Have you ever had one of those conversations that reaffirms your perspective? I had one of those today on the issue of boundaries. Namely, relationship boundaries. A female Christian friend seemed blasé about her personal relationships with friends who she acknowledges have ‘benefits.’ But I’m of the view that such an intimate arrangement between two so-called friends cheapens, trivialises and distorts love.
Of course I can’t dictate how she or you should run your life. However I would ask you to consider precisely why you think (especially as a Christian) it’s ok to give your ‘friend’ marital privileges outside of the marital covenant? Intimacy can be gained without the physical aspects that society claims to be necessary.
‘Holding Hands, Holding Hearts’ by Sharon and Richard Phillips is an excellent book on relationships that I highly recommend. One thing the authors urge the reader to contemplate is that their relationship should have a sanctifying effect on both parties. If for whatever reason your relationship doesn’t end in marriage then you’re presently courting someone else’s future husband or wife. This should encourage individuals to uphold boundaries that would otherwise allow them to succumb to lust. Personally I would be uncomfortable with the idea of meeting a female that my boyfriend had done anything and everything with… More so if I discovered she was ‘just a friend’ and not an ex-girlfriend.
It’s true that different people have different thresholds and for this particular friend of mine she felt like it was ok to have male friends who transcended the friendship barrier but weren’t quite on the ‘boyfriend’ level. For me this raised the question of purity. Your conscience may allow you to think your actions are ok, but in the eyes of God what exactly constitutes purity? Take Matthew 5:8 for example ‘blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ How does one practically have a pure heart? It seems somewhat ambiguous… However the word for ‘pure’ in this verse is the Greek word katharos meaning clean or clear. Katharos is the same word used in John 15:3 where Jesus states that we have been ‘made clean‘ through his teaching, or in other words purified by his teaching. This is consistent with David’s counsel in Psalm 119:9 ‘how can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.’
Therefore you may then ask what is God’s teaching with regard to ‘extracurricular activity’ with friends, and does He have any commands in relation to friends with benefits? The short answer is no. The Bible doesn’t have a section addressing this particular issue by name. But it does have universal principles on the topic of sexual immorality and adultery (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5; Matthew 5:27-28) which I believe are essential to maintaining purity. For example, Paul admonishes us to walk ‘properly’ and not in lewdness or lust (Romans 13:13). Consider this in light of 1 Corinthians 13:4 which tells us that love is ‘patient’…. There’s nothing patient about lust. A man/woman who can’t wait to do things properly i.e. through marriage and is actively trying to transgress the boundaries of friendship is not demonstrating true biblical love. If a) you’re happy to receive this lust masquerading as love, or 2) you’re the one initiating such an arrangement – then I’m afraid to put this bluntly but you’re not ready to be in a relationship. Patience is a characteristic of love; and love isn’t just part of God, it’s who is (1 John 4:8).
In all things we should seek to emulate God. Therefore since a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship isn’t glorifying God because it’s not based on love which coincidentally happens to be one of His teachings (e.g. Matthew 22:39)… then can you truly carry on in your sin knowing you are impure in this respect? The issue at stake is less about how much you can get away with without someone getting attached or heartbroken, but rather an issue of obedience. Knowing and eventually seeing God should be your hearts desire. God in His wisdom would not allow you to settle for any less than you deserve, so don’t sell yourself short.
There’s lots more I could write but take a look at the following verses too:
– ‘Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure (katharos) heart.’ (II Timothy 2:22)
– ‘To the pure (katharos) all things are pure (katharos) but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.’ (Titus 1:15)