LESSON 3: EMBRACING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS ACROSS GENDER

Lesson Aim

To equip believers with a biblical view on the place of male-female relationships within the community..

  • Lesson Objectives

By the end of the lesson the participant should:

  • Understand a biblical perspective on the place of male-female relationships.
  • Appreciate the need to build healthy, genuine and God honoring relationships across gender.
  • Commit to a lifestyle of purity and mutual respect with members of the opposite gender.
  • Discussion Question

The idea of a man and a woman relating closely without romance looming over the horizon is practically impossible! Discuss.

  • Introduction

That opposites attract is not only a fact that science has come to confirm over the years but a principle that dates back to the very beginning of time. This can clearly be overheard from Adam and Eve’s first date organized by the Maker on the immaculate lawns of Eden.

Genesis 2:22-23

“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.”

However, one cannot possibly overlook the controversy this subject has elicited through the years with arguments for and against male-female relationships taking centre stage in numerous fora.

For instance, O’Meara and Rawlins (1982) opined that “There is something inappropriate about cross-gender friendships. They can incite jealousies in a romance or a marriage, confuse friends and family members, and be emotionally perplexing to the partners themselves.” On the other hand, there are multiple kinds of male-female relationships that are worth reflecting on:

  1. i. A single woman and a married man.
  2. A married woman and a single man.

iii. A married woman and a married man.

  1. A single woman and a single man.

What do these relationships look like? Are they obviously inappropriate? Should they exist? Does God prohibit them? Are they vital to the body of Christ or undeniably essential in a healthy church community?

  1. What are the foundations of male-female relationships?

i.God is the foundation for human existence, including the existence as male and female.

Godly relationships between men and women should be void of any superiority or inferiority in gender, whether real or imaginary.

Genesis 1:27

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Galatians 3:26-29

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”.

  1. The goal of female-male relationships is to reflect the character of God.

God intends that human beings be the imago Dei (Latin for: image of God). Both men and women are carriers of the image of God.

Genesis 1:26

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

iii. The means to nurturing godly male-female relationships is empowerment.

In response to the perceived loneliness of Adam, God created another human being who would deliver Adam from his loneliness, not only by being a sexual partner but also in all dimensions of their existence.

Genesis 2:18, 22

“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him…Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” The gospels are replete with stories in which Jesus not only related to men but also interacted as a man with women. In each case he consistently refused to view women as occupying a lower place in the social order and hence as those over whom he needed to exercise dominance..

Implication:

Any healthy and meaningful male-female relationship must be anchored on a biblically sound appreciation of male and female distinctions and roles.

Discussion Question

God created women. Men invented themselves!!! Please discuss how this claim is reflected in male-female relationships.

  1. Why are men and women attracted to each other?
  2. i. Male-female attractions are normal and God given.

There is an inborn desire in each one of us for attention from the opposite gender. This is a fact regardless of the on-going gender debates.

God created man and woman to be united together emotionally, sexually and relationally as they serve Him.

Genesis 2:20-24

“So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, ’for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Implication:

Physical intimacy was created to be enjoyed strictly within the marriage bond as spelt out in the Bible. Any violation of this provision is rejecting God’s design and is sinful.

  1. ii. Attraction is holistic and therefore goes beyond the physical.

A very important element of attraction that is often overlooked is spiritual interest.

We are “holistic” beings, after all. God has given us minds and hearts and eyes and ears and affections and emotions and much more.

Proverbs 31:30

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-16

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Note:

Attraction can be intellectual, grounded in an appreciation of intelligence. It can be character-driven, rooted in love for the virtuous deeds and heart of a person. It can be less easy to pin down, but connected to sense of humor, background, recreational interest, music, politics, or many other things.

iii. Attraction may draw but it takes love to sustain a relationship.

Despite physical attraction being a key ingredient in great male-female relationships, it is not the only determinant of a gratifying relationship.

1 Peter 3:3-5

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hair styles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands.”

The attractiveness of a man should also be that which comes from within. The most obvious example in Scripture is Jesus, who “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2) Yet the beauty of His grace, as the incarnate Son of God, shone forth from within Him to all who truly knew Him. The strength of character displayed in the Son of Man should be modeled by every man on earth.

Ephesians 5:21-28

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

Discussion question

Is it possible to shower a member of the opposite gender with compliments without being misunderstood.

  1. How can men and women cultivate healthy God honoring relationships?
  2. i. Concede your need for God and others of the opposite gender.

No man is an island. God has put us in a community to facilitate much of our needed growth.

Philippians 2:5-7

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness”

  1. Cultivate healthy and meaningful relationships.

Healthy and meaningful relationships are not a function of wishful thinking but rather of intentional and consistent action.

Colossians 3:5-10

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

iii. Commit to authenticity and purity.

Superficiality is one of the greatest hindrances to building healthy and rewarding relationships. Worse still is a repetitive lifestyle of sin and expecting good returns for the same.

Titus 1:15

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.”

Ephesians 5:3-10

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”

  1. Embrace love and mutual respect.

Love and respect have always worked best as a two way street as opposed to a one-way street where one gender lays claim to superiority or inferiority.

Galatians 3:26-29

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

  1. Healthy relationships are void of exploitation.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

Note:

Here are a few diagnostic questions to avoid ship wrecking your significant male – female relationships.

  • Are our meetings (especially locations) increasingly private?
  • Are we complaining about our marriages (or love lives) to each other?
  • Are we texting each other privately? Are we sexting?
  • Do I find myself thinking about them, or fantasizing about a life with them?
  • Do I find myself excusing intimacy that would be otherwise inappropriate?

Conclusion

Is there hope for broken male-female relationships?

Broken male-female relationships are a result of the fallen nature within us. Everyone experiences the hurt of a broken relationship at one time or another. We are bound to be hurt and disappointed, for we live in a fallen world. What we choose to do with that hurt and disappointment can make us stronger in our walk with the Lord. God promises to walk through the disappointments in life with us, and He wants us to know His provision for us is sure. His grace and comfort are ours as we rest in Him.

Hebrews 13:5

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Contrary to popular opinion in some quarters, women are not the sole culprits for the entrance of sin in this world. God’s statement, “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16), is not a prescription of what is morally necessary for godly relationships but a description of life after the fall.

Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for the restoration of the most important relationship between God and man and extends the same grace to every broken relationship provided we remain prisoners of hope and do not give up.

Zechariah 9:11c-12

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”