By Dr. Harold Sala

But test everything; hold fast what is good.   Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

Is there such a thing as a platonic friendship—one without sexual motivation?  Can you just be friends with a person of the opposite sex and put the whole gender issue aside?  Those who can, enrich their lives by having a much wider diversity of friends than those who are only friends with a small number of individuals of the same sex.

How do you keep friendships from becoming more than that?  If you question whether a friendship is pushing the limits of what you consider to be appropriate, ask yourself the following questions:

QUESTION #1:  Is my friendship without ambition?  Do I really care about this person as a friend?  Men, by virtue of the fact that they are much more visually and physically orientated than women, are more prone to be attracted to a woman physically, in a manner going beyond friendship.

QUESTION #2:  Does my friendship enrich the lives of all who are concerned?  This means you look at the circumstances of a friendship.  Ask yourself, “Am I taking someone’s time, time which really belongs to family or a mate?”  That’s when a good thing becomes a bad thing.  Two women who are best of friends and nothing more can end up robbing each other’s mate of time and intimacy which really belongs to the family.  This is especially true when the basis of the mutual attraction is misery—both feel misunderstood and neglected so they feed each other’s discontent.

QUESTION #3:  Am I willing to keep my motives pure so my friendship doesn’t turn into romantic involvement, by not being alone in a situation which would lend itself to temptation which I might not be able to handle?  This may mean avoiding business trips which pair you with the friend whose friendship is threatened with impropriety.  It may mean you work alone, finishing that report at the end of the day instead of working together on it after hours.

“Hey,” you may be thinking, “isn’t that going a bit overboard?”  Not if your frame of reference is what Paul wrote about when he said, “Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).  And another translation refers to avoiding even the “appearance of evil.”

Here are several guidelines which will help you preserve the friendship you feel is important.

GUIDELINE #1:  Make it clear that you value your friendship for the sake of friendship.  This means you avoid flirting or sending sexual messages that say, “Come closer to me; I’m lonely.”  You may also need to let someone know that interest in you beyond friendship is sexual harassment, and is both unwanted and threatens a friendship.

GUIDELINE #2:  Dress appropriately.  If you question what message your appearance sends, ask your brother, or another friend of the opposite sex.  What you consider to be stylish may be an open solicitation for the kind of attention which you don’t want.  It threatens a friendship.

GUIDELINE #3:  If a friendship goes beyond the bounds of what you consider appropriate and you have no intention of getting involved romantically, politely remove someone’s hand from your body and confront the issue.

GUIDELINE #4:  Follow the guidelines of Scripture treating older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, younger men as brothers, and older men as fathers.

A real friend is a priceless gift which needs to be preserved.  But when someone goes beyond the limits of propriety, you not only lose your respect for the friend, you lose a friend as well.  Friendship is well worth preserving.

Resource reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-28.

Speaker, author and Bible teacher, Dr. Harold Sala founded Guidelines in 1963. Pioneering the five-minute commentary in Christian radio, Dr. Sala’s daily “Guidelines-A Five Minute Commentary on Living” is broadcast in 49 of the 50 states and is heard the world over in a variety of languages. Sala, who holds a Ph.D. in biblical text, has authored over 60 books published in19 languages. He speaks and teaches frequently at conferences, seminars, and churches worldwide. Residing in Mission Viejo, California, Harold and his wife, Darlene, have three adult children and eight well-loved grandchildren.

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