A platonic relationship is ‘a close relationship in which there is no romance or sex’. And yes, it’s possible to have good platonic friendships at church!
Yet, there’s a reason we ask the question. We’ve all had good platonic friendships. We’ve also all seen some girl-guy (or girl-girl/guy-guy) friendships go wrong, because of the tension of wanting romance or sex, when it’s not a possibility.
It goes something like this. We realise we want more from a friendship. We try to serve our friend. But we start to engineer the friendship to serve our desires for this person’s affection. Best case, our feelings quickly fizzle, and normal friendship returns. Worst case; we get hurt, or we hurt our friend.
So how do we grow healthy friendships?
By understanding the glorious gospel which has service at its heart.
Think of Mark 8-10. The normal pattern of Christian living is self-denying service now, for glory later (Mark 8:34). King Jesus perfectly lives the pattern. He denies Himself, dies on a cross for others, and rises to glory. In His death He serves us (Mark 10:45). He takes our judgement, enabling us to follow Him in this pattern, and brings us to glory.
Let’s apply the gospel, to our platonic friendships. The gospel means:
#1 Friendship is about serving others. We are good friends when we act in others’ best interests. Why not consider: How am I serving my friend’s marriage? Their imagination? Their purity?
#2 Friendship isn’t about serving ourselves. We’re bad friends when we act selfishly to get what we want. Even a friendship which may appropriately become romantic, can be approached servant-heartedly (read last week’s blog). You could consider: Am I happy to share this person’s company with others? Would I send that text to another friend?
#3 Normal Christianity is always about serving. Friendship is about service, marriage is about service, singleness is about service. We become servant-hearted friends, by just getting started! Ask: Am I working on being the friend I want to be? Am I developing habits I’ll have to unpick as I grow?
#4 There’s hope when we get friendship wrong. Failure needn’t be the end of friendship, or our openness to investing in friendships. Jesus’ service makes forgiveness available. Have I understood forgiveness? Am I avoiding serving friends because I got it wrong previously?
#5 There’s hope when others get friendship wrong. #4 is true for our friends too. Am I refusing to let that person serve me in friendship because they hurt me previously? Have I understood Jesus’ willingness to forgive them?
And if you’re left thinking, is only platonic possible? The answer’s no. Romance and sex, finds its good home in marriage. Why not re-listen to William’s sermon series on Revolutionary Sex?