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Let’s be honest about intentions: why are we really compelled to build and invest in this friendship?

Is it because we like the attention we get from the other person that we can’t get from a spouse or from prospective spouses?

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Those who immediately answer “yes” can hurl as many barrels of anecdotal evidence as those who scream “no.” Few treat this as a legitimate issue — opinions are given in a tone that implies that the very question violates common sense. As we ask the question, “Can women and men be friends? Between a married person and anyone other than their spouse, the friendship should end immediately.

It seems to me, after considering the biblical evidence, that male-female friendships lean even more heavily on a process that exists in all friendships: We usually undergo this process subconsciously with each new relationship: evaluating whether the relationship will be detrimental to ourselves or disobedient to God, and if it is not, identifying healthy parameters to make the relationship as fruitful as possible, and finally enjoying the ongoing benefits of the relationship. One person has completely innocent or friendly intentions, and the other falls in love.

But friendships between men and women in the church are one holy expression of the hard-fought intimacy God has earned for us in Christ (Galatians ), especially as we draw others into those friendships as safeguards.

All the effort we put into boundaries and clarity both honors and enacts this gift — a gift that shouldn’t be prohibited when there are appropriate lines of sight with people informed and involved enough to protect both parties.

So what is the appropriate path for female-male friendships?

The answer is, of course, different for each kind of relationship.

Are they obviously inappropriate, or undeniably essential in healthy church community?

To start, multiple What do these friendships look like? Does God prohibit them, or are they vital to the body of Christ?

The point is to recognize the common human element that makes possible the subversion of the marriage covenant if one (or both) persons are married.

A few diagnostic questions are: Once the risks of a male-female friendship have been considered and weighed, we can ask the question, “Can these risks be mitigated?

Is it because we are subtly aroused by flirting with the boundaries of something that feels off-limits?

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