Peter and Leila were good friends—to onlookers, even more than good friends. They played tennis together, jogged together, attended the same Bible study, and frequently went to dinner together. Leila assumed that with all the time they spent with each other, and with their seemingly mutual attraction, they were moving toward a serious relationship.
Peter, on the other hand, viewed Leila simply as a friend. They both said they were “just friends,” but they each had a different definition of what that term meant.
Does this “just friends” misunderstanding sound familiar?
It’s easy for two individuals of the opposite sex to have completely different perspectives on their camaraderie. That’s why it’s so important to have defined relationships: so that you both know where you stand. If you’re “just friends,” there’s often confusion, and you’re never sure who’s going to do what when—if ever.
Are coed friendships even a good idea? Well, casual acquaintances are generally fine, but deep friendships with the opposite sex are not necessarily the smartest idea. By deep friendships, I mean those in which you pass the “casual friends” line and delve deeper into a close bond, sharing many personal life details with each other.
What’s the problem with this? Spending regular one-on-one time with a member of the opposite sex promotes an intimacy that should be reserved for marriage. God designed us to have a deep friendship with only one person of the opposite sex: our spouse. God did not create a bunch of Eves for Adam to have intimate friendships with; he created Eve. Period. One woman for one man.
“Friends” in the Bible
In Scripture, undefined relationships between men and women were virtually nonexistent. For the most part, relationships had a specific definition and purpose. Jacob didn’t ride up to Laban’s house on a camel and say, “Come on Rachel, my friend, we’re going to go hang out with some church people down at the river.”
Most “friend” situations in the Bible ended up with disastrous results. Samson defined his “friendship” with Delilah as love, while she regarded him as nothing more than another coin in her pocket. The result? She betrayed him, surrendering him to the Philistines as a prisoner.
The Bigger Picture
Another thing to consider is that being too buddy-buddy with a person of the opposite sex can actually lower your chances of a romantic relationship with him or her—or with anyone else. For example, why would a girl agree to enter into a relationship with a guy who spends most of his evenings with another girl?
Young people today often become emotionally close with the opposite sex without considering any kind of commitment to protect that intimacy. And this undefined friendship trend yields negative effects. In fact, undefined friendships often lead to undefined relationships.
One reason today’s couples drift into living together is because they don’t take the time to clarify their relationships and futures. Over seven million people now openly cohabit with their partner. This biblical denigration of marriage often begins as a small seed of undefined friendship. Definition matters a lot more than we think.
How does this apply to our relationships?
Now, this doesn’t mean we should run from opposite-sex friendships. It just means that we should guard our hearts—and future marriages—by avoiding intimate one-on-one time with people of the opposite sex. Consider keeping your relationships with the opposite sex brotherly/sisterly, just like 1 Timothy describes: “Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters” (1 Timothy 5:2, NLT). A helpful way to do this is by asking yourself three basic questions:
- Would I say this to her if I were married to someone else?
- Would I treat him like this if his wife were sitting here with us?
- Would I write/type/text this to another man if my husband were watching?
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).
 Sharon Jayson, “Cohabitation numbers jump 13%, linked to job losses,” January 27, 2011, USA TODAY. Accessed at usatoday.com