Cultivating God-honoring Friendships with the Opposite Sex

David Mackey

What are your goals with the opposite sex? Think about it. Go back to the beginning when you first started wanting that girlfriend. What was your goal? Has it changed since those early years?

Over the years, a number of not so different goals have been presented to me as I have talked with various guys about that elusive girlfriend. In fact, I am quite aware that MY goals were most often like those ‘various guys.’ Most of those goals had an underlying theme ‘ ME.

Oh, let me clarify, these were NOT the goals presented to the girls’these were the true goals that come out of the heart’ often presented to my buddies but sometimes my secret. The goals were about ‘GETTING’- for ME, a girlfriend so that I might have some kind of status. Sometimes the goal was about ‘GETTING’- for ME, to a certain ‘base’. Still, other times, the goal was about ‘GETTING’- for ME, someone to stroke my ego.

Believe it or not, sometimes my goal seemed a little more proper or even spiritual. I was looking for the woman God had for me ‘ actually was ‘GETTING’- for ME.

Always it seems to come down to goals that are self or ME centered. The girls often were an object for my pleasure, or for my ego, or for my comfort through life.

The title of this article has a very different goal, GOD-HONORING FRIENDSHIPS. God-honoring friendships are probably much closer to what God wishes to see in our modern day relationships.

What would life be like if our goals were really about FRIENDSHIP and NOT ABOUT GETTING FOR ME? For many there would be seen an entirely new way of relating.

Friendships have different levels of intimacy then acquaintances. Within our friendships there might be a wide range of depths of intimacy. But, in friendships there seem to be some basic foundational elements.

In The Pursuit of Intimacy by Dr. David Ferguson and Dr. Chris Thurman some of the necessary ingredients found in intimate relationships are: AFFECTIONATE CAREGIVING, VULNERABLE COMMUNICATION, MUTUAL GIVING, and JOINT ACCOMPLISHMENT. In the book the writers are focused on building deeper intimacy in marriage. The ingredients however, are found also in friendships and they just might be helpful when incorporating them as some of the facets or goals in Cultivating God-honoring Friendships with the Opposite Sex.

Friendships often start in one of these areas. If you have ever worked at a summer camp, been on a missions trip, worked on a school or work project with others of either sex, you may recall that a levels of friendship often develops. This is because you are JOINTLY ACCOMPLISHING something together. This working on the same goal is a friendship builder. If the goal has spiritual elements to it, sometimes the friendships seem to be deeper.

Friendships sometimes start when one person is hurting and another comes alongside to give care and comfort. If this is from the opposite sex, this care by its very nature is affectionate, even if it does not involve touch. Ferguson and Thurman call this AFFECTIONATE CAREGIVING and it seems to forge and cultivate friendships.

Friendships sometimes develop when there is a pattern of MUTUAL GIVING. One person gives and the response is to give back. The giving can start as external such as material gifts, but in friendships it usually ends up more internal, as in giving of oneself in actions and deeds.

Friendships sometimes start and or deepen when we listen to a friend’s heart and give to a friend the story of our own heart. This might be called VULNERABLE COMMUNICATION. To share our hearts: our beliefs and values, our pains and fears, our wounds and scars, makes us quite vulnerable. When we share and someone listens and accepts us a deep friendship can be built. Likewise when we listen to someone else and accept them, they will be drawn to us as a friend.

Back to our goal. What if our goal was to actually cultivate friendships’ with both sexes. If some goals in our life were to care about others so that we give to them affectionately, friendships would be cultivated. If among our life goals was the goal to give to others, not just when they are in need but just to say I am thinking of you, or I care about you, friendships would be cultivated. If our life goals included communicating on the heart level with people in our lives, friendships would be cultivated. If we worked, served, accomplished side-by-side with others, friendships would be cultivated.

If we keep it about me and what I get, people will be pushed away and/or unhealthy relationships will likely be established. If we focus on others, building up others, encouraging others, serving others, seeking the hearts of others then God-honoring friendships will likely be cultivated with both sexes.

How Far is Too Far: Sexual Integrity for Singles

Bob Parkins

Not many Christians debate God’s instructions against premarital sex. However, there is still not a consensus or a shared understanding regarding what constitutes acceptable physical affection and what is sinful. The Bible uses words like adultery, fornication, lust, and purity, all words that have very clear meanings. Yet many Christian singles, teens, and even parents remain confused. Many Christian singles and teens struggle to maintain sexual purity while abstaining from sexual intercourse, yet many are engaging in sexual acts. They deceive themselves by legalistically reasoning they haven’t violated God’s boundaries because they haven’t technically had sex.

While the Bible does not appear to clarify exactly what other acts for singles are and are not acceptable in God’s eyes, it is very clear about the guidelines we are meant to judge these acts by.

When asked by young couples, ‘how far is too far?’ I generally ask them to search their hearts and examine what their intention and motivation in asking is. Usually a couple who asks ‘how far,’ is also struggling to maintain sexual purity. Those struggling with sexual purity or addictions are in the habit of pushing limits and boundaries. They want to know what is the maximum they can get away with. They look for loopholes in attempts to satisfy the desire for immediate self gratification.

The Bible warns us about being deceived and worshiping idols (Deut 11:16; Exo 20:14), and sex can be an idol to those who struggle to maintain purity. Scripture also tells us that God sees what truly is in our hearts and we will sow what we reap (Gal 6:7). If you have ever asked ‘how far,’ and have patterns of pushing limits, it is likely you are not truly interested in purity and really want to get away with as much physical affection as possible. When you put it that way it seems silly to consider the technicality of sin. If you discover your motive is to selfishly seek your own physical gratification, instead refocus on what is pure (Phi 4:8).

When you flirt with sin, you put yourself in a position to sin. To answer the question more directly, anything that causes you to sin is ‘too far.’ This is probably the best litmus test for determining limits since the Bible doesn’t tell couples specifically how they can show physical affection, at least not in the manner many look for. There are several scriptural examples of expressing affection through treasuring chastity and virtue and abstaining from sexual immorality (Isa 62:5; 2Col 11:2), a counter-cultural perspective in most increasingly permissive/promiscuous societies. Jesus models surrendering personal desires to the Father (Luk 22:42), and encourages us to ask for God’s intervention in maintaining victory over sin in The Lord’s Prayer (Luk 11:4). If you are willfully sustaining a desire that cannot be righteously met, you are deceiving yourself (1Thess 4:3-8).

Determining limits may be a little different for different couples, but be cautioned against any propensity to justify pushing limits. If you get excited to the point that you struggle with lustful thoughts or fantasies from kissing, or if you have difficulty respecting boundaries (yours or hers), you may not be able to handle more. Consider then abstaining from kissing or other applicable acts. Some may not struggle with kissing and will need to set limits accordingly. I suggest also abstaining from any physical activity or show of affection that you are not comfortable doing in front of her father. There are several genuine and appropriate displays of affection that pass this test.

It is important that couples talk about setting physical limits early in their relationship. We live in a backwards culture where single men often push women to/beyond their sexual limit. This is not what God intends or requires of us in marriage, so it certainly cannot be condoned in dating. Men are to cherish and protect their wives, not take advantage of them for their own pleasure (Eph 5:25-28; Col 3:19). Just as a father is to protect the innocence of his daughter, so are we to protect and respect any woman we are dating. Sexual desire for her is not bad, but respecting her virtue means protecting her from these desires (yours or her).

Men, it is up to you to initiate this conversation and establish boundaries. This may be the very first act you exhibit of spiritual leadership in a budding relationship. Any potential spouse who is worth spending your life with will respect your integrity because they will feel safe and cherished. Two scripture verses that are helpful in maintaining focus on purity are:

– (2Ti 2:22) Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

– (Phi 4:8) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Be encouraged by the peace God promises those that live pure and virtuous lives

For more help in the battle for purity, see Every Man’s Battle.

The Great Accelerator of Sexual Addiction

Darren Lowman

The Internet’s ‘triple A’ ‘ “access, affordability, and anonymity” (Cooper) has allowed pornography to escalate in ways thought impossible. Men struggling with sexual sin/acting out are finding that they can explore their every fantasy in complete privacy and utter anonymity. Long gone are the days of sheepishly sliding into the corner liquor store to purchase a sleazy magazine. At a cost of less than 50 bucks a month, a DSL connection provides millions of pages of pornography. Before internet access, thirty dollars would buy a single steamy porn magazine or video.

It has become so easy to destroy one’s life.

Internet pornography has changed the way addiction counselors assess compulsive sexual problems. Generally, it takes 2 years or more for an addiction to become established. In other words, counselors want to see a pattern of maladaptive behavior over a long period of time before naming a problem addictive.

The Internet, however, has significantly reduced the time it takes to become “hooked” and for the destructive nature of this disorder to become realized. This is why Dr. Patrick Carnes, known as the grandfather of sexual addiction, states that “the Internet has become the great accelerator of the addictive process.” Internet porn, also known as the crack cocaine of sex addiction (Al Cooper), can grab a hold of a man or women in less than 60 days. Men attending Every Man’s Battle conferences are known to express the pivotal Impact internet porn has had on their lives. It is often a great accelerator of their addiction or it is the beginning point.

What makes the Internet such a risky proposition? Why should men remain vigilant in their stand against the evil lurking inside the computer screen? The internet, unlike any other medium, offers rapid fire information. Not to mention the 1,000 new pornographic web sites that enter the super highway daily. The brains circuits are quickly overloaded and require more and more stimulation in order to maintain or increase the “high”. The pleasure seeker is driven to explore the next image, surprise, or fantasy with no end to this search.

Carnes writes about one such individual in his book, Clinical Management of Sex Addiction:

Robert sat in his attorney’s office wondering how things had gotten so out of control. It was only six months ago that he discovered pornography online and now he was being charged with possession of child pornography. He was at a loss for words when his wife asked why this happened. What could he tell his own children about the fantasy life that he developed online? Robert remembers discovering the illicit pornography and then his life becomes a blur as his addiction spirals out of control and into a world he never thought he would enter. The next thing he remembers is being arrested at his home and his computer being taken away as if it were a weapon from a crime scene. As his attorney entered the room, Robert realizes how much worse things could have become if he had continued to progress in his cyber sex addiction.

Additionally, the World Wide Web is turning some not only into sex addicts but into sex offenders. Many would have never gone down such a road if it weren’t for access to the Internet. Such a case was reported by Natalie Pona, a staff reporter for the San Jose Marital & Sexuality Center:

This is new for forensic psychologists, said Dr. Al Cooper, a California based therapist and author of Sex and the Internet: A Guidebook for Clinicians. What were finding is a lot of these people have no history of sexual problems’. And we believe they would not have had problems without the Internet. Take the case of the 21 year old Winnipeg man who allegedly lured a teen from her home. He allegedly gave her marijuana then videotaped himself sexually assaulting her, said Stonewall RCMP Sgt. Gerry Thomas. The attack was interrupted by a passing RCMP officer. The man didn’t have criminal record.

Certainly, this type of situation is an exception and should not be understood any other way. However, men are generally unaware that engaging in cyber sex accelerates an established sex addiction and can lead them places thought impossible. Additionally, it leads many to sexual compulsion that, without the Internet, would never have developed such a problem

Most would agree the internet has changed the way we all do life.
There are many, many up sides to the Internet. However, access, availability and affordability have allowed the ignorant pastor, father, husband, employee, etc to get caught in its evil web before ever knowing how devastating it may prove to be.

Men who have been successful at rooting sexual addiction from their life have taken extreme measures to ensure the Internet doesn’t “take them down”. For example, many have removed their Internet (or computer all together) connection. When the internet is unavoidable in the work place, these men maintain accountability, meeting with others on a regular basis ensuring that their sexual behavior is “an open book.” Men in recovery must be aware of just how vulnerable they may be to losing all that matters to them, in part, because of the great accelerator of sexual addiction’. the Internet.

Are you viewing Internet pornography? See Every Man’s Battle for help.
For an Internet Filter see, Every Home Protected.