Can Christians who are single and of the opposite gender really be “just friends”? Will single guys and girls inevitably like each other if they are friends? What does the Bible say about single guys and girls being just friends?
In short, I have not found a Bible verse yet that explicitly answers this question. So please note much of this article is simply my best application of biblical principles. I do not intend to speak in absolutes here.
To proceed, therefore, I plan on sharing what is possible, what usually happens in real life, and what should be done because of the differences between what is possible and what is likely to occur.
Yes, Single Christian Guys and Girls Can Be Just Friends
When we are asking “Can single Christian guys and girls really be just friends?”, what we are referring to is the ability to not move past friendship and into romance. We certainly are not asking if it is a sin to have friends of the opposite gender. Clearly the answer to that is, Yes. There’s no command in the Bible that would even hint at not having friends of the opposite sex.
But again, that’s really not the question. The question at hand is really about two single people’s ability to remain friends and not start liking each other as something more than friends. Here again I believe the straight forwards answer is that there’s no biblical evidence to say that single guys and girls do not possess the ability to remain just friends.
Now, with all that said, I do believe the Bible does recognize the special dynamic that is present between singles of the opposite sex. So while I don’t believe the Bible says men and women can’t be friends, I also believe the Bible and real life examples show us that being “close friends” is not something that would usually last nor should it be something that is done in exactly the same way as friendships between the same genders.
So in the two points that follow, my goal is not say that Christian singles should not be friends and they should simply avoid each other unless they want to date. My goal, rather, is to say that we should not pretend that friendships between the opposite sex are as simple as friendships between the same genders. We should be more thoughtful and careful in friendships between singles of the opposite gender because there are variables at play that could lead to confusion, leading someone on, and thus not loving each other well.
To staunchly cling to the lie that there’s no difference between friendships of the same gender and friendships between opposite genders is unloving and naive.
If a Christian Guy and Girl Are Close Friends, Usually They Like Each Other or One of Them Likes the Other
While I do believe men and women can be “just friends,” I also believe that usually this is not the case. What normally happens, especially when a guy and girl become “close friends,” is that they either both secretly like each other or one of them likes the other even though the feelings are not mutual.
Usually both the guy and girl will adamantly say, “No, really, we are just good friends.” In reality they both know what is happening. It’s not impossible for a true friendship to occur with no romantic interest, but it really is unlikely. Most of the time one person does just want a friend while the other person wishes there was more. Because they know they are the only one with the crush, they simply remain friends rather than lose all contact. They just take what they can get. So the two keep getting closer and closer but for two very different reasons. The one person is enjoying the friendship while the other person is thinking that they are nearing closer and closer to a romantic relationship.
We know from real life there is always an extra component between singles of the opposite sex. But this is not only self-evident, it is also recognized in Scripture. For example, Proverbs 30:18-19 it states, “There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a young woman.” Feelings between single men and women are just complicated. You can’t get around this. In C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves, he talks a lot about friendship. When it comes to friends of the opposite sex he states:
When the two people who thus discover that they are on the same secret road are of different sexes, the friendship which arises between them will very easily pass – may pass in the first half hour – into erotic love. Indeed, unless they are physically repulsive to each other or unless one or both already loves elsewhere, it is almost certain to do so sooner or later.”
So again, my whole point here is not to say that this extra dynamic between single men and women is bad. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be friends. I’m not even saying you shouldn’t be close friends. I am saying that to love each other well we must admit there is this extra element between men and women that is not present between men and men and women and women.
Because of that, I think it is a good rule of thumb to not be close friends with the opposite sex unless you are romantically interested.
If You Are Not Romantically Interested in Someone, You Should Not Be Close Friends Because They Probably Like You as More Than a Friend
This is really just my opinion. This is not a firm command in the Bible. But the reason I believe this is wise advice is because usually the most loving thing to do is to be cautious that you are not hurting someone for your own selfish desires. If you just want a friend but this person likes you as more than a friend, the loving thing to do is to put up boundaries so you are not leading this person on and using them for your own benefit.
If you are romantically interested and you are not sure if you would want to date this person, then becoming better friends is a good idea. There’s nothing wrong with being close friends if you both are single. However, again, usually singles of the opposite sex cannot remain “just friends” for very long. There’s nothing wrong with moving from friends to a dating couple, but you should just be aware of the special dynamic that will be there between a single guy and girl in friendship.
Even if you wish you could be just friends, you have to accept that God made men and women with the ability to have feelings for one another in ways that go beyond friendship. You wouldn’t have to worry about this with a close friend of the same of the same gender. But if you have a close friend of the opposite gender you must not pretend like there isn’t an extra dynamic at play between you two.
Notice what Paul says to the younger man Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:1-2, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”
It’s interesting to me that only after “younger women” does Paul add on an extra word when instructing young Timothy. He mentions encouraging older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, and older women as mothers. But when it comes to younger women, women who are single and around his age, Paul says he should treat them as sisters “in all purity.”
It seems here that Paul is recognizing the extra care that should take place between Christian singles of the opposite sex where there could be a natural romantic interaction. Timothy’s relationship with older men, younger men, and older women is slightly different than his relationship with younger women because naturally younger women and younger men often create bonds that go beyond the relationships they can have with other types of people.
So, again, what’s my point? I’m not saying you can’t be friends with the opposite sex. I’m not even saying you should not be close friends with the opposite sex. What I am saying is that you should not pretend like there is not an extra variable when it comes to Christian singles of the opposite sex who are in a season of life where romance would be natural. You should do what Paul said and make sure you are treating Christian singles of the opposite sex “in all purity.”
I don’t think Paul was just talking about sexual purity. I think he was saying to be pure in all your interactions with the opposite gender. Don’t lead them on emotionally. Don’t use them to make yourself feel better. Don’t pretend you don’t know they like you when you clearly know they do. Treat them “in all purity.”
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