, the less I really do know. I have found that the lid that stops me from learning how to love my wife more, is the lid of where I stop learning to love God more. Psalm 63:8 has become a favorite verse - Run hard to God and He will pick you up with His right arm. The word translated "Run Hard" means to run with complete abandonment - no thought of the circumstances or results. I encourage any person who says they know Jesus, to run with abandonment after God. While the ride may be rough and sometimes difficult, it is truly awesome!

Alecia
Alecia

I wanted to apologize as well. I feel I could have been/come across as presumptuous and over sensitive. This topic can be a sensitive one tho. And obviously one that I'm passionate about! :)

Alecia
Alecia

No worries. Apology accepted :) You've made some really good points and I've appreciated reading your thoughts on this topic.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

John - I was thinking of those passage when I wrote what I did. I agree with you it will take intensive and mentoring in very small groups to change this. Praying for great things to come from your efforts!

John Delcamp
John Delcamp

Alecia, I am sorry if you felt like I was in anyway stating that anyone who might disagree with me or used scripture were not as knowledgeable about God's word as I. That is so far from my heart and the intent of my statements, where were made out of observation, not where the comments had been but where they might as a result of observing the habits of the "church." If I made you feel that I was presenting myself as being superior in any way, please forgive me.

Alecia
Alecia

John, I saw this earlier and wanted to comment on how great all your points were! Agree with every last one of them. However, you guys lost me when you veered off topic to indirectly suggest that those who don't agree with your premise or your take on the scriptures used thus far are not as spiritually knowledgable as you are. I'm getting my full $50 at the tank thank you very much. As I'm sure others on this thread who don't agree with you are as well. We would all be wise to understand that we don't have the corner on interpretation of scripture. When we start acting like that, conversations shut down and important points that you could have made are lost. (1 Cor. 8:2, 1 Cor. 3:18)

John Delcamp
John Delcamp

Is it possible that we already know - Hebrews (Assuming Paul wrote Hebrews) says - Do not give up meeting together as some are doing. Paul also had choice words for the Corinthian church (which is much like today's western church) that he had to give them the milk of the word and still they are not ready for the meat. In Hebrews he says that they ought to be teachers but they had need to be taught. They are need need of milk and not strong meat. I get this mental picture of a bunch of adult babies and they want to stay that way because if they mature then they will need to both act mature and take on responsibility. I am beginning to believe that the answer is 1 to 4 mentoring (discipleship) teaching those 4 to do the same. That is what we began this Jan in our church. It is a LOT of work but I believe it is going to produce awesome results.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

John Delcamp - I fear your analogy is true for far too many. I think the place where we change this is in the earliest disciplining of those who have just come to the Lord. Unfortunately there is often the sense that those who are new believers can't get anything from the Bible unless it is processed and spoon fed to them. I wonder what (that other) Paul would say about that!

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Andrew Gilbertson - One of my examples was not a friendship, but simply a man giving a woman a ride. More than one person has suggested such a ride is inappropriate or dangerous and should not be done. If we are discussing the degree of connection, the depth of friendship, then I suspect you and I are fairly close. There are two lines for me - one which I pass only with my wife, and one which I pass only with men. That puts women on the far side of the second line, and men potentially between the two lines. These are my self imposed lines; I find them wise and them make me feel safe from a misunderstanding by a woman or anyone else. That said, these are my lines, not God's, and if He showed me to make an exception I would. He never had, and I don't expect Him to, but He certainly has the right to tell me my self-imposed rules are getting in the way of doing His will!

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Rosemary - Yes, clear boundaries are very important. BTW, the frog story turns out to be false - which I did not learn until I'd used it at least once.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Andrew Gilbertson - Again, I am not advocating that anyone take the risk of emotionally connecting to another woman in an inappropriate way. My contention is that in Him we can reach a place where that is no longer a danger. And before someone decides that I am saying this to justify my own sin, this is primarily a theoretical discussion. That said, Lori and I had a laugh about something that happened last week: I was in Austin for a board-meeting. The couple hosting needed a few things from the store. A female member of the board was going to go to the store with the husband of the host couple. She knew what to buy, but did not know her way around town. He was busy, so I, having lived in that part of Austin most of my life, offered to drive her. So we went to the store together, the two of us in the same car. From what I have read here, some of you feel that is wrong, or at least unwise. I didn't even think of it. This woman is a sister in Christ. I know her husband, she knows my wife, we work together (usually at a distance). There was absolutely no risk that my time with her would result in me having wrong thoughts, feelings, urges or anything like that. ZERO CHANCE. I am as sure as I can be of someone else that the same is true for her. It was a not an issue. Would I have done the same 26 years ago when Lori and I were having a lot of struggles and very little sex? No, I would not. Not because I would honestly have felt there was a danger, but because like everyone else here I think it is wise to know the situation and avoid getting anywhere near danger. Then it was close enough to danger that I would have felt it unwise. Today it is not.

Amy
Amy

What Andrew just said, and everything before that. We are not to act in cavalier fashion or tilt at windmills. Thank you, Andrew, for this one!

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

I'm sorry, I can't see that as even remotely applicable to anything. There are many kinds of risk- some are beneficial, some are simply foolhardy. In what would would the risk of emotionally connecting to another woman enhance our ability to do what God calls us to do? I do not believe we are being called to throw ourselves into situations of temptation so that we can prevail against them. :-)

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Alecia - I would not define rules and boundaries as the same thing. To me boundaries are something we set for ourselves, while rules are something we apply to everyone. Boundaries are, or I think should be, based on the people and the situation, while rules are had and fast. In the Colossians verse I mentioned Paul says that man-made rules look good, but are of no use in avoiding the temptation of the flesh. BTW, I don't think the Good Samaritan was guilty of pride. I know you do not mean to say he was, but it seems to me a logical extension of what you said. (Of course this also nudges into Calvinism, and that could get really out of hand!)

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Andrew Gilbertson - I think you and I are arriving at about the same place from different directions. Clearly we both give God the "right" to tell us to do something other than what we have always done. My concern is that some elevate wise limits of men to rules that can not be violated. This concerns me as Satan will always find a way to take advantage of that. I don't see you doing that here.

Alecia
Alecia

I did not catch that "single mom to couple." My apologies for overreacting. I appreciate how you and other commenters have been taking the time to define friendship. I think our differences in that may be part of our inability to reach some common ground. There is a supreme difference between having a close friendship that meets emotional needs and an acquaintance that we are building rapport with for a purpose (work, ministry, etc.). That being said, we still have to be cautious in setting up appropriate boundaries. Which leads me too... I'm thinking we are going to end up having to agree to disagree on a couple points however. First, and this may jut be semantics, but "rules don't make anyone safer?" That's a dangerous statement to make. I believe and know from experience that "boundaries" actually create freedom. There is freedom in knowing where the fence line is. We actually wrote a post on this as well that I will link up. Secondly, I don't believe that what you've been suggesting in these pots is radical and dangerous. I believe it's foolish. Maybe you haven't experienced any negative effects from making decisions like this...yet. But you could and that's what the boundaries are for. I also don't believe that Jesus was dangerous (radical, maybe). Nor do I believe he was calling us to live dangerously. Living for him (and everything that entails) might seem radical to those who don't know him but we shouldn't be making decisions that put us in way of temptation/danger. We should be living wisely and approaching all relationships with wisdom. I think saying "what if I don't help/befriend this person and this or that happens as a result..." Is a poor excuse. And it's also based on pride. Am I REALLY the only person who can help them? Are they REALLY going to be down and it all comes down to me?

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

A sound principle to rpotect your marraige does not preclude God's calling- merely sets a wise standard that you will hold to unless otherwise-called by Him. And the thing is, there is dangerous 'speaking out fro Christ in front of a hostile crowd, despite the risks' and dangerous 'sticking your hand in a fire and seeing if you can pull it out without getting burned.' God calls us to take risks in His name- but only those that have benefit, that advance His kingdom... not simply because they ARE risks. In this case, it seems to be an advocation of increasing the risks for emotional fidelity and opening the door to temptation to leave open the possibility that the risk-bearing relationship might be one used for ministry. However, isn't it wiser to leave the increased risk potential closed and trust that God will call you to a specific relationship or act if He wants you to minister there? If you trust that God will put you where He wants you and call you to any opposite-sex relationships He wants you to pursue instead of taking it upon yourself to pursue them for the potential you assume might be there, you are both not only decreasing the risky behavior toward your own marriage, but trusting His calling over your own understanding and wisdom. To me, this seems the wisest course- no ministry is precluded, but marriage-risking emotional bonds or other potential problems are, and the place of your potential ministry is left in God's hands, not yours.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Alecia - I thought I was pretty clear that I felt single mothers should be befriended by a couple, not a man alone. Aside from the issue we are discussing here, she needs some family, and a man alone can't be that. I am not suggesting that Jesus did what He did to push the envelope, but the fact remains He DID do that. As to being a rule breaker, I absolutely think Jesus was that. It is clear to me that He went out of his way to "break" what you so rightly call "silly rules that humans put together". In talking to the woman at the well Jesus did not break any of God's rules, but he violated a number of human rules. The Pharisees had so many man-made rules that no one could possibly keep them, and Jesus soundly rebuked them for that. We all get that, but what we often fail to see is that we have done the very same thing. We take what God's Word actually says, and we add to it. We add our human wisdom to God's Word and create all manner of doctrines (rules) that are not found in the Bible. Why do we feel we must clarify what God said? Why do we clarify by adding to what He said? Why do we think that we can do the very same thing the Pharisees did and not be seen by Jesus as He saw them? Our rules are always well-meaning, well-intentioned. We think they make people safer. In reality our rules don't make anyone safer (see Colossians 2:18-23). What these rules do accomplish, is limiting us, meaning we cannot be what God called us to be and cannot do what He called us to do. The bottom line is the rules don't help us, they just give us a false sense of security. God calls us to grow up, to mature and become strong in Him so we can withstand temptation, knowing that with every temptation He will supply the way of escape. I realise that what I am saying feels radical and dangerous. However, Jesus was both of those things, and He calls us to be the same.

Alecia
Alecia

Oh boy. My heart stopped a little when I read that second sentence. Yes single mothers need help but I cannot express it enough. I think we are way off if we think that men need to befriend those women. Do their children potentially need quality father figures in their life? Maybe. But that's something that you and your wife could accomplish TOGETHER. I think this women at the well thing is being used incorrectly for wrong purposes. Jesus didn't talk to her to push the envelope or break a rule. He did it to show that relationship is more important than earthly law. He came to earth specifically to fulfill the law.(Matt. 5:17). Meaning, relationship with him was what matters more than the silly rules that humans put together for means of connecting with God. Jesus wasn't a "rule breaker." That whole scripture isn't about us being willing to take risks and break rules to reach people. Its a simple story that shows the importance of first and foremost not judging people and their situation but also (along the same lines you're using) that you don't pummel people with the truth, you create relationship to show people the truth. He wouldn't have been able to tell her who she really was and who she could be if he hadn't first shown her that he knew all about her. I appreciate the point you and your wife are trying to make in these recent blog posts but treating Jesus like a rule breaker rather than a rule fulfiller (which has completely different ramifications) is not the way to do it (IMHO).

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Amy - Couple to couple is a great way to go, but it leaves a lot of single mothers out in the cold! Those women sometimes need the help of men, and their children need a good male influence. In this case I think single mom to couple is the only way to go, for a variety of reasons including the comfort of the other woman, but she still needs the fellowship and family of couples. Yes, emotional affairs are rampant, but that is not because of opposite sex friendships. The problem is marriages that are empty shells of what they should be. The problem is men and woman who have become relational vacuums, ready to suck up any hint of kindness that comes their way. When a man or woman is in that place, the best precautions often are not enough. When they are not in that place, no precaution is needed. I'm not opposed to reasonable precautions, but I realise they are poor workaround that will fail when they are most needed. I'd much rather deal with problems that lead to someone being open to an emotional affair, knowing that ends any chance of such an affair for that person. As for Jesus and the woman at the well, He was way, way beyond the "wrong" of a man today being in a car, or a home, with a woman other than his wife. We don't get this because we don't understand the culture, but it was way out there.

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