Anyone who knows me knows that I pretty much have no room to give relationship advice. I’m ok with that. But after being single for 27 out of 29 years (Sometimes it felt like I was going for a record), I think I can talk about singleness, and by God’s grace, hopefully do so well.
My wheels started turning when I read a post about the Friend Zone written by a friend and fellow blogger, Lore Ferguson (pronounced Lor-ee). I would encourage everyone to push pause here, and go read that blog (remember to come back!), because I feel its content will resonate with many of us.
Part of what stuck with me is the inevitable confusion and curiosity that occurs when members of the opposite gender walk in real friendship. I don’t just mean the casual acquaintance type stuff where you know their name and say hi in passing, but when you run in the same social circles, and do life deeply within the same gospel-centered community. Inside each of us is a longing to feel whole, to feel loved, to feel special. So, the lines can blur quickly.
At this point, it would be easy to look at this and accept all of those things as viable excuses for letting the lines blur, and letting them stay blurred. While culture and society may allow for this, we as Christians simply cannot. Here’s why: It’s not about you.
Every Christian who has been in church more than a year knows Matthew 22:37-39 and John 15:13:
Matthew 22:37-39 ESV
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
John 15:13 ESV
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
So, we see from the example and commands of Jesus that love and friendship, the way it is done best, is not self-serving, but self sacrificing.
This has to affect the way we deal with friends, and especially the way we interact with members of the opposite gender. Yes, we wrestle with that feeling of incompleteness, with that void. We constantly find ourselves wanting to be known more deeply, longing for real intimacy. But we don’t have the freedom to use our friendships to fill that void completely, nor do we have the ability.
First, because our hearts won’t rest until they rest in God. Christ is the only thing that can fill that void. Yes, I know, you’ve heard it at church a thousand times before. Wake up! Just because it’s become cliché doesn’t mean it isn’t true! When we feel that void more deeply, that’s a very good sign that we need to press into Scripture, prayer, and living a life of worship to Christ, instead of focusing on the temporal things we think will make us happy.
Second, because casually flirting and leaving unclear lines of friendship/pursuing a relationship is incredibly selfish.
Men, grow up. There, I said it. Grow up and stop acting like you’re in high school. Make sure that when you compliment and interact with women, that the motivation is clear. Doing otherwise will either make them have unrequited romantic feelings toward you, or annoy the heck out of them by making them feel uncomfortable around you. Neither of which is loving your sisters in Christ like Jesus does. Be kind and gracious, absolutely. But do so with clear motives. If you don’t know how, be humble enough to seek out a Godly man to counsel and mentor you.
Women, all I know to ask of you is to be clear with us too. If we do something that bothers you, I promise, 99% of the time we won’t “just get it.” Talk with us, let us know we’ve offended you or made you uncomfortable. If you’re not comfortable with that, get a mutual guy friend to man up and talk to us for you. As with the men, some of this may require seeking counsel and mentorship from an older Godly woman who can help you deal with “boys who can shave” in a way that neither tolerates immaturity but also lends toward growth.
Yes, there is absolutely time for flirting and crossing the line from the friend zone into the relationship zone. But what girl wants to date the guy who flirts with every other girl? For that matter, how will she even know you’re interested? And as Lore asked in the aforementioned blog, how will we men know when a woman is receiving our attempts to connect emotionally if she seems willing to receive that from everyone equally?
Ultimately, we are all placed in our relationships, friendships, and community at large for the glory of God. We are put where we are to be on mission to expand the kingdom of God. In all of this relationship talk we can’t lose sight of the fact that there’s still a war going on. Yes, the war has been and will be won, but we still have work to do. Let’s not make that work harder by allowing ourselves to use members of the opposite gender to fill voids they shouldn’t fill. Let’s pursue Christ, pursue a spouse (or be pursued) well, and focus on kingdom work.
Grace and peace.