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Basically, the question seems to be how exactly single Christians should relate to members of the opposite sex in that large and awkward zone between "we've never met" and a deliberate dating or courting relationship. I won't repeat the full history lesson here, as several Boundless authors have already discussed it (Joshua Rogers most recently, in his excellent piece "Your Friendgirl Deserves Better").Essentially, the historical reality is that until 30 or 40 years ago, long, intimate friendships between men and women in which each served as the other's emotional confidante, relationship adviser and "best buddy" were far less common than they are today.Bottom line: I believe it is difficult and rare — as a practical matter — to honor these principles in the context of a close, intimate friendship between two single Christians of the opposite sex.(For the verbally precise among you, I think such friendships between non-single Christians are also a bad idea, but that's not what we're talking about here.) Intimate friendships between men and women almost always produce confusion and frustration for at least one of the parties involved.Yet even with all this deep communication going on, at least one aspect of these friendships inherently involves a mixed message.No matter how clearly one or both of you have defined what's happening as "just friends," your are constantly saying, "I enjoy being with you and interacting with you in a way that suggests marriage (or at least romantic attraction)." The simple reality (of which most people are aware, whether they admit it or not) is that in the vast majority of these types of relationships, one of the parties involved either began the "friendship" with romantic feelings for the other person or develops them along the way.Unlike most other people of our age and experience, we are (insert favorite answer here) a) really astute students of our own and each other's hearts, b) -clear and talented communicators, c) always honest with each other, even when such honesty entails huge vulnerability for whoever is speaking, d) all of the above." Maybe.

But even if you don't accept that premise, such intimacy is still inadvisable in the sense that it delays and discourages marriage, which Scripture unambiguously calls good and right.This is especially so in a culture — and a church — that struggles with the widespread sociological trend in its young adults known as "perpetual adolescence." Albert Mohler, Alex and Brett Harris, Candice Watters and other Boundless authors have written about this trend at length.In fact, the failure of many Christian men to pursue marriage well into their 20s and 30s may be one of the most disturbing results of this trend, but that's another topic for another day.Either way, that person is now hanging on to the "friendship" in the hope of getting something more despite the "clear words" from the other person that he or she wants nothing beyond friendship.To the extent that one person's romantic feelings have been clearly articulated to the other (and were met with an unfavorable response) to continue in some no-man's land of "good friends," is arguably to take selfish advantage of the vulnerable party. What if one person develops romantic feelings in a friendship in which no "clear words" have been spoken, such that the desires of the other person are a mystery?

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