My wife is my best friend. My guy friends are a close second. My female friends are friends, but on a whole different scale.
Let’s be clear from the outset that men and women ought to be friends in the faith. One of the most significant analogies of the church is that of a family. The Bible talks about this family in reference to men and women as brothers and sisters. Now the church might sometimes function as a dysfunctional family, but we are a family nonetheless. And in any family brothers and sisters ought get along, share life, give hugs, pray for another and challenge one another.
There have been times in my life when I have been so cautious about stepping over a boundary that I have not been a good brother to my sisters in Christ. Men and women are called to be friends.
But you don’t have to be a Biblical scholar to notice that the pattern of friendship in the Bible is primarily same sex friendship. King David and Jonathan were best friends. Jesus hung out with 12 men. Paul did not travel the Roman world with single women.
While there are no explicit commands about same sex friendship, it certainly seems implicit in the pages of scripture. Wisdom would lead us to a similar conclusion. I have 3 simple reasons why.
1) Same sex friendship is not complicated.
I know it has become quite trendy for a bride to have a male bridesmaid (or bridesman?) and for men to have a best friend that is a woman. I know that’s what everyone is doing. Perhaps I am old fashioned but count me in the camp that is skeptical of these arrangements.
I am sure that a man and a woman can begin as genuine friends. And I am sure that for a period time there can be deep heart-felt talk that is somehow not romantic or confusing. But I have a hard time believing that will last for very long.
Biology 101 says that men generally like women and women like men. And this kind of liking is different than liking ice cream. It’s the kind of liking that has to do with hormones, attraction, emotions and a deep connection that includes both the physical and the spiritual. This kind of liking is wonderful when directed towards a spouse, but when directed at the opposite sex at large it’s playing with fire. Don’t do it.
Men find women safe. This is for good reason. Most women are safe. To be feminine is to provide a level of safety and comfort. For a man this is very appealing. So a man begins to share his deep hurts and pains with her because his fellow men can’t provide this safe place. The more he opens up, the closer the woman feels. Women connect over a shared emotional experience and so while still wanting to just be friends, the woman is feeling closer and closer to the man. All of a sudden you have a complicated mess. Life does not need to be any more complicated than it already is. Avoid these confusing relationships.
2) Same sex friendship has the possibility to last.
In college you are making friendships that will last for decades. I still talk with my college buddies on a regular basis. I don’t talk in the same way with any of my female friends from college. Now I might say hi on Facebook or if I saw them at a reunion I would give a hug and want an update. But I don’t call every month to check-in. I’m not writing extended e-mail about the highs and lows of life.
I am married now so all of my female friendships need to be funneled through my wife, not outside of her. I am friends with women only so far as it protects and nurtures my relationship to Vanessa. The same would apply to how she relates to other men.
In college you are making friends with lots of people. That’s great. But consider that only half of them will last in the same kind of way. Your same sex friendships have a chance at lasting. If and when one of you gets married your opposite sex friendship may need to be redefined.
3) Same sex friendship is genuine.
My wife is the greatest worldly blessings that the Lord has given to me. When people talk about marrying up, I married up to the moon. She encourages me, knows me, helps me and supports me. But because she is a woman there are still a few things that I need men in my life for. And because I am a man there are still things that Vanessa needs women in her life for.
Men and women interpret life in different ways. Vocation, sex, frustration and emotion are all central to the human experience, but gender provides a kind of filter over which how one might interpret all the above. Even in a wonderful marriage, same sex friendships are vital for the sake of the marriage.
I need Vanessa, but I also need men.
Again, I hope that SCF looks like one big family to the outside world. Each week we gather for a family reunion, full of hugs and laughter. But let us be wise about this. Opposite sex friendship is a gift. Same sex friendship is essential.