by Zac Poonen, from the book “Sex, Love and Marriage”
The Bible teaches that young men should treat girls as sisters, in all purity (1 Tim. 5:2). In other words, you should treat a girl just as you would want other men to treat your own sister. This is indeed the safest rule to follow at all times.
Both sexes should treat each other with honour and respect, as well as with reserve and restraint. We should never be too personal or inquisitive or even flippant with members of the opposite sex. It is always wisest to maintain some degree of reserve or at least of sobriety – although this does not rule out a sense of humour. But we must bear in mind that we will be tempted to indulge in excesses of flippancy much more when in the presence of the opposite sex than at other times, and this can be dangerous.
Friendships between the sexes develop very quickly and almost without warning, because the boy is constantly desiring to show off his abilities, and the girl her attractiveness. There are many who seek to be friendly with ulterior motives so one must be careful. A Christian young man should never exploit the weakness of the opposite sex and give a girl the idea that he is interested in her when he is not. Girls are sometimes quick to read a meaning where none was intended. All young men must remember this. They should therefore avoid writing letters or even giving casual invitations or presents to any girl, lest the motive behind such acts be misconstrued. Even letters on spiritual topics should be avoided. It is also unwise to approach an unmarried person of the opposite sex, for advice or help in personal or even spiritual matters.
This does not mean that we should not consider a person of the opposite sex as a possible life-partner. But it is certainly unwise for a believer to form any exclusive friendships with the opposite sex during student days. A student should keep his emotions in the ice-box and concentrate on his studies. A young man should not normally consider marriage until he has finished his studies, and in any case, not until he is at least 25 years old; and a girl not till she is at least 20. Till then they should give themselves unreservedly and undistractedly to the work of the Lord in all their spare moments. Marriage brings with it responsibilities that cannot be avoided and one will never be free (in terms of time) to serve the Lord after marriage as before. But wife-hunting (or husband-hunting) and exclusive friendships with persons of the opposite sex can be more time-consuming than even married life! Another reason for delaying marriage (as mentioned above) is that young people need the mental and emotional maturity that age alone can bring, in order to choose wisely. We shall consider this further in Chapter Five.
Friendships with the opposite sex should therefore never get too intimate until marriage is at least being contemplated. Young men and women (especially the former) should be careful to ensure that they are upright in their relationships with one another. There must be an utter honesty about one’s intentions at all times, on both sides. Failure to abide by this rule has caused emotional upsets and frustrations in many lives. It has also resulted often in failure in examinations and loss of one’s Christian testimony. The man holds the initiative and the woman, the power of attraction. So both must be careful.
Young men must realize that they can very easily ruin a girl’s marriage prospects by being over-free with her or by giving others the impression that marriage is intended – when there really is no such intention. The boy may escape in such cases with little or no damage to his prospects or even his character. But the girl, through no fault of her own, will be suspected and looked down upon from then on. Such conduct is unbecoming of any Christian young man. Since it is the man who holds the initiative, the primary responsibility to prevent such a calamity rests on him. We should never play with the personalities of other people. God will severely judge those who do.
A young person may sometimes develop a secret affection for some member of the opposite sex without disclosing this to anyone. Such an affection may continue to grow while still remaining hidden. But this can finally lead him to disappointment and frustration when his “beloved” marries somebody else. In such cases, it is always wisest to share your thoughts frankly, at the earliest opportunity, with some older married believer, and ask for advice and help.