I’ve just finished reading David Bennett’s new book “A War of Loves“, subtitle “The unexpected story of a gay activist discovering Jesus”.
I’ve found it to be a really excellent book. If you want to read a review with lots of quotes from the book to see what I mean, have a look at David Robertson’s review.
I don’t really want to review the book per se, but given that this is Friend Zone I wanted to make a brief comment about what the book says about friendship.
This site originated largely as a result of same-sex attracted / gay Christians who have helped the church rediscover the value in friendship. I read people like Wesley Hill on Spiritual Friendship, Ed Shaw in The Plausibility Problem and Vaughan Roberts in True Friendship. What I think these people have rediscovered of late is that friendship is so much more than what society – not to mention the church – thinks it is.
When the church makes an idol of marriage and family, rather than showing the world what the body of Christ should be, then it’s small wonder that people who can’t enter into traditional families for various reasons feel excluded. (Kevin DeYoung recently had some helpful comments about idolising the family).
One of the things I took from this book is that the church has actually failed to live up to its calling to be the body of Christ – too often the biological family has been held up and friendship sidelined. It is for this reason that I think it’s so important to be embracing friendship: if the church can’t show the world that sex and romance is not god, then who can?
What would it be like if everyone in the church – both single and married – started seeing the world a bit different, started seeing marriage as a good thing but not the ultimate thing? What if we started opening up to friendship with others – to love one another deeply, from the heart (1 Peter 1:22)? What if we asked the Spirit to so transform us that we could really show the world what life could be without the idol of sex and romance in the way?
So many things in David’s book were helpful on this, and I think it’s a really helpful read from his perspective. I highly recommend reading it and I hope it will give to the church a much needed perspective on friendship.
Yesterday I watched Louis Theroux’s documentary Altered States: 1. Love Without Limits. It was a fascinating programme and one which is well worth reflecting on. It was documenting the rise of polyamory – that is, people who choose to live in ‘open’ relationships, with more than a single couple involved. It followed about three different groups (I can’t call them couples!) and explored how their relationships worked.
I have a few reflections which I’d like to talk about here, because I think the documentary has some relevance to what Friend Zone is about.
1. Polyamory is desire gone mad
It was painfully obvious, in every single arrangement, that there was at least one person getting the raw end of the deal. No-one came out and said they were unhappy with the polyamorous arrangement, but it didn’t take much reading between the lines to see that was the case.
The phrase ‘have your cake and eat it’ sprang to my mind more than once during the course of the programme. I think in every arrangement, it had originated with someone being unhappy and wanting to add to what they had rather than stop a relationship and start a new one. It was unhindered desire – human lust given licence.
2. One is not enough
One thing which was said repeatedly during the programme was ‘How can one person be enough?’ – i.e, one person is not supposed to fulfil every one of their partner’s needs. This is something I completely agree with – and a big part of the reason why Friend Zone is here.
However, the solution is completely different. Polyamory says – ‘one person can never be enough… therefore you need multiple sexual relationships’. This is the complete antithesis of Friend Zone: this site exists to say ‘one person can never be enough… therefore you need lots of friends.’ Which leads on to the third point.
3. No-one got what they wanted
It really struck me that all the people involved were searching for something, but they never really found it. One of the things I enjoy is being around couples who’ve been together a long time – couples who’ve been through thick and thin together, who are comfortable with each other. I believe that my wife and I, having been married for 12 years, are more comfortable with each other now than we were to start with – and I hope that will continue to grow through the course of our lives. Because marriage is an exclusive relationship, we have a commitment to each other which has grown – and the level of trust and love for each other has grown as well.
What really came home to me watching the polyamory documentary is that, by introducing sex into everything, the polyamorists didn’t get either marriage or friendship. There seemed to be a constant level of tension and unease in the relationships. There was no real commitment.
And it struck me that, in order to have deep friendships, one must be coming from a place of security: in order to relate to someone – especially someone of the opposite sex – you have to have the security of knowing what kind of relationship it is. If every relationship is potentially a sexual relationship, then it’s going to spoil everything from the start.
And this is why I am increasingly of the opinion that the traditional Christian understanding of marriage – as in, the lifelong union of a man and a woman – is good news for the world. It is the bedrock of healthy relationships: sexual intimacy belongs within the confines of marriage, and is safe there. Friendships can flourish when sexual intimacy is taken off the table. However, if sex is loosed from the confines of marriage, it destroys everything – friendship included. As (I believe) Ray Ortlund said: “Sex is like fire: in the fireplace, it keeps you warm. Out of the fireplace, it burns the house down.”
I read an interesting article today about the Strictly ‘curse’. This is a curse which applies to contestants on the TV show Strictly Come Dancing:
As the years have passed, there have been so many relationship break-ups among the show’s contestants, that the phenomenon has become known as the “Strictly curse”. And the latest scandal has been grabbing headlines all week as professional dancer Katya Jones and Comedian Seann Walsh have had their private lives made excruciatingly public.
I hadn’t realised this before now, but apparently there have now been ten couples who have broken up as a result of Strictly. In some ways it’s not surprising:
Jeremy Vine, who himself has a Christian faith and has been married for 16 years said he had feelings he couldn’t explain towards his partner when he was on Strictly: “Suddenly I’m seeing someone who is like a goddess – super human. The power and the strength and grace of that person, and then you are spending eight, nine hours a day within two inches of them.”
I’m not really a fan of Strictly – I’ve watched it on occasion. But I have always wondered how it’s possible for a man and a woman to partner so closely together in such a physical way without there being a sexual element. However, since starting up Friend Zone, it has made me wonder whether I’ve been a bit short sighted.
I think most people would cite the ‘Strictly’ curse as powerful evidence for believing if you get ‘too close’ to a member of the opposite sex, you’ll end up having an affair. There are plenty of examples of this happening, not just on Strictly! But, as discussed on this site, the solution is not simply to avoid those relationships. I often think of Aimee Byrd’s book and its subtitle: Avoidance is not purity.
I wonder whether part of the problem for those dancers on Strictly is that when it comes to relationships between men and women, the only ‘box’ they have to put things in is that of sexual attraction. If you start to have ‘feelings’ for someone else, then it clearly must be sexual. So the only two options are: (1) deny it, and keep the relationship at a superficial level; (2) give in to it.
But, as discussed here before, attraction is not one-dimensional. I think too often attraction is assumed to be sexual because that’s just about the only thing our society knows. It’s easy to confuse them, and of course Christians should expect nothing less given that sin is disordered desire. I explored recently on the blog whether we have lost our ability to see beauty – and I think you can see something of that in Jeremy Vine’s comment. It’s one thing to admire beauty, it’s something else to want that beauty in a sexual way. But that’s not to say that it’s impossible for a man and a woman to be involved in dancing together, have a close relationship, and yet for it to be pure.
I’m not sure I’d like to be a contestant on Strictly, to be honest. I think it would be a lot of pressure – and, of course, the times when we are weakest are often times when we are under the most pressure. That said, I think there are a couple of things to say: (1) I wonder if the outcome for those couples would have been different if they had a better understanding of friendship between the sexes. Sometimes a different way of viewing the world makes all the difference. (2) Christians understand that sin does not spring for our external circumstances but from our hearts. We do not sin because we are tempted, we sin because our hearts give in to the temptation. The solution to the Strictly curse is not taking people out of those circumstances, but by changing hearts – something which, ultimately, only Jesus can do.
Over the past week or two I’ve started working my way through Revelation with Ian Paul’s new Tyndale Commentary. I’ve very much enjoyed reading it so far – Revelation is a book I’ve always been a bit scared of, so getting to grips with it has been on my list for a long time.
The other day I came across an interesting comment on Revelation 3:18 (from the letter to the church in Laodicea). That verse says: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.”
In Greek culture, nakedness served to show off the glory of the human body, and participants in the games competed naked – hence our word ‘gymnast’ derives from the Greek for ‘naked’. The associated shame is in line with Jewish rejection of public nakedness (and hence their objection to the games), but here relates to the Laodiceans’ failure to ‘put on’ the way of living that is true to their faith (cf. Col. 3:9-14).
It’s hard to imagine participants in the Olympic Games participating naked! But the ancients certainly had a different view of the body and nudity than we do today in 21st Century Britain. Looking back through history and across the world, many different cultures have had different views of the body. Even cultures which are fairly close to home – for example, my wife was telling me the other day about her experience going swimming in France. It was the norm there (at least where she was) for the women to swim topless – even those who had one-piece costumes would roll them down. Everyone did it, it was just normal – no-one batted an eyelid! (For the record, she couldn’t bring herself to do the same…)
Societies throughout the ages have had different views about what is and is not permissible. However, I don’t think the church has always responded in the best way – I talked about this previously in my Christian Modesty post. The other day I saw this tweet:
Tongan student in my class: ~100 years ago, British missionaries came to our naked people, told us to believe in Jesus & get dressed. We did. Today British tourists come to our island, get naked on our beaches & now we tell them to believe in Jesus & get dressed.
I think this is a pretty fair representation of many British Christians: believing in Jesus entails modesty which means (amongst other things) always being clothed in public. Now there are, of course, many good reasons for clothes to be worn! But I wonder if there isn’t something deeper going on: do many Christians think nakedness is lewd and improper because the body itself is lewd and improper? In other words, the issue isn’t to do with nudity per se but rather what leads to that particular view.
Why does it matter?
The other day I was thinking about how things are so different for teenagers now broadband internet is widely available in the UK. Teenagers have access to pornographic material which is almost beyond imagination. Martin Daubney, ex-editor of lads’ mag Loaded, shortly after quitting as editor filmed a documentary called Porn on the Brain. He wrote about some of his research here:
I’d been invited to sit in on a forward-thinking class led by sex education consultant Jonny Hunt, who is regularly asked into schools to discuss sex and relationships. To establish what these kids knew about sex – including pornography – he had asked the children to write an A-Z list of the sexual terms they knew, no matter how extreme.
… when Jonny pinned their lists on the board, it turned out that the children’s extensive knowledge of porn terms was not only startling, it superseded that of every adult in the room – including the sex education consultant himself.
… When questioned, they had all – every child in a class of 20 – seen sodomy acted out in porn videos. I was stunned they even knew about it – I certainly hadn’t heard of it at that age – let alone had watched it and as a result may even have wanted to try it.
Pornography is changing the landscape of young adults – has already changed it beyond recognition in the time since I was a teenager. Teenagers now have access to just about anything, for free, on their smartphones. All of this has consequences – and we are seeing some of those consequences now (I talked about a few of them on this site). The key question is: what is access to porn at such a young age doing to these teenagers? In particular – is it affecting not just their view of sex, but their wider view of the body? If the only nudity you are exposed to is in the context of pornography, isn’t that going to colour your understanding of the body?
What can / should we be doing?
In my previous post about modesty I suggested that modesty actually exacerbates the problem. The message it sends out is, “the body is something sexual – therefore it needs to be covered up.” I remember as a child going to the National Gallery in London and looking at beautiful works of art and feeling a bit uneasy seeing pictures e.g. of naked breasts or a penis – why should this be the case? As I explained in that post – the human body is not something shameful. We, the church, have the theology, we have the Holy Spirit – how then should we tackle this problem?
Here I have to say that I’m not sure the best way forward. How should we help young people to have a healthy self-image? There are a few steps in this regard, but I’m not sure that we’ve really cracked this one yet. Answers on a postcard (or comment below, or drop us an email).
Lest I be misunderstood, please understand that I am not recommending some kind of Christian naturism! I don’t think this is the right solution – not least because it locates the solution in nudity rather than in Christ. Calling the church to have a healthy view of the body doesn’t mean that we should go to the opposite extreme!
But I do think what Friend Zone is about has something to offer, and I think it is to do with seeing each other in the context of a non-sexual relationship. When men and women can see each other as genuine friends, part of that means appreciating what is beautiful without the corruption of sexual desire. That’s why I entitled this post, “Losing our ability to see beauty” – because one of the things I’ve realised about our society is that it’s virtually impossible now to see someone as beautiful without reading a sexual connotation into that. (Or at least, I think this is more true for younger folk – millennials and younger).
One of the things I’ve learned over the last few years is that it is not sinful for me as a man to acknowledge that a woman is beautiful. Partly this has been caused by watching my wife breastfeeding our children – which is a beautiful and natural thing for her to have done. It made me realise the extent of the way our society’s view of the female body has become distorted! And as I’ve thought about the body from a theological perspective, it has come back to me repeatedly that the body is not an insignificant or trivial detail in God’s plans: Men and women should see each other holistically – we are not disembodied souls floating around, but embodied. Count up the number of references in the New Testament for using our whole bodies for God – for example, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20:
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.
It is not our disembodied souls that God lives in – but our bodies. And as Christians we are to honour God with our bodies – not just in the negative (avoiding doing what is wrong) but positively doing what is right. How we see each other’s bodies is a part of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit – we should not rest content with what society says, or with some kind of legalistic ‘modesty’, but rather the inner transforming work of the Spirit.
Let me draw a few conclusions. I appreciate this is not a short post and I just want to make as clear as possible what I am and am not saying.
I am not arguing for nudity to be part of the church – rather, I think the British church’s attitudes to nudity demonstrate that we need to think more carefully about the body. Especially given our current cultural context.
The big question, to my mind, is this: how are we broadcasting the ‘better story’ compared with our society? Do teenagers receive a positive message about themselves and their bodies from the church – not just from what they hear in teaching, but from what we do? Are men and women, with the help of the Spirit, seeking to see each other holistically – with God-given beauty rather than a sinful distortion of it?
I don’t have the answers, not right now. But all I know is, unless we are prepared to ask some tough questions, we won’t get any answers.
On my YouTube Channel I’m currently working through the Sermon on the Mount, and today reached Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-30 about adultery and lust. These are words which I’ve struggled to understand through the years, but – particularly with the things I’ve been thinking about with Friend Zone – have started to understand better. I hope this is helpful to you – do let me know what you think.
I read an article this morning which is becoming depressingly familiar – although, worryingly, largely ignored by the media and politicians. The biggest single factor when it comes to child’s mental health is family breakdown. I was particularly struck by this paragraph:
Second, the relationship with the opposite-sex parent matters. On the face of it, having a close relationship with either parent seems to benefit teens equally. But when you throw all these other factors into the mix – parents’ marital status, happiness, relationship quality, use of physical force, education, ethnicity – it’s closeness to mum that matters specifically for boys and closeness to dad that matters specifically for girls.
This is really a no-brainer, and yet it is apparently controversial in this day and age to suggest that a child does best with its mother and father. How else is a boy going to learn how to relate to women than through close family relationships with mother, sister, etc – but especially the mother? How else is a girl going to learn how to relate to men than with a father in particular? When children are deprived of those things – and in its place comes the fake way that men and women relate in pornography – then is it any surprise that they grow up unable to form meaningful relationships with the opposite sex?
Over the past few months I’ve met quite a few new people through baby & toddler groups I help to run. It has really come home to me just how many children are living in situations which a generation or two ago would have been the rarity: many family situations are what we used to call ‘complicated’. What are we creating as a society when this is the new normal?
This is what Friend Zone is about. Friend Zone is a small step to help restore what is broken in the world. Just because someone grew up without a parent doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to form meaningful friendships with the opposite sex. The goal here is to not just show what’s broken, but try to point to a better way. Articles like this simply convince me even further that this is the right path.
Last year, Aisling Bea wrote a moving article about her father, who committed suicide when she was very young. In it she wrote:
My father’s death has given me a lot. It has given me a lifelong love of women, of their grittiness and hardness – traits that we are not supposed to value as feminine. It has also given me a love of men, of their vulnerability and tenderness – traits that we do not foster as masculine or allow ourselves to associate with masculinity.
I’m very grateful to her for bringing this issue up, as it is very often overlooked. Male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK – 84 take their own lives every week!
So what should we do about it? Aisling occasionally speaks on Twitter about the need for men to open up more about their feelings, to build friendships and support each other. I think she’s right – but I think there’s more to be said.
In particular, too often I think it’s simply assumed that men should open up to other men. Not that there’s anything wrong with opening up to other men, of course – but why should it be restricted to men, and not women?
A few years ago, shortly after university, I had a mixed group of friends who would meet up regularly. Occasionally the girls would have a girls night – and so one of my male friends decided that the boys should have a boys night instead. We had those on a couple of occasions. To be honest with you, I didn’t really like the boys nights so much – we just didn’t really have so much to say to each other. It wasn’t an evening with free flowing conversation, shall we say! Now maybe this is because of our particular personalities (mostly introverts…) – but I don’t think it’s the only reason.
In any social grouping, my preference is always for mixed-sex rather than men-only (obviously I can’t be part of women-only groups…) I just feel it works better. And that’s what we should expect given the differences between men and women. I have different conversations with men than I have with women – which is perfectly natural. I personally have benefited from the friendships I’ve had with both men and women – they each bring out a different side in me. I do generally find it easier to talk about my feelings and ’emotional life’ with women – it would feel quite forced and strange to have a conversation with another man about my emotional state.
I wonder if part of the problem with male suicide at the moment is that men are finding it more difficult to relate to women. In the past men might have been able to talk to a close female family member – a spouse, sister or mother, perhaps – but now good relationships even in the family are harder to find. Men and women need healthy relationships with the opposite sex – the problems cannot all be solved by single-sex friendship.
So what should we do?
I would say to men – don’t neglect friendship of any sort. Many men unfortunately do neglect friendship (especially once they’re in a long-term relationship) – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Keep your friends, keep talking to them, don’t let it slide. However – I would say – don’t neglect friendship with the opposite sex: maybe there are women around who you could talk to, who would love to help.
I would say to women – don’t neglect your male friends. Don’t assume everything is OK with them – men are also vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
There is no easy answer to this question – but I am convinced that the problem of male suicide is not just a problem for men to solve but for everyone. I believe this is another example of why Friend Zone is necessary – we need men and women to pull together on this, and many other things.
Yesterday I wrote a review of Aimee Byrd’s book, “Why can’t we be friends” (it’s great, by the way – you should read it). At the end of that review I said “As I got to the end of the book, it struck me that there are many more angles on this which weren’t covered. I don’t say that as a negative – just that I have realised this topic is so much bigger than I thought it was a few months ago.”
One of the things which I have been thinking about is about the body – a topic I wrote about fairly recently but I think is worth exploring in more detail. There is something of a ‘modesty’ culture in Christian circles – it’s probably more pronounced in America, from what I hear, but certainly Christian women in the UK know about it. Women are supposed to cover up, not to expose too much, lest their bodies might cause a brother to stumble.
The problem is, of course, that women start to see their bodies as a source of temptation and shame and men start to see women’s bodies as a source of temptation and something to avoid. This kind of modesty culture seems to me to actually encourage seeing one another sexually. The irony – something which is designed to avoid temptation actually ends up causing more of it! But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Trying to deal with a situation through the Law rather than Grace. It can’t be done – the Spirit is the only way.
If we truly believe that bodies are good, and that Christ came in the body to redeem us – body and soul – and that our whole bodies should be used as instruments of righteousness – shouldn’t Christians be known for our love of all things physical? Shouldn’t Christians be known to demonstrate our affection physically (“Greet each other with a holy kiss”, as Paul says in no less than four of his epistles!). What right does the church have to be so concerned with the pharisaic appearance of righteousness that it overlooks these things?
A few months ago I was at a youth event with some of our church teenagers. The speaker was from another local church, and he talked from Psalm 139 about how God made us and how God loves us. One of the things he said which really hit home to our teenage girls was about loving ourselves and our bodies, because God made us. These girls are so often given negative messages about their bodies – they need to look a certain way to fit in, etc – that it was revolutionary for them to hear something positive about their bodies. And it’s made me think: what good news do Christians have to offer for people, women especially, who are struggling in this way?
I know one or two women who are blessed with breasts that are above average in size (the fact that I had to resist a huge temptation to use a euphemism there is probably in itself indicative that something is wrong!). I think they feel a little ashamed of themselves, like they have to disguise it – that maybe their bodies are a cause of sexual temptation. Obviously this isn’t the case for every woman in this situation, but in a culture where breasts are sexualised to the point they are in much of Western society, you can hardly blame Christian women for feeling a bit guilty.
What kind of good news is the church offering young women if it sends out a conflicted message – “your bodies are good, a temple of the holy spirit, made beautiful by God – BUT try and cover yourself up and stop men looking at you.” The more I think about it, the more I think that we as a church need to be working hard at this – we need to show people what it means to love one another, bodies included. Not just tell them.I often think of Glynn Harrison’s book “A Better Story” – we need to be showing the world a better story, not preaching one story from our lips but demonstrating something else with our actions.
We believe that God made bodies and made them good – let’s ask God to help us show that and not just proclaim it.
So… we should all become nudists, right?
Haha. Good try, No, that’s not what I’m saying. But we still deal with the effects of sin and the fall – modesty is of some value, even if we haven’t got everything right in the church. But we should challenge unhealthy attitudes wherever they are found, and I do feel that some of the attitudes in the church at the moment are unhealthy. Bodies are good – that doesn’t mean we need to be naked all the time! Grace doesn’t mean that we can throw all caution to the wind, especially with those outside the church. (Paul may have been alluding in 1 Corinthians 11 about long hair to temple prostitutes, who would signal their availability by waving their uncovered hair around. It’s important to be wise about how we engage with the world.)
The challenge is to present a right attitude to the world while at the same time acknowledge that the world has gone very wrong. How we do that is not an easy thing, and I certainly don’t have all the answers. Personally, I’m just beginning to think about this and start to get my head around it.
But some food for thought: many of the great artworks of previous generations contained nudity – think of Michelangelo’s David, for example. He, and many classical artists, could see the beauty and dignity of the human body. (I should say, so can many artists today). We, by contrast, live in a culture where women have to fight for the right to breastfeed their babies (I have two young daughters, both of whom were breastfed – I know a little of the struggle that goes on here). Breasts are so sexualised and seen as improper that it’s become difficult in public for a woman to do one of the most natural things in the world. What a messed up world we live in!
Perhaps we as a church need to recover something of the goodness of bodies, not reduce them (as society does) to sexual gratification but see the beauty inherent in what God made good. All of this is part and parcel of what it means to be friends – seeing each other holistically, as Aimee Byrd put it. I pray that God will enliven the church to meet the hour – that we may be driven further into the Scriptures to seek what the Spirit is saying at this time.
I’ve just finished reading Aimee Byrd’s new book “Why can’t we be friends”. The summary version of this is, it’s a great book and I would thoroughly recommend it!
What I like is how Aimee builds the case – she particularly looks at friendship of men and women from the perspective of being brothers and sisters in Christ, and goes into some detail about what that means for us. This is a book which I think will be difficult to argue with – and, from the conversations I’ve had even since starting this site, sorely needed.
As I was reading the book I highlighted some of my favourite quotes, let me give you a few of them before coming to my thoughts:
“To view the other sex as constant temptations to sin and threats to purity merely perpetuates the thinking and behaviour of the unredeemed.” – What Aimee said about sexual temptation was great. If we only see each other as sexually – as our culture encourages men and women to do – then the way to combat that will be to avoid contact with those of the opposite sex. What needs changing is not the time we spend together but – more fundamentally – how we see each other as men and women.
“We are to strive for real wisdom, not the appearance of wisdom. We are to live according to who we are. Real wisdom will discern that pharisaical hard and fast rules only give faux safety and faux friendship.” This is very much what Friend Zone is about – I liked what Aimee said about avoidance and purity. Avoidance gives the appearance of wisdom – but does not come from God. Purity is a purity of the heart, which can only come from God through the Holy Spirit. We can’t fake purity through following rules.
“Is it possible that we misread appropriate feelings due to the overly sexualised messages we hear, don’t know how to recognise or maturely handle them, and resist the intimacy that we could experience as brothers and sisters?” This is in a chapter where Aimee talks about attraction – something I have blogged on recently. I thought this was very insightful – attraction is not simply a black/white thing (as our culture tends to make out) – i.e. if you’re attracted to someone, it’s not necessarily a sexual thing.
These are a few choice quotes, but there are more – do pick up a copy and see!
I only have a couple of mildly critical points about the book:
The writing is perfectly accessible, but I’m not sure I would recommend this book to absolutely everyone at my church. I think it would help to have a reasonably mature knowledge of the Bible and some theological understanding. Maybe I underestimate people, but I can see this book going a little ‘over the heads’ of some of the folk in our congregation. A few more stories might have helped.
This is just a matter of personal style, but I think the book tailed off a little towards the end – I wonder whether so much needed to be said in so much detail about the sibling relationship. It’s all good stuff, but maybe it would have been punchier to have a little less content.
At the end of the day, I left the book feeling encouraged – encouraged that others are thinking about this issue as well, and writing such good books about it. The church is beginning to have some excellent resources on male-female friendship and, I hope, beginning to wake up and take note.
But I also feel encouraged because I left feeling that there’s so much more to say. As I got to the end of the book, it struck me that there are many more angles on this which weren’t covered. I don’t say that as a negative – just that I have realised this topic is so much bigger than I thought it was a few months ago. Recently someone said to me that the big battle of the early 21st century church is going to be anthropology – what it means to be human. Being male or female is fundamental to what it means to be human – we’re not just sexual beings, we are whole people. I wonder if God is working in the church at the moment to bring about some careful thinking about what it means to be embodied creatures, male and female, and how we relate.
Either way, it is an encouragement to carry on with Friend Zone and to persist in thinking through these important questions in applying the Bible to the problems of our age.