Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Threat of God-Given Friendship

A few years ago, I was part of a women's Bible Study. One of our studies revolved around friendship. It was perhaps my favorite of all the studies we had done. While the focus of the study was on friendships between women, there was some very good information that helped me recognize which friendships should be nourished, which were real and God-given, and how to be a better friend to others. (Granted, I still don't always do so great at the "how to be a better friend" bit... but I at least learned how to....).

The one thing I did not like about the study, however, is something that I have experienced time and again both before that study and since then. People have preconceived notions of who can be friends, and who cannot.

It is frowned on for a student and teacher to be friends, or a boss and employee, or a pastor and parishioner, or a man and a woman. Throughout my life, many of my friendships have fallen into one or more of these categories. In college, I became good friends with a couple of my professors. One was a woman, one a man. I have also had bosses whom I considered good friends, again both male and female. I have been friends with pastors before, the first of whom was when I was a teenager/young adult. And, as I have already stated, I have been friends with men.

I can understand the reasoning behind the "rules" imposed on friendships. With teachers, bosses, pastors - there is the potential of "favoritism" - perceived or otherwise. There may be expectations that these people should favor us because we're a friend... we mean more than the other people.

And when it comes to opposite genders being close friends, there is the potential for things to become too intimate, crossing over into cheating on a spouse or even just hindering our intimate relationship with our spouse or any potential spouse.

However, I firmly believe that God puts these friends in our lives for a reason. And I firmly believe that as long as you consistently turn to God and pray to him, he will be there to strengthen the friendship and keep it pure. And he will use this friendship to help you grow. He will use this friendship to strengthen your relationship with your spouse. Friendships - regardless of who they are with, or what gender the other person is - has the potential to be harmful. It has the potential to be unhealthy.

Yes, perhaps more care needs to be taken when it is someone of the opposite gender. The same could be said for same sex friendships, especially if that's whom you are attracted to. You need to be able to keep sexual intimacy out of the equation, and need to ensure you have a strong commitment to your spouse. And you need to be able to keep your heart set on God - keep God  between the friendship.

And yes, one needs to have the ability to separate "position" from "friendship" (i.e. at work, you need to respect him/her as your boss, and not expect different treatment; and he or she needs to respect that you are an equal to the rest of the employees and not expect you to do more or less... but after you clock out, leave work at work and be able to just enjoy time together talking about your families or hobbies or just hang out playing games).

But do not turn away from someone whom helps you grow closer to God - do not dismiss a God-given friend just because of their gender or position. Embrace the loving, nurturing relationships God gives you.

May God bless you with great friends who make you a better person - who help guide you in your walk with Christ - who need you to help guide and support and encourage them in their walk with Christ.

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