The Cross and Cross-Gendered Fellowship – Part 1

To the guys,

He had warned me numerous times, but I was convinced that I knew better. I could not read his motives, only his lips; and I was convinced that his lips spelled legalism  and I would have none of that. It was only until my own experience validated his warnings that I would finally see the sense in what my friend was telling me. The lesson was eventually acquired, but not without scars. My friend had tried to warn me countless times about the folly of having close and intimate fellowship with the opposite sex, but I dismissed his claims as unfounded. When I look back, I am persuaded that there were two major reasons why I did not listen:

The first reason is that I was a sinner and was opposed to any suggestion not to indulge my flesh. I would not allow the Holy Spirit to spoil the party.

The second reason was that I thought my friend did not present a strong biblical basis for his warning; he is the kind of guy who will be shocked (and almost offended) if you called him in the middle of the night with a theological quandary while I am the kind of guy who actually calls in the middle of the night with such questions.

So, I wrote this blog post both as a gesture of gratitude to my friend (he knows himself) and also as a biblical case for discouraging unwise and ungodly fellowship between friends of the opposite sex. I realize that for some people, it is easier to understand why having a close or intimate friendship with a person of the opposite sex when one is married is dangerous and unwise. This reality has always been accepted unquestionably. I wonder why this fact seems to be so obvious to many people and yet doesn’t have any effect on other dimensios of close cross-gendered fellowships among unmarried people. So, I’d like to provoke our consciences by questioning the reasoning behind this assumption today with the aim of revealing some unbiblical realities. I’d also like to place a disclaimer that the primary target audience for this post is men, largely because… well… I am a  guy.

First, why is it considered unwise to have a close or intimate friendship with a person of the opposite sex if one is married? Is it because friendship or any form of fellowship with a person of the opposite sex is wrong? No, the simple reason is that such a friendship has been known to lead to emotional infidelity on the part of the husband. Therefore, it is considered unwise and inappropriate to have such a friendship. Why? For the sake of purity. Paul, advising young Timothy, tells him to “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). His emphasis on treating younger women as sisters is reinforced by the call to “absolute purity” in that relationship.

Purity refers to the state of being pure: without spot or blemish. Untainted. Purity is not just about the actions we do or the thoughts we think towards others, it is also about the trust we put upon our own hearts and the confidence we put in our flesh. Knowingly availing yourself to opportunities for sin is sinful before God. It is sinful because it is unwise and we know all too well that foolishness is not taken lightly by God. Jeremiah 17:9 reinforces the conviction about the heart; “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”, while Paul, who had every reason to be confident in his own flesh, still considered it foolish to do so (Philippians 3:1-14). It is the fool who denies the existence of God (Psalm 14:1), and that means that foolishness is not an amoral state before a holy and righteous God. Foolishness is a mark of unbelief. It is foolish, and therefore sinful, to knowingly place ourselves in the way of temptation even if we will come out unscathed. It is foolish, and therefore sinful, to put our confidence in our strong wills – the flesh.

The second question I’d like to ask is this: since it is not okay for a married person to have such close and intimate fellowship with a person of the opposite sex, and for the obvious aforementioned reasons; does it therefore mean that if one is unattached, they are free to have such friendships or fellowships? This is the big question of this post. Do the above dangers cease existing when we are not dating or married? My experience has shown me that it is common to find (especially among Christian youth groups) close and intimate cross-gendered friendships among the unattached guys. And when someone begins “dating” or gets married, this status quo changes for “obvious” reasons. This is quite perplexing because, the reasons outlined above are not really exclusive to a marriage context. They are reasons that cut across the marital or “dating” divides. The heart of the single person is still deceitful. It is still considered unwise and therefore sinful to knowingly place oneself in the way of temptation while being confident of one’s flesh. So, is there hypocrisy being revealed here?

It was only until I dared ask myself such theological (and basically logical) questions that I began to see the sense in what my friend had been warning me about. This may not have been entirely his reasoning, but the Holy Spirit did finally manage to drive the point home, where my heart is. I finally saw even the folly of the modern day dating scene that seems to consider those dating as being immune to the rules of purity, wisdom and protecting one’s heart. I finally saw the folly of cross-gendered discipleship relationships and even intimate cross-gendered Bible Study scenarios. My eyes were opened to the dangers and folly of pursuing intimate fellowship with the opposite gender in scenarios that are apart from the shallow congregational or the deep marriage set-up. I know that this particular paragraph has raised some eyebrows, and that is why I chose to make this post as the first of a 2-part of a series. I intend to touch briefly on the discipleship and Bible Study aspects of cross-gendered fellowship in my next post.

However, I believe that the few questions raised in this post are bound to cause you to search your heart. Are you being foolish in the way you relate with the opposite gender? Are you blindly placing yourself in the way of temptation because the two of you “have an understanding that you will never cross whichever line you have agreed on”? Are you indulging your flesh by enjoying an intimacy that is only reserved for the context of marriage? Are you an emotional fornicator? I’ve written this post as a person who has witnessed this moral degradation within the church (and specifically, youth ministries) and within my own heart and relationships. I have been this blind fellow sheep. I have entertained unwarranted thoughts towards people whom the Bible instructs me to think of as sisters and nothing more (or less). I have been defensive when confronted about it and I have successfully rationalized myself out of accountability from concerned brothers. Now I walk around bearing the scars of Godly friendships severed, God’s glory not honored and God’s holiness not reverenced.

God did finally open my eyes, albeit against much resistance from myself. It is my prayer that He will open your eyes and heart too; and you can finally take that first step towards cultivating God-honoring fellowship with the opposite sex. Experience doesn’t have to be your only teacher, you know.

.

In His service and for His glory,

Cornell.

4 Comments

  1. Someone finally addressed the “Elephant in the Room”
    This, apart from the fact that its something i was sharing with a friend like half an hour ago about it being one of the ills that plagues us in Church and in ministries is something i have to say God by His Spirit has been dealing with me about.
    Its been a painful but eye opening and eventually life changing experience.
    Thanks for sharing
    Its the story of most who dont have the pen to write it.
    To those who havent yet been engaged in such friendships i’d urge you, as one who’s already been scourged before, to kindly heed the call in the book of timothy and protect both your heart and your sisters
    Thats all

  2. My brother and friend, am not sure to comment here or to meet with you over coffee to go over the issues you raise in this post. My response would be as a quote from the dialogues by Socrates ” is an act good because the gods will it or the gods will it because it is good?” Whichever position you take on the philosophical question above, it becomes apparent that there is no need to accredit gods with morality. That being the case then, we have to look at the post in a different perspective. Why would having an intimate relationship with another woman not your wife be immoral? I posit a response; that it would be against personal honour among other reasons that you could come up with, I do not however think the gods or God for that matter would have any business in it. I would also want to ask you and your main christian audience to tell me what is sinful in desiring a woman or man without acting on it? I rest my case.

  3. Pingback: The Cross and Cross-Gendered Fellowship – Part 2 | Alien Citizens

  4. Its quite interesting to note that I recently listened to Jon Courson’s exposition of Genesis and he vehemently speaks against emotional attachment to someone of the opposite sex. Gen. 2:24, “a man leaves leaves his mother and father and cleaves to his wife and they become one”. Sharing emotionally with a person of the opposite sex amounts to emotional infidelity and thus one goes against the verse above of “cleaving” and becoming one.

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