How to be a christian teen dealing with non christian friends

As Christians, we have to constantly face temptations and the attacks of the world around us. Everything we see, read, do, hear, put in our bodies, etc., affects us somehow. That’s why, to maintain a close relationship with God, we have to put aside our old ways of doing things—the things we watch on TV, old bad habits (excessive drinking, smoking, etc.), the activities we participate in, and the people we spend our time with. People are divided into only two categories, those who belong to the world and its ruler, Satan, and those who belong to God (Acts 26:18). These two groups of people are described in terms of opposites all through the Bible; e.g., those in darkness/those in the light; those with eternal life/those with eternal death; those who have peace with God/those who are at war with Him; those who believe the truth/those who believe the lies; those on the narrow path to salvation/those on the broad road to destruction, and many more. Clearly, the message of Scripture is that believers are completely different from nonbelievers, and it is from this perspective that we must discern what kind of friendships we can really have with unbelievers.

The book of Proverbs has a few wise verses on believers befriending non-believers: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26). We should stay away from foolish people (Proverbs 13:20, 14:7), from people who lose their temper easily (Proverbs 22:24), and from the rebellious (Proverbs 24:21). All these things represent those who have not been saved. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). First Corinthians 15:33 tells us that bad company corrupts good character. Unbelievers are slaves to sin (John 8:34), and Christians are slaves to God (1 Corinthians 7:22). If we become deeply involved (either by friendship or a romantic relationship) with non-Christians, we are setting ourselves up for turmoil. It can (and does often) cause the Christian to stumble in his walk, fall back into a sinful life, and also turn others away from God (by misrepresenting God and Christianity). Another detrimental effect of closeness with unbelievers is our tendency to water down the truths of Scripture so as to not offend them. There are difficult truths in the Word of God, truths such as judgment and hell. When we minimize or ignore these doctrines or try to “soft pedal” them, in essence we are calling God a liar for the sake of those already in the grasp of Satan. This is not evangelism.

Although these close relationships are not recommended, it does not mean we turn our noses up and ignore unbelievers, either. Second Timothy 2:24-26 tells us that as servants of the Lord, we are to be kind to and not quarrel with anyone. We should gently teach those who oppose the truth, and be patient with difficult people. Matthew 5:16 tells us, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly father.” We should serve unbelievers so that they may see God through us and turn to Him in praise. James 5:16 says that there is great power in the prayer of a righteous person, so bring your concerns for unbelievers before God, and He will listen.

Many people have been saved because of the prayers and service of Christians, so don’t turn your back on unbelievers, but having any kind of intimate relationship with an unbeliever can quickly and easily turn into something that is a hindrance to your walk with Christ. We are called to evangelize the lost, not be intimate with them. There is nothing wrong with building quality friendships with unbelievers – but the primary focus of such a relationship should be to win them to Christ by sharing the Gospel with them and demonstrating God’s saving power in our own lives.

How to be a christian teen dealing with non christian friends

Why staying faithful to Christ may mean saying no to your friends.

Have you had an experience like Jamie's?

When Jamie started high school, she found a really great group of friends to hang out with at lunch.

But in Year 8, things started getting hard. Jamie’s school friends started hanging out on the weekends at the shops. One day, Jamie saw her best friend Emma slip a necklace from Target into her pocket, and run giggling out of the store without paying.

Another weekend, Jamie, Emma and two other friends were hanging out and Emma suggested they see a movie rated for 15+. The girls were all only 13, but Emma called her sister to come and buy the tickets. Jamie followed her friends into the movie with her head hung. She could hardly watch the screen.

Jamie hoped things with her friends would get easier, but instead they got worse. As they got older, sneaking into movies turned into sneaking out of home at night to attend wild parties.

Every time Jamie’s friends did something bad, they urged Jamie to join them. And Jamie didn’t know how to say no. These were her friends, right? But every time she snuck out at night, or drank alcohol at a party, Jamie felt just as ashamed as she’d felt when she’d snuck into that first 15+ movie.

Jamie’s school friends also wanted her to stop going to her youth group. They told her it was lame and childish, and Jamie felt embarrassed getting in the car when her dad drove her to church on a Friday. She soon stopped going to youth group. She wasn’t even sure she was a Christian any more. She’d done so many bad things – surely God wouldn’t want her.

What is peer pressure?

Jamie experienced peer pressure – her friends encouraging her to do things that were wrong, or that made her feel really uncomfortable. If she didn’t do what her friends wanted, Jamie was afraid that they wouldn’t like her any more.

Peer pressure is really hard. We want our friends to like us and think well of us, so it’s hard to say no when they want us to do things, even if those things are wrong!

The Bible has some important points that are helpful if you’re facing peer pressure. Here are three important things to remember if you’re a young Christian facing peer pressure:

1. You are called to stand out

If you’re a Christian, you’ve been saved by the death of Jesus Christ. So, God wants you to honour him by living a life that pleases him. And that includes following God first, not your friends. Romans 12:2 says, “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

As we grow as Christians, we’re meant to look less and less like our worldly friends, and more and more like Jesus. This way, we’ll stand out and when people look at us, they’ll be able to see God’s greatness.

2. You aren’t alone

There are plenty of great ways to get help if you’re struggling with your friends. You could ask a parent or trusted adult for advice. You can also visit ReachOut if you’re in Australia or the USA, or ChildLine if you’re in the UK.

Also, don’t forget that Jesus suffered from pressure and temptation too! When Jesus was on earth, many people (even the devil!) tried to get him to do wrong things that weren’t a part of God’s plan. Hebrews 2:18 says that “because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”. When you’re tempted to give into peer pressure, Jesus knows how you feel. But he stood firm, and with his help, you can be strengthened to resist pressure too.

3. You are forgiven

If, like Jamie, you regret having given into peer pressure, don’t forget that through Jesus all our sins are forgiven.

1 John 1:9 says If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If you’ve done the wrong thing, pray to God to say sorry and ask for his help to stand firm in the future. It’s also a good idea to tell a trusted adult what you’ve been struggling with, and to get some guidance to help you move forward.

Peer pressure is really tough, but don’t forget that in all parts of life, God is there for you.

How to be a christian teen dealing with non christian friends

We have to find the line between ignoring two seemingly opposite commands. One is, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33) or, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6). Paul is talking about tolerating people in the church that you should excommunicate.

Now on the other side, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1). So you have got all these commands and wisdom proverbs on the one side that say, “Watch out! Hanging out with corrupt people can lead to your corruption.”

Eating with Sinners

Now on the other side, of course, you have Jesus who not only ate with tax collectors and sinners, but he was called the friend of tax collectors and sinners because that is, in fact, what he did so often (see Luke 7:34). And you have Paul saying, when I say don’t hang out with, or separate yourself from, sexually immoral people, I don’t mean the world, because then you would have to go out of the world (see 1 Corinthians 5:9–10).

He doesn’t mean, don’t associate with the greedy, swindlers, idolaters. In that case, you would need to go out of the world. So Paul is with Jesus in saying, “No, you are going to be thrown together with these people. You should take opportunities. You should become all things to all people in a biblical way.”

Two Questions for Discernment

1. Who’s transforming whom?

So we have got these two sets of admonitions, and we have to discern when each set applies. I would say, ask these two questions: First, which way is the transforming influence flowing? When you are with someone, are they being transformed or are you being transformed? Are you being drawn to minimize the value of holiness? Have your standards been compromised? Are you being made callous and hard toward things in movies or on television or in language that you weren’t once hard to, but sensitive to?

2. Are you loving or conforming?

Second, are we loving these people for their sake — that is, that they would come to faith and they would become godly — or do we really love them because we love what they enjoy and really just like being with them in their worldliness? I think a lot of people justify hanging out with worldly people because they are worldly Christians. And they feel at home with those worldly Christians: they don’t regard the things they laugh at as offensive. They don’t regard the things they watch in movies as a problem. They don’t think the language they use is a big deal. The way their friends spend their time is the way they would like to spend their time, which really shows that they are not loving these people with a Christ-like love that is ready to die to change their behavior and change their patterns. They are just conforming to them and calling it love.

So those are the two questions that I think help us navigate between bad company corrupts good morals on the one hand, and Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners on the other hand.

How to be a christian teen dealing with non christian friends

My experience following Jesus has not been one where I’ve constantly been surrounded by like-minded people, or other believers that encourage me in my faith. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I have a few friends that are Christian, but most of my friends aren’t sure what they believe, and some are actively against religion. When God moves in my life, I want to tell people about it! When there is an answer to prayer, or a super cool God moment, or I feel at peace in His presence, I want to share that. But it can feel really tough to do so without seeming like I am pushing my religion on someone, or that I am trying to convert them. My intention is never to make someone else uncomfortable or feel cornered; I just want to share my experience. If this sounds familiar at all, or you just want to learn about some cool tricks to talking to non-believers about your faith; read on!

1) Be Courageous in Conversation

If someone asks you “how are you?” or “what’s your highlight of the week?”, do not be afraid to mention how the Lord is working in your life! If the honest answer is your highlight was an answer to prayer, say that! If you’ve had a tough few months because you feel like you’ve lost touch with the Lord and haven’t felt his presence in a while, say that too. We don’t have to be afraid to mention the Lord in conversations with people who aren’t Christian. I still struggle with this, don’t get me wrong, but I am working on being more confident in this way. Recently, when people ask me for podcast recommendations I’ve been telling them about a sermon series I’ve been listening to on my commute. You’d be so surprised at how mentioning the Lord can reroute an entire conversation in a beautiful way. If you’re feeling brave and want to start the conversation, try by asking an existential question like “what do you think happens when we die?” or “do you believe in a greater power in the world?” This can kick start a deeper dialogue and can make it much easier to mention your faith in this context. Normalizing your relationship with Christ to those who don’t believe can be a tough step. Every conversation about the Lord doesn’t have to be your testimony or life struggles. You can keep it light if that feels right for the situation. But take those small conversational opportunities just to mention what God has been up to in your life.

How to be a christian teen dealing with non christian friends

2) Be Sensitive and Respectful

I have heard people say, “that’s dumb, why do you believe that?” and “how could you actually believe in something like that?” And that hurts to hear! I strongly believe in God and it hurts when someone rudely dismisses my beliefs. In knowing how that feels, it is crucial to never make someone else feel that way for not believing. Without asking, you never know someone’s history with the church or religion, and it is not fair to put any preconceived notions onto them. I’ve found it very useful to speak in “I” statements, so as not to pressure the other person into believing what I do. That has been a fantastic gateway to questioning and having authentic conversations about my beliefs. An example is “I believe in the grace of God, and that is why I’m going to forgive her.” Phrasing it that way allows the person freedom to reply however they wish. If you do not impose onto them something they have to believe they will be much more willing to hear what you have to say. Approaching conversations like this should be done with the other person’s heart in mind. You would never want to turn someone off from a conversation about the Lord because they’re feeling judged or forced into something.

3) Listen

In today’s society it often feels like everyone is waiting for someone to be done talking so they can get their two cents in. This is not a conversation. We need to bring back the art of listening – of clearing your mind and being present in the moment. We not only want to listen to what someone is saying, but thinking about it, engaging with them, and deepening our understanding of that person. This is crucial for when it comes to talking about the Lord with someone else because if you’re just speaking at them and not listening to how they’re processing what you’re saying or how they’re feeling; the conversation is pointless. Take time during these conversations to be silent. Let your words wash over your friend and allow them space to process and ask questions of you! You may not be able to answer their questions, but giving them space to think on what they’re hearing is critical if you hope to reach them. Listen to their concerns, questions, and misconceptions. Listen to their criticism. Be actively engaged in their words and prepare meaningful responses that show you’ve been listening to them. Let the Lord give you the words to reply. These are the moments that God can show himself to others through your words and actions.

4) Invite and Encourage

There will be plenty of conversations where you will mention your faith or how God is working in your life and people will move right past it or not engage you in a conversation about God. That’s OK! But when you get the opportunity to share your faith a bit more with someone, take that platform and run with it! We are called to share the Gospel, the Good News. We are called to bring people into the Kingdom. Invite and encourage your friend to come with you to church, to join a bible study, or to read the bible with you. Invite them into your relationship with God. Show them what life is like with Him. Just like we are more likely to try a restaurant or café if our friend recommends it, someone is more likely to dip their toe into the Gospel if it is encouraged by a friend.

Talking about the Lord to someone new if you aren’t used to it can seem daunting, but you CAN DO THIS!! I challenge all of you to bring up the Lord in conversation with one new non-believer this week and see what happens. Good luck! If you want to share your conversation, please email us at [email protected] – we’d love to hear about it!

5) Verses to Hold On To

Here are a few of my favorite verses to guide you on your Kingdom building:

How many friends do you have that don’t know Christ? Better put, how many people who are not Christians would call you their friend? The statistics are clear; once the average person becomes a believer in Christ, he or she loses contact with all unbelieving friends within two years. This might be termed “pagan friend shedding.” Some shed themselves of their former relationships with unbelievers on purpose and some as a consequence of their new life. A misinterpretation of 2 Corinthians 6:14 might be used as justification: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” Therefore, many believe to be Christian means that we lose all association with unbelievers. But this is a wrong interpretation. Paul is not telling us not to have unbelieving friends, but not to join together with unbelievers in their practices and worldview. In other words, the yoking together means to join with them in their lifestyle and belief system, and, therefore, becoming like them. This does not mean that we are not to have unbelieving friends. Christians should have unbelieving friends. Let me give you four reasons why Christians should be intentional about having friends that do not know Christ.

They are sick and in need of hope.

Today more than ever we live in a world of hopelessness. People today are searching for something to believe, they just don’t know what and they don’t know where to go. The “religious leaders” of Christ’s day had this philosophy of “pagan friend shedding.” Seeing Christ eating and drinking with unbelievers (befriending them), they began to look down upon him. Christ responded by telling them that “it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick (Matt. 9:12). Sadly, many Christians today would, like the “religious leaders” look down upon Christ for giving hope to the sick.

They keep you real.

Many of us have been in Christian circles so long that we don’t know what it is like in the world outside of Christianity. Our terminology and thought pattern can quickly turn into “folk theology.” “Folk theology” is having a belief or practice and not knowing why we have it or what it means. You may have quaint sayings or Christian clich鳠which, if challenged on them, you would be at a loss as to what they mean. In exclusive Christian circles, you may be able to get away with saying, “the Spirit moved,” but an unbeliever would challenge you saying, “What exactly does it mean that ‘the Spirit moved.’” Do you know? Having unbelieving friends keeps you real.

They are not shy about their struggles and ask great questions.

Believers sometimes feel that it is “unchristian” to ask tough questions. This should not be. Believers should always be the first to ask the tough questions. The earliest definition of theology given by Anselm in the 11 th century was credo ut intelligam “faith seeking understanding.” Unbelievers struggle and have real tough questions that believers should pay attention to. For example, an unbeliever may have a real struggle with the doctrine of hell. Many believers would bypass the difficulties of the question saying that it does not bother them because the Bible teaches it. It’s the “the Bible says it, that does it” mentality. While it is true that the Bible teaches it, it is a great difficulty that believers need to recognize. Hell brings great distress to the heart of unbelievers, and it should bring great distress to our heart as well. Hell is a reality, but some people make the doctrine of hell very cold. Unbelievers ask good questions that believers need to have seriously struggled with and considered.

Because Christ had unbelieving friends.

Christ was on a mission to reconcile the world to Himself. He had both unbelieving friends and believing friend. He sought to win the lost and to disciple the won. There was a great balance in his ministry. If you want to follow Christ’s example, associate with all those in need. The Kingdom will be here soon. Let us keep our focus straight. The one thing we will not be able to do in heaven is to bring an unbeliever to Christ. Let us have unbelieving friends.

How to be a christian teen dealing with non christian friends

A podcast listener, Sarah in Chicago, writes in to ask: “Dear Pastor John, how should Christians respond to the sin of unbelievers? I have longtime friends who are not Christians who partake in drunkenness and homosexuality, among other sins — and I’m wondering how to respond to their behavior with love and grace. In conversation, should I be unresponsive to their willful sin in the hopes of remaining friends with them and their eventual salvation? Or should I call out their sin and explain to them why they are in need of a Savior, with the risk of alienating them and losing our friendship?”

We know that Jesus was called a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19). And we know that he was invited into the homes of sinners, both the nonreligious kind, like tax collectors and sinners he calls them — people like prostitutes — and the religious kind like Pharisees. What we don’t know is how often Jesus was invited back.

And the reason that seems like a real question to me as I read the Gospels is that he explained his presence with sinners differently than you might expect. He didn’t explain himself as a simple friend who just enjoys hanging out with sinners, like they would make him feel good. Friendship with tax collectors and sinners and Pharisees did not mean for Jesus the enjoyment of their fellowship. They had very little in common to fellowship around. He loved them too much to enjoy what they enjoyed.

The way Jesus explained his presence with sinners was this: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:10). And lots of people today, I think, would say: Good grief, that was offensive. I mean that is an offensive way to talk. “I am hanging out with you because you are sick. And you need a physician. You are a sinner and not righteous, and you need a Savior. That is the meaning of my presence as Savior and doctor.”

There are a lot of people today, I think, who would say: That is just inauthentic. You need to first really enjoy the camaraderie that you have with unbelievers and then, when they feel that you are really one of them and enjoy being with them, then they might be willing to hear that they are sick and need a physician and sinners and need a Savior.

Well, that is not the way Jesus was thinking. I can imagine that in most of these dinner parties Jesus said things that were so blunt and so straightforward and to some so offensive that he never got invited back. For example, when he was invited to Simon’s house he was criticized by his host for allowing a woman to anoint his feet and wipe them with her hair. And his response was a full-blown indictment of his host.

Turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I have come in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven — for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:44–47)

Well, it is easy to imagine that at many of the dinner parties Jesus went to, issues arose in the conversation that exposed the selfishness and pride and greed and sensuality of sinful friends that he loved, and from the little we can see, it is highly unlikely that Jesus would have simply listened and said nothing about the ways of the kingdom. He would have acted like a physician. “I see some disease here and I know a remedy.” And he points them to the ways of the kingdom.

Later in the first century, we do get a glimpse in 1 Peter of the very tension that Sarah is asking about. On the one hand, Peter calls Christians to be overflowing with good deeds towards unbelievers in the hope that their criticisms will be silenced — criticism of Christians will be silenced — that their hostile attitudes will be silenced (1 Peter 2:15) or shamed (3:16), and that they would be brought to glorify God (2:12). So, it is clear that the believers didn’t want to unnecessarily alienate the unbelievers, but rather to win them and declare the excellences of him who called them out of darkness into light (2:9).

But Peter was also aware that Christians were called to live lives of such purity and holiness that unbelievers would inevitably be offended and critical as the Christians pulled away from fellowship in those sins. This is an amazing two verses in 1 Peter 4:3–4, “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.”

So, the point here is simply that we live with the tensions of what love really requires of us. What does a true friend really do? A true friend is full of good deeds and returns good for evil, and a true friend abstains from sinful behavior and declares the excellencies of Christ. And both of these strategies are necessary. Neither is guaranteed to win over the unbeliever. That is what we long for. That is what we pray for. But we don’t shrink back from our good deeds. And we don’t shrink back from lives of purity and holiness and verbal declarations of the excellencies of Christ. We leave the outcome and the fruit to God in Christ by the Spirit.

So I should say to Sarah: The longer you wait to explain Christ and his excellencies and the ways of Christ and the reasons for your hope in Christ, the more awkward it will seem to you when it comes and the more perplexed your friends are going to be that it took you so long. So, ask your small group at church or your friends or whoever believers you have in your life, ask them to pray for you earnestly, and then go ahead and put into words your love for your unbelieving friends.

For many people, the idea of a man and woman just being friends is cute but completely unattainable. They argue that the friendship will always “lead to something more” and develop into a romantic relationship, where either one or both is invested. With how many male and female friendships are portrayed in media, they may be right. It’s often rare that a TV show will depict an opposite sex friendship that doesn’t evolve into something more.

However the media doesn’t always showcase the real world. It is okay and actually valuable to have opposite-sex friends. There are reasons why it can be dangerous for Christians, but if you are aware of the boundaries going in you can develop very deep and meaningful lifelong friends. These friendships can be great in enhancing a church community.

Having a Friendship With the Opposite Sex

To start, we have to acknowledge that there are many different types of male and female friendships. It can be between a single woman and a married man, a married woman and a single man, two married people or two single people. Depending on the status of each person in the friendship, there needs to be different boundaries set so that they do not cross over the line of becoming inappropriate.

God does not prohibit men and women from becoming friends, but tells us a lot in the Bible about how we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. Like any friendship, you have to ask yourself some questions before jumping in. First, you have to weigh out the risks of the relationship. Will it hurt your husband to be friends with another male? Are you the type of person that is easily tempted by the opposite sex? If so, you might want to pass on keeping them as a close friend.

Secondly, you have to implement necessary and loving boundaries into the friendship. There are many ways you can show someone you care about them without being flirty or crossing inappropriate lines. Communication is key here. If you are single and don’t want to pursue the other person romantically, let them know that upfront.

Thirdly, identify if the relationship is a healthy one that can help you grow in your relationship with Christ. What positive benefits are you getting from the relationship? Is it helping you grow closer to God, or is it someone that pulls you away? If the other person is someone you are easily tempted by, it might be time to walk away.

We usually undergo this process subconsciously with each new relationship: evaluating whether the relationship will be detrimental to ourselves or disobedient to God, and if it is not, identifying healthy parameters to make the relationship as fruitful as possible, and finally enjoying the ongoing benefits of the relationship.

As we ask the question, “Can women and men be friends?” we must realize that each new possibility of a friendship between a woman and a man may require a “no” or “yes” in various circumstances, or at various stages of life. You have to be honest with yourself and with God. He knows your true heart, and can tell when you are making excuses as why you are keeping an inappropriate friendship.

Risks With Opposite Sex Friendships

There are always going to be risks for Christians that enter into a male-female friendship. There is the possibility that it can start as an innocent friendship, but one person falls for the other and the feelings are unreciprocated. When this happens, the friendship should end immediately.

Male and female relationships are also vulnerable to the risk of sexual temptation. Solomon writes in Proverbs 6:12,14-15 “A wicked man…with perverted heart desires evil, continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.” It’s wrong to have the attitude that “there is nothing to worry about because we aren’t intimate.” It can occur suddenly and surprise us.

Male and female friendships also risk undermining marriage. It’s common for single people to get penalized as being the temptress, yet married people are not just victims in these situations. For example there were married people in the Bible who went after singles, such as Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:11-18) and the church member and his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1).

A few questions you should ask yourself if you are being risky in a friendship include: Are we spending alone time together? Are our meetings increasingly private? Are we texting each other privately? Do I find myself thinking about them regularly? Do I find myself excusing intimacy that would otherwise be inappropriate?

Rewards of Opposite Sex Friendships

After you have evaluated the risk factors, you can ask yourself if the risk can be mitigated. Can honestly, community, and accountability keep you from falling into one of the traps of opposite sex friendships?

God can reward those who keep appropriate boundaries in their relationships. He will help us find people in our lives that will be supportive, caring friends. We need to set up how these friendships will look if we want to reap benefits. This includes boundaries like no private text message, no secret meetings and no detailed discussion of love lives.

God also rewards clear communication. Sin thrives in ambiguity and laziness. You have to be honest with yourself about why you want to build and invest time in this friendship. Is it because you love the attention from someone new? God wants us to be honest with ourselves and ask if you are being their friend for the sake of the church, or a project, or a mutual hobby, or because there is something more sinful going on.

It’s easy for the church to split into women and men’s ministries, but what God really wants us to do is come together in community. He rewards our community efforts by helping us develop deep and meaningful relationships with people in the church. Friendships between men and women in the church are one expression of what God has earned for us in Christ (Galatians 3:28) .

God delights in male-female friendships, but only when they say something true and good about him to the world (John 13:35). Men and women, let’s be diligent in wisdom, open up lines of communication, be honest with ourselves and be friends in Christ.

The front cover of a recent National Geographic Magazine issue was titled “Gender Revolution” and featured a picture of nine-year-old Avery Jackson of Kansas City. Avery has lived as an openly transgender girl since the age of five.

“I am Jazz” is a a reality show on TLC about Jazz Jennings. Jazz was born a boy, but at age 4, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. By Jazz’s 5th birthday, the parents decided to support the child’s female gender identity. The show gives you an inside look at the child’s journey and family dynamics.

Discussions and debates about transgender issues have escalated. Much of this has been sparked by bathroom policies, which is a lightning rod. Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old who was born female, but now identifies as a male, went to court to have the right to use the boy’s bathroom at Gloucester High School. In April of 2016, Target publicized a bathroom policy that stated customers were welcome to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. “Inclusivity is a core belief at Target,” the company wrote. “Everyone deserves to feel like they belong. And you’ll always be accepted, respected and welcomed at Target.” This sparked a protest and national boycott.

As Christian leaders that minister to kids and families, we can’t ignore the transgender revolution, hoping that we will never have to be personally involved. But as we look at Scripture, we see that Jesus didn’t walk away from the messiness of a world broken by sin. He walked right into the middle of it and met people where they were. offering hope, help and healing.

The quick thing to do is paint a broad stroke with cries of “sinful” or “against nature” or “perversion.” It’s especially easy when you’re simply typing words on a computer or posting on social media. But when you interact face-to-face with families who are trying to navigate with their child who says he or she is transgender, it becomes very real and your words of condemnation slow down very quickly.

So, how should we respond? As I began to personally journey with families whose children are struggling with being transgender, I went searching for answers. One of the best resources that I found was the book “Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture” by Dr. Mark Yarhouse. Mark is the Hughes Endowed Chair and Professor of Psychology at Regent University and is one of the leading Christian voices in transgender issues.

In the book, Mark helps define terms, which is where we must start.

Transgender – an umbrella term for the many ways people experience a mismatch between their gender identity and their biological sex.

Gender identity – how people experience themselves as male or female, including how masculine or feminine they feel.

So how should we respond as Christian leaders who minister to children and families? Mark identifies three lens we can look through when it comes to transgender identity.

Lens #1 – The Integrity Lens
This lens draws a hard line based on Biblical passages. It approaches the issue emphatically using passages such as Genesis 2:21-24.