Category Archives: Friendship

The Need for Intimacy Among Men

To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. C.S. Lewis

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On August 27th, I led a men’s breakfast at Foothills Fellowship. My goal was to help men see the need for intimate male relationships, encourage them to be willing to explore this concept more, and eventually pursue such relationships. I gave them 6 reasons why I decided to speak on this topic.

1. Occasionally, I find myself telling my wife, Michelle, “I don’t need close male friends. I have you.” Emotionally, I may convince myself of this, but theologically, I know this is not right.

2. Most churches (including mine) stink at keeping single men connected to the church after high school. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that there aren’t any older men relationally connecting with these younger men.

3. Churches must have an answer for single men who struggle with same-sex attraction but want to honor God by remaining celibate. Deep and meaningful relationships with other men and families in the church is pivotal for helping these men stay connected to their faith and keep their commitment to celibacy. I recently blogged on this.

4. In college, I enjoyed deep male friendships, and I miss it. However, once I was married and had children, these relationships faded. Men must figure out ways to stay connected to one another after marriage.

Yes. That’s me on the right! And yes, I was in college. A senior as a matter of fact!

5. The Bible calls us to deep, intimate relationships with other Christian men, but our culture has made this almost impossible.

Sam Allberry, a pastor in Maidenhead, UK explains why: “Our Western culture has so identified sex and intimacy that in popular thinking the two are virtually identical. We cannot conceive of intimacy occurring without it in some way being sexual. So when we hear how previous generations described friendship in such intimate terms, we roll our eyes and say, “Well they were obviously gay.” Any intimacy, we imagine, must ultimately be sexual. But the Bible conceives of these things very differently. Sex and intimacy are not the same. It’s possible to have a lot of sex and yet find no intimacy. Sex is designed to deepen and express intimacy that already exists; it cannot in itself create it. But it’s also possible to have a huge amount of godly, healthy intimacy without sex.”

6. Men’s discipleship and sanctification is dependent upon deep relationships with Christian male friends. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Iron tools are made sharp, and fit for use, by rubbing them against the file, or some other iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. He quickens his ingenuity, enlivens his affections, strengthens his judgment, excites him to virtuous and useful actions, and makes him, in all respects, a better, more godly man.

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There are other Scriptures that point to the need for intimate relationships between Christians (men in this case).

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. I read this passage at most marriage ceremonies I perform, but gender is not specified here.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A friend is sent into the world of another for this among other ends, that he might comfort and relieve his brother in his adversity.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor. This denotes the affection that ought to exist between spiritual brothers and is a badge of discipleship. To “outdo” one another means going before, leading, setting an example.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Christians are called to love one another – and this goes for men too. By doing this 1) it gives evidence that we are Christ’s disciples and 2) it shows unsaved people that we follow Christ.

John 15:12-13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is what Christ did for us. This is what we should be willing to do for others – including our brothers in Christ.

in I Samuel 18-20, we see the ultimate example of an intimate male relationship in David and Jonathan.  We see that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Once Jonathan realized that he would never assume the throne of his father because of his father’s sin and that David was God’s choice to be the next king, he made a covenant with David (rather than try to kill him) because “he loved him as his own soul.” In an act of great humility and love, Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his girdle.

The last time they ever saw each other, Scripture says that “David fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times; and they kissed one another, and wept with one another.” Jonathan was eventually killed, and David eventually became king, but their friendship and loyalty lasted long after Jonathan’s death. In 2 Samuel 9, we see David caring for Jonathan’s son as his own. “I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”

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Christian men need friendships like this, and it can happen. Pray that God would show you a man of two with whom you can work toward developing a deep and intimate relationship. It will take work and great intention, but it’s worth it. As a matter of fact, your sanctification depends on it!

To see more of these great old photos of men with their buddies and to read about the history of male friendship in America, click here.

To listen to the audio of the men’s breakfast discussion I had with the men from Foothills, click here.

The Command to Love Trumps the “Do Not” Commands

I’m preparing to address the men of our church on Saturday about love, intimacy, sexuality, and friendship. It’s an area of deep concern for me as our culture equates intimacy with sex creating a culture where biblical friendship and the call for non-sexual same-sex intimacy (like David and Jonathan’s) has become unattainable. As C.S. Lewis put it, “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.”

Friends, celebrating, sunset, river bank

When studying this topic, one inevitably comes across the writings of those in the church who have a same-sex attraction but have chosen – out of obedience to God – to remain celibate.  Reading the thoughts of these men has been very rich and helpful for me.  One such man is Wesley Hill, an assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. About the topic of same-sex friendship, love, and intimacy he writes, “If we are going to say ‘no’ to gay marriage, we have to provide gay people with human relationships where we offer love, fidelity and mutual support.” I couldn’t agree more.

Hill goes on to say, “The Church in Corinth was one of the most difficult of the Churches founded by the Apostle Paul during his missionary journeys. He wrote more to address the problems in Corinth than he addressed to any other Christian community in the ancient world. Much of what he had to say to the Corinthians concerned adherence to the negative precepts of God’s law (including the prohibition of homosexual acts in 1 Corinthians 6:9). However, his letters to the Corinthians also contain perhaps the most moving statement in all Scripture of the primacy of the positive commandment to love.”

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul warns the church that if they don’t love others (enemies and outsiders included), then they are doing and have nothing. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

If we are going to passionately and with great conviction declare that homosexuality is a sin (which it is according to God’s Word), then we as Christ-followers must be the first in line to offer our homosexual friends the kind of deep, passionate, committed, and intimate love the Scriptures call us to give others. We must not just love homosexuals in theory but we must be willing to love them in practice. We must not tell them “no” without offering them the burning “yes” of our friendship, loyalty and love.

A Life of “Making Space”

strangerThe Scriptures call us to be hospitable. Jesus – the epitome of a hospitable God – calls us to be hospitable. But what does this mean? Is it merely what one pastor suggested when he called his people to give up the right of way on a narrow road, to bring a cup of coffee to someone at church, and to make an effort to talk to your neighbors when you pass them on the sidewalk? I’m sure he agrees that hospitality is much more, but unfortunately, I think most Christians see hospitality as an event rather than a lifestyle. Nice little things we do for people rather than a lifestyle of humility, submission, and service. As I read the Scriptures, I’m convinced that the biblical call to hospitality is bigger and more demanding than we ever thought.

One pastor I read says, “Too often Christians think hospitality is just a group of Christians meeting over a meal. That is not the biblical meaning of the concept.” He goes on to say, “Hospitality means making space for the stranger in your world. God has made a place for his enemies to become part of his family by Jesus being treated like an enemy on the cross. He brought us into his home, treated us like family and gave us access to all that he owns, making us co-heirs with Christ. When leaders open their homes and lives to the stranger — the outsider — we show the world and the church how the gospel reshapes our view of our homes.”

This means that as a Christian, you have non-Christians in your life that would call you their friend. They invite you to their parties and events, call you when they are in need, and regularly bring you into their world. They not only call you friend, but they also respect you — you have a good reputation with them. It doesn’t mean they always agree with you or are never offended by the gospel, but regardless, they believe you love them and in turn entrust themselves to you.

Yes. Hospitality is something we extend to fellow Christians, but it’s bigger than this. It’s a way of life, and it includes living in such a way that we willingly and sacrificially “make space” for not just our brothers and sisters in Christ, but for outsiders, strangers, non-Christians.

Chicken, Football, Gay, and Straight

I like Chick-Fil-A, and I like college football.  Something pretty profound and very God-honoring took place on New Year’s Eve at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.  Shane Windmeyer and Dan Cathy hung out – as friends.  Shane is a 40-year-old gay man who is the founder and executive director of Campus Pride, the leading national organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) college students.  Dan is a 59-year-old straight man who is the President and COO of Chick-fil-A and an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and supporter of conservative Christian causes.

Shane has not liked Dan for sometime.  As a matter of fact, Shane has seen Dan as his enemy and has led national movements against him and his company, Chick-fil-A. Dan decided to do something about this, and what he did – I believe – is a model for how Christians should deal with people they disagree with.  And more specifically, it’s a model for how Christians should deal with homosexuals.  Dan got to know Shane.  He invited Shane to talk with him – not only about their differences – but about what they have in common.  And guess what?  They became friends.  Neither has compromised their position on the same-sex/traditional marriage debate, but by engaging in conversation, the walls between them have been removed.  They are friends.  Friends with differences.

Shane recently published an article on the HuffPost Gay Voices blog, and I was moved and encouraged by what I read.  A gay man writing about his change of heart toward his former Christian enemy – all because the Christian man reached out to him and began a conversation.  Here is a segment of Shane’s article.  You can read the entire article and see a video interview with Shane by clicking here.

Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being “a follower of Christ” more than a “Christian.” Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-a — but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.

And in that we had great commonality: We were each entirely ourselves. We both wanted to be respected and for others to understand our views. Neither of us could — or would — change. It was not possible. We were different but in dialogue. That was progress.

In many ways, getting to know Dan better has reminded me of my relationship with my uncle, who is a pastor at a Pentecostal church. When I came out as openly gay in college, I was aware that his religious views were not supportive of homosexuality. But my personal relationship with my uncle reassured me of his love for me — and that love extends to my husband. My uncle would never want to see any harm come to me or Tommy. His beliefs prevented him from fully reconciling what he understood as the immorality of homosexuality with the morality of loving and supporting me and my life. It was, and remains, an unsolvable riddle for him, hating the sin and loving the sinner.

My relationship with Dan is the same, though he is not my family. Dan, in his heart, is driven by his desire to minister to others and had to choose to continue our relationship throughout this controversy. He had to both hold to his beliefs and welcome me into them. He had to face the issue of respecting my viewpoints and life even while not being able to reconcile them with his belief system. He defined this to me as “the blessing of growth.” He expanded his world without abandoning it. I did, as well.

As Dan and I grew through mutual dialogue and respect, he invited me to be his personal guest on New Year’s Eve at the Chick-fil-A Bowl. This was an event that Campus Pride and others had planned to protest. Had I been played? Seduced into his billionaire’s life? No. It was Dan who took a great risk in inviting me: He stood to face the ire of his conservative base (and a potential boycott) by being seen or photographed with an LGBT activist. He could have been portrayed as “caving to the gay agenda” by welcoming me.

Instead, he stood next to me most of the night, putting respect ahead of fear. There we were on the sidelines, Dan, his wife, his family and friends and I, all enjoying the game. And that is why building a relationship with someone I thought I would never understand mattered. Our worlds, different as they can be, could coexist peacefully. The millions of college football fans watching the game never could have imagined what was playing out right in front of them. Gay and straight, liberal and conservative, activist and evangelist — we could stand together in our difference and in our respect. How much better would our world be if more could do the same?

May we follow the example of Dan, a man who had more than most of us to lose in befriending Shane.  May we as Christians be willing to enter into relationships with non-Christians that may be “unsolvable” riddles for us – for the sake of Christ and for His kingdom.

You Need Me. I Need You.

We were not meant to live as self-reliant, independent operators.  Yet many of us choose to live this way because we are afraid of vulnerability.  Being known scares us.  Admitting feelings or failures shames us.  Somewhere, life taught us that openness was dangerous, so self-protection becomes huge.  Fences and defenses keep people at arms length.  Being competent and in control keeps our weakness and struggles out of the reach of others.  No wonder we feel alone when we struggle with loneliness, temptation, and pain.  The walls around us are thick.  Furthermore, the effort we pour into image maintenance separates us from who we really are.  Hiding the “real me” from others sadly hides the “real me” from me.  Image management, pretense – it’s a lonely, diseased road.

Clearly, we were not designed to journey alone.  Without trusted friends, we wither and sometimes die.  God created us for community and interdependence – with him and with others.  We need others.  We need their wisdom in unmasking defense mechanisms that keep the truth at bay.  Many of us can not get through a day or a relationship without falling back on rationalization, denial and blame.  And our blind spots hinder us from recognizing  how manipulative and hurtful these defenses are.  However, what we can not see is often blatantly visible to others.  Without their help and love and truth, we will never know the taste of real freedom.

Taken from the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us
by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.