My Brothers In Christ And Intimate Friendship

Having never had a flesh and blood brother, I’m not completely sure how such relationships work. Do opposite sex siblings confide in each other at the depth that same sex siblings do?

Personally, I doubt it.

But even if natural brothers and sisters do share such intimacies, does it necessarily follow that God intends for brothers and sisters in Christ to have such closeness? Up front, I want you to know that I think that’s a very dangerous attitude to hold. And I want to explain from both Scripture and personal experience exactly why I object to equating spiritual sibling relationships with natural ones.

Since personal experience is far less authoritative than Scripture, let’s begin there. Despite my mother’s best efforts to teach me otherwise, I saw no reason to follow boundaries (other than avoiding physical sexual contact) with men. Even after I became a Christian, I scorned such boundaries, believing they were archaic at the very least. Sadly, no one in my church seemed concerned about my close friendships with men.

Some people, including those in leadership, actually encouraged those friendships.

To be fair, most of my friendships with men in the church happened because I needed them to drive me to services, Bible Studies and other activities. Most of my girlfriends couldn’t lift me in and out of cars. So going places with my brothers in Christ frequently led to the types of friendships that I should have reserved exclusively for friendships with Christian women.

Quite often, I experienced romantic feelings toward the men who chauffered me about. Sometimes I nurtured my feelings, and suffered rejection once those feelings became known. But even when I suppressed those feelings, I knew they existed. Each friendship set me up for potential heartache.

Ladies, I assure you that it really wasn’t worth it.

As I said, however my personal experience only provides anecdotal evidence that close friendships between brothers and sisters in Christ shouldn’t be equated with relationships between natural opposite sex siblings. So let’s look at God’s Word.

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. ~~1 Timothy 5:1-2 (ESV)

Yes, Paul is indeed instructing Timothy to regard women his age as sisters. But did you notice the phrase “in all purity?” Paul’s point wasn’t that Timothy should cultivate intimacy with the young women in the Ephesian church. On the contrary, he wants Timothy to be circumspect in how he relates to them.

Paul’s letter to Titus adds clarity to the matter:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. ~~Titus 2:1-8 (ESV)

Although Paul tells Titus to teach sound doctrine to the churches of Crete in general, he wants women to teach other women the more intimate details of godly conduct. In fact, he charges Titus in verse 7 to serve as a model of integrity. In my Perspectives in Titus series, I learned from various commentaries that Paul particularly wanted Titus to avoid one-on-one contact with women.

I can think of more Scripture to support the importance of guarding against too much closeness between brothers and sisters in Christ, but time won’t allow me to write further today. I can only ask you to consider the few points I’ve made as you relate to your brothers in Christ.

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