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Can men and women be ‘just friends’?

Amanda Edmondson » Scripture Dating Wisdom Culture

“Can men and women be just friends?”

As a single woman, I have wrestled with the question a lot over the past 10 years. 

When Harry Met Sally made the question famous, but it’s been one we’ve been throwing around for at least the last century. Society’s changing: the days of men in the field and women in the kitchen are by and large distant memories, and today, men and women are side by side in just about every arena. For the first time, men and women weren’t just meeting to get married and have babies but to become co-workers and equals in the business world. Men and woman had to learn to interact with one another outside of romantic relationships.

This is the world we live in now. From school to work to the gym, men and women mix company. But can they really be friends?

Yes, according to the Bible. But having some guidelines and boundaries is wise.

The Apostle Paul gives us a simple guide for how men and women can be friends in 1 Timothy 5:1–2, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, in all purity.” So, treat younger men and women as siblings, and older men and women as parents, “with absolute purity” to use the phrase in the NIV.

The church should still be exercising these boundaries in friendships today, especially between single men and women.

First, ladies:

  • Stop dating guys in your head. Don’t assume a guy wants to be more than friends until he communicates that.
  • Don’t manipulate. Don’t go out of your way to grab a guy’s attention.
  • Stop flirting. The way you interact with men should make them want to be more like Christ, not pursue you more than the Lord.
  • Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. Your brothers around you aren’t your accountability partners. If what you are sharing with them (suffering or celebration) doesn’t bring glory to God, don’t share it.
  • Dress modestly. Don’t be a distraction to your brothers; they have enough of those in the world. 

And to the men:

  • Communicate clearly. This means all forms of communication: texting, Twitter, Facebook, face-to-face, etc. Women should not have to question your intentions every time they are around you or receive a text from you. If you intend to just be friends with a woman, let her know. I promise you she won’t break.
  • Let your actions echo your words. Don’t single a woman out unless you want to pursue her.
  • Don’t crave submission. The women around you aren’t called to submit to you unless you are their husband, father, or pastor.
  • Be a one-woman man. Not just sexually, but also emotionally. If you are dating a woman, honor her by how you communicate and interact with other women.
  • Don’t be a creep. Treat women as you would your own sister or mother. Don’t single a woman out over a season and then just disappear.

Can men and women be just friends? Absolutely, when we treat each other as our brothers and sisters in all purity, give up our own selfish gain, and honor each other as we do our own family.


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