This seems to be the conventional wisdom on the subject: men and women cannot be friends. Things will always turn romantic for one or the other. They will try to manipulate one another and one or both will always be hurt.

I understand where this line of thinking comes from. Who among us hasn’t experienced unreciprocated love? Who hasn’t fallen in love with a friend? Also, affairs happen. People are manipulative. Men and women pursue their lustful desires under the banner of friendship.

But I don’t think the Christian community has considered the implications of saying that men and women can’t be friends. Here are a few reasons I believe we need to stop saying and believing this.

 

1. All love involves boundaries.

Men and WomenBy saying that men and women can be friends, I’m saying that they can love each other in a certain sense (that’s what friendship means) and still keep that love within its proper boundaries. Take my sisters, for example. I love them deeply. Yet there are boundaries that my love for them will not cross, expressions of love that are simply off limits. The same with my mother and my daughters. The same with my coworkers and students.

Now, people go astray in all of these areas. Incest and affairs are realities. But we can’t let the sinful distortion of love push us to throw out love altogether. In every friendship, there is genuine love. Yet that love must stay within its proper bounds. If that love prompts romantic feelings where they don’t belong, the love must be redirected.

Consider this: even with my wife my love has boundaries. Jesus says that if I love my wife more than him (actually, if I don’t hate her by comparison), I’m not worthy to be his disciple (Luke 14:26). So while marriage opens up many expressions of love, I don’t have free reign to love my wife in whatever way or to whatever degree I choose. My love for God may be boundless, my love for my wife may not.

 

2. Women are not valuable only insofar as they are potential partners (and vice versa).

Lloyd Christmas "putting out the vibe."

Lloyd Christmas “putting out the vibe.”

One major problem I have with the men-and-women-can’t-be-friends view is that it over-sexualizes, or at least over-romanticizes, love. It’s saying, “I won’t be friends with a woman unless we’re heading towards dating/marriage.” This is part of the reason breakups are so awful—you’ve now made each other ineligible for “friendship.”

This one actually makes me angry. A Christian man will look at a woman made in the image of God—a human being for whom Christ gave his very life—and say, “I’ll only get to know / be edified by / invest my time in this person if there’s a chance I’ll marry her.” If you can’t interact with a woman without playing romantic or sexual possibilities in your head, then yes, you’re not ready to spend time hanging out with women (and vice versa). But that’s a horrible place to be, my friend. That’s a sin issue you need to attack for the glory of God. Your sisters in Christ are too valuable to be sidelined because of your lust (and vice versa).

 

3. We can’t divide the body of Christ.

Another tragic consequence of the men-and-women-can’t-be-friends view is that it splits the church in half. Half of the church I may be edified by, I may use my Spirit-empowered gifts to bless, I may see and appreciate the image of God in. The other half, meh.

One of the reasons I love being in a small group in our church is that I get to interact with men and women over biblical issues. I get to learn from both genders. I get to know them better. I get to hear their perspectives. We get to use our spiritual gifts to build one another up. If you read 1 Corinthians 12 carefully, you’ll notice that Paul doesn’t talk about two bodies of Christ: one male, one female. No, we’re all stuck in this body together. There can be no divisions, all suffer and rejoice together (vv. 25–26).

 

The Challenge

Picture a flower garden. I could do nothing to my garden but compulsively soak it in Miracle Gro. But uncontrolled growth leads to a tangled mess. If every flower is allowed to grow however it will with all of the growing power I can give it, ugliness abounds. But if I carefully tend the flowers, adding fertilizer to this plant, skillfully pruning that plant, my garden can grow beautifully.

So it is with love. We cannot let our love for each person manifest itself in any way we may desire. We certainly can’t pursue distorted versions of love. Love requires pruning, discernment. And that’s the challenge. We have to be careful to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14). But shunning half of the body of Christ out of fear is not Christian. I don’t know precisely what your relationship with members of the opposite sex should look like, but they are your neighbors, and you are called to love them.

[If you're interested in delving in to this topic further, I recommend this blog series on dating, and this excellent book.]

firstworldproblemsAs my wife and I tried to get our girls to bed tonight (just moments ago as I’m writing this), we had a major meltdown. The reason? Both girls got clean sheets on their beds tonight. Our four year old didn’t get the dancing girl sheets she wanted and had to settle for the lady bug sheets. Our two year old didn’t get the lady bug sheets she wanted and had to settle for the dancing girl sheets. So, super rational.

It put a halt to our routine as we tried to shepherd our daughters’ hearts. In the process I made myself cry. I began to tell my older daughter about kids going to bed this very night who have no sheets to crawl into. I told her about her mommy and I going down to Mexico before she was born and building plywood homes for entire families. The families were bigger than ours; the homes were smaller than her bedroom. I told her how there was no paint, no pictures, no carpet. A dirt floor. As I told her this, I couldn’t stop the tears.

There was an element of pity in those tears, certainly. But they were also tears of repentance. Because I started telling her how happy those families were to receive their new homes. I told her how the little girls weren’t sad about their sheets or the size of their home. They were happy little girls. Truly. Jesus loved them and their families loved them too. Working in Mexico, as we’ve done several times, we saw joy in people over whom materialism had far less power. We renounced materialism on those trips and vowed to live joyful lives. Then we went back to having more than anyone could need and settled in once again.

An idol was exposed in my daughters’ hearts tonight. Sure, bed sheets are an odd idol, but our girls’ desire to have their world ordered just so came to the surface. This was a wonderful night because we got to discuss incredibly important issues: the way the world works and the importance of the heart.

firstworldbananaproblemsWe tucked our girls into bed and I started thinking about #firstworldproblems. How silly our materialistic society can be. We announce to our friends and followers:

  • “What is the point of a cellphone if the battery only lasts for 6 hours? #firstworldproblems”
  • “It’s too hot to sleep with a blanket, but I can’t sleep without one! #firstworldproblems”
  • “My towel was already damp when I got out of the shower. #firstworldproblems”

My conversation with my daughter reminded me that #firstworldproblems is more than a joke. Now, I believe it is a joke, and a hilarious one. One step in solving the problem is recognizing how ridiculous these moments of frustration actually are. So we should laugh at ourselves. And yet the idolatry that these moments reveal is serious. It needs to be addressed, not just tweeted.

It’s ridiculous that my daughter cried for her dancing girl sheets. It’s also ridiculous that forgetting my iPhone at home is a serious concern, a tweetable offense (#firstworldproblems).

Tonight, my wife and I are thankful that we got an opportunity to begin weeding out some idolatry in our daughters’ hearts. We’re also thankful that it reminded us about the idolatry in our own. And somehow, I can’t imagine God viewing my impatience with a slow waiter or my insecurity about the car I drive or my disapproval over my neighbor’s rarely-watered lawn as any less absurd, irrational, insane, childish, nonsensical. An idol is an idol, and for God’s glory, it has to go.

 

Some of you have been waiting for this for a long time. Our Silo courses on Homosexuality, the Bible, & the Church are now ready to go! Preston Sprinkle has created two Silo courses that will help you think through the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and a gracious approach to interacting with the LGBT community and those in our churches who experience same-sex attraction.

Silo Bible Teaching for Normal PeopleFirst, a quick word about Silo. The Silo Project takes insights from our college level courses (I’m referring to Eternity Bible College) and presents them in attractive, self-paced mini-courses. Each course consists of 12–16 sessions, and each session features a 5–7 minute video with optional online discussion. It’s a perfect way to dive deeper into the Bible, theology, or ministry in the midst of a busy schedule. Each class is also affordable: $25 as an individual or $20 if you sign up with a group of 5 or more (each course also features a small group study guide). You can also license Silo courses for classroom settings at a significant discount.

Now about Preston’s courses on homosexuality. Preston’s study on homosexuality, which many of you have benefited from via this blog, is now being presented in two Silo courses. The first is entitled Homosexuality & the Bible. This course explores what the Bible says about homosexuality, gay marriage, and gender identity. Preston examines the key passages carefully and also dives into biblical principles that relate to the topic.

>> Sign up for Homosexuality & the Bible here, or start with a free trial.

Preston Sprinkle SiloThe second course is entitled Homosexuality & the Church. This course builds on the biblical foundation of the first course and explores how Christians should interact with the LGBT community and minister to and with those within our churches who experience same-sex attraction. He also explores a number of practical questions, such as:

  • Is same-sex attraction caused by “nature” or “nurture”?
  • How can I respond biblically to my same-sex attraction?
  • What do I do if a gay couple walks into my church?
  • What do I do if I think my child is gay?
  • What do I do if my child “comes out” gay?
  • Should I vote on gay marriage?
  • Should I attend my gay friends’ wedding?

>> Sign up for Homosexuality & the Church here, or start with a free trial.

Because we want all of you to be able to benefit from Preston’s careful study, we are offering both courses at a significant discount: $15 each for individuals, $12 each for groups of 5 or more. To get this discount, use the code “hbc” when you register for the course. Also, see below for preview videos and outlines for each course.


 

Homosexuality & the Bible

Session 1: Introduction

 

Homosexuality & the Bible: Introduction from The Silo Project on Vimeo.

 

Session 2: Gender & Marriage in Genesis 1–2

Homosexuality & the Bible: Gender & Marriage in Genesis 1-2 from The Silo Project on Vimeo.

 

Session 3: Sodom & Gomorrah

Session 4: David & Jonathan

Session 5: Leviticus 18 & 20, Part 1

Session 6: Leviticus 18 & 20, Part 2

Session 7: Jesus’ View of Homosexuality, Part 1

Session 8: Jesus’ View of Homosexuality, Part 2

Session 9: Jesus’ Posture Toward the Marginalized

Session 10: The Context of Romans 1

Session 11: The Argument of Romans 1

Session 12: Counterarguments for Romans 1, Part 1

Session 13: Counterarguments for Romans 1, Part 2

Session 14: Words Matter

Session 15: 1 Corinthians 6

Session 16: Summary

 >> Sign up for Homosexuality & the Bible here, or start with a free trial.


Homosexuality & the Church

Session 1: Introduction

Homosexuality & the Church: Introduction from The Silo Project on Vimeo.

 

Session 2: Does “Nature” Cause Same-Sex Attraction?

Does “Nature” Cause Same Sex Attraction? from The Silo Project on Vimeo.

 

Session 3: Does “Nurture” Cause Same-Sex Attraction?

Session 4: Theologically Speaking, Does “Nature Vs. Nurture” Matter?

Session 5: Living with Same-Sex Attraction

Session 6: Celibacy, Part 1

Session 7: Celibacy, Part 2

Session 8: When a Gay Couple Walks into Church

Session 9: What Do I Do if I Think My Child Is Gay?

Session 10: What Do I Do if My Child “Comes Out” Gay?

Session 11: Should I Vote Against Gay Marriage?

Session 12: Should I Attend My Gay Friends’ Wedding?

Session 13: How Should We Relate to Those Who Disagree?

Session 14: Developing the Proper Posture

 >> Sign up for Homosexuality & the Church here, or start with a free trial.

Beautiful Places

Chris Hay —  July 23, 2014 — Leave a comment

Every time I visit a beautiful place, I find myself overwhelmed with a deep hunger, a desperate longing, to grasp more of it. I remember many years ago driving the Icefields Parkway in Canada and I was an emotional wreck for three days. It was stunning beyond belief, and as much as I tried to drink it all in, I was left panting with thirst. I lived in Alaska for many years, and it was the same thing. I tried to absorb it all, but was left wanting.

This has all been resurrected in my soul as my wife and I have just driven from Southern California to Denver for a conference. We took the opportunity to visit some of our National Parks and enjoy the creative work of our great God, including Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and Capitol Reef NP. We also drove Utah Hwy 12, one of America’s top scenic drives. Quite simply, we have seen some of the most stunning scenery in the world (my current opinion—I certainly haven’t seen all the scenery in the world!).

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

We processed this soul longing as we wound our way through Zion Canyon. God created all this beauty initially for His own good pleasure, and now He allows His created beings to enjoy it. These parks, and this scenery, are massive; stunning; breathtaking; immense. Kind of like God. The realization grew as we drove and talked that this hunger I experience, this desire to almost become one with the stupendous vistas unfolding before us, can only be satisfied by God Himself. He gives us these gorgeous places to draw our emotions toward Him. These places create that want for more because we do want more. And no created thing, no mountain, no canyon, no majestic vista, can begin to compare with His glory and His beauty.

When we stare up at the massive sandstone formations in Capitol Reef, or gaze on the intricate formations that defy description in Bryce Canyon, we need to be drawn toward God Himself. As massive and beautiful as those formations are, they pale compared to the immensity of the Creator who made them. This earthly beauty, designed by God for His pleasure and our enjoyment, is simply an arrow that points toward Him. If I am left panting as I gaze on such earthly beauty, what should my response be as I meditate on the dazzling radiance of God? Ask Ezekiel or Isaiah. After glimpsing the radiance of God’s glory, Ezekiel fell on his face (Ezek 1:26-28). When Isaiah saw the throne room of heaven, he assumed he was a dead man (Isa 6:1-7).

I imagine those responses were not unlike the feelings evoked in us when we are privileged to see the breathtaking vistas of Yosemite, or the towering Rocky Mountains, or the wild rugged beauty of Alaska. Only more so exponentially. God knows that to truly gaze on His glory is only permitted to a select few; I’m sure because we simply couldn’t handle it. So He gives us the ethereal hoodoos in Bryce Canyon and the massive sandstone monoliths of Capitol Reef to take our breath away, and try to fathom how infinitely great is our God.

Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon

We are all surrounded by beauty, even if it’s not the grandeur of the Western U.S. We have lived many places, and have found beauty in each of those places. From watching the sunset over the cornfields of the Midwest, to watching lines of ants marching off to who-knows-where, God has designed His glorious world for us to catch a glimpse of Him. So my thought is this: every time I look upon His creation, whether tiny or massive, simple or bizarre, ordinary or unique, I need to see it as an expression of His character. I need to realize that the longing inside for more of that stunning vista is simply a longing for more of our glorious God and Savior and Creator Jesus. He gave us these places, this earth, and the beauty around us. That is why it is beneficial to go to places like Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and Capitol Reef NP. So get out your map, plan a trip, and go worship our supremely huge God.

“The mountains rose, the valleys sank down, to the place that you appointed for them.” Ps 104:8

In a sense, only God creates. Only God can “stand” in the “middle” of complete nothingness and call as-yet-non-existent things into being. We call this creation ex nihilo: “out of nothing.”

So we can truly look at every aspect of our world and say, “God made this.” But as every parent knows, it gets more complicated when your children start asking, “Did God make cars?” “Did he make your computer?” My fumbling answers to these questions have gone something like, “Well, yes. He created the metal that the car is made out of, and he created the minds of the people who put the car together.”

Only this week have I begun to realize the true genius of God in this respect. It was John Frame who helped me think this through as he wrote about human choices: How is that we go through life making decisions based on our desires, and yet the Bible is still able to insist that God ordains all that comes to pass? It’s an old question, and I wasn’t expecting any fresh insight.

But Frame began talking about “our participation in God’s creativity.” He says,

“Our choices among possible alternatives image the choices that God himself has made in eternity, and they serve as the means by which God actualizes and rejects possibilities in history.”[1]

When we go about creating in God’s world, we are making choices, and in doing so we are acting like God, following his image, which he placed within us. But it’s bigger than us simply making choices. It’s that as we create in this world, God is creating. He is working through us to create. Our acts of creation are both ours and his—we are making the creative decisions, and in doing so we are playing out God’s perfect eternal plan.

The Creation of Adam

All of this is guaranteed to hurt your brain if you try to comprehend it entirely, and the mere raising of this topic sends people scurrying for their copies of Attacking Arminians or Countering Calvinists. (If those aren’t books yet, they should be.)

But this is why Paul is able to thank God for the Philippians’ partnership in ministry. The Philippians chose to work together with Paul; Paul saw their involvement as the working out of God’s plan. This is why Joseph was able to point to the same event (being sold into slavery) as both the evil intention of his brothers and the good plan of God (Gen. 50:20).

Now let me cut the urge to argue short: I’m not interested here in settling the fee will vs. predestination debate. What I find fascinating here are the implications for human creativity. Ultimately, we create because God made us in his image.

“Much about the divine image is mysterious, because God himself is mysterious. But among other things, there does seem to be something in us analogous to God’s creativity…”[2]

Dorothy Sayers looked at the context of the “image of God” passage in Genesis 1:26 and says that the only thing we know about God leading up to this is that he is the Creator. All he’s done in Genesis 1:1–25 is create. So when God sets out to make a being “like himself,” he seems to be creating another creator. Sayers identifies this as at least a part of what the image of God means.

Here’s why it matters. God has a plan for history. God formed this world with his words and his fingers, and he has not stopped speaking, he has not stopped shaping. Everything—everything!—from the largest imperial expansion to the slightest shifting of the smallest grain of dust is seen by God, known by God, captured in the interest and attention of God.

And as we step out into this world to create, to shape, to dream, God is stepping out to shape the world through us. When Steve Jobs created the iPhone, God was shaping his world through Jobs. (The same goes for whoever invented the Android, everyone calm down.) When I hug my daughters, God is wrapping his arms around them. When I work, play, sing, sleep, and eat, God is working out his plan for this world. My choices (at least, so my experience tells me), his plan.

(As an aside, let me just acknowledge that this gets much darker when we ask where God is in the evil moments. For example, where is God when an innocent man is wrongly accused, beaten, and murdered? But according to the Bible, God is still working out his plan in those types of events: Acts 2:23, 4:27–28.)

So be assured, God is still working in this world. And he is all of the time working through us. We are his image-bearers, his mini-creators, his world-shapers. Let’s be careful to shape his world in ways that fit his mission and highlight his glory. And let’s be confident that in all of it, God’s plan is being worked out, drawing ever closer to its good and glorious culmination. God has never taken his hands off of his world. He continues to work in it in deeply mysterious and incomprehensible ways. And he also continues to work in our creative decisions, shaping his world through our hands and feet and mouths.

 

 

[1] John Frame, Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2013) 837.

[2] Ibid., 836.

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