Once upon a time I went to lunch every fortnight with a Christian boy.. on our own.. together. Sounds really romantic right? Except, it wasn’t a date and we never thought it was.
My friend and I became friends just after he became a Christian. We lived on college so we hung out together on a regular basis. When I moved away from college, I was working three jobs and studying full-time. I missed the regularity of hanging out with my friend, when we weren’t in a crowd of other friends and knowing where we were at in life.
So we set up a fortnightly catch-up. But then a weird thing happened. As soon as I told other Christians, who didn’t know me or my friend that well, that I had gone to lunch with my male friend, they’d ask if we were dating. When I told them we weren’t, they questioned my/his motives and left me feeling bewildered about hanging out with my friend.
Just because something looks similar to another thing, doesn’t mean that it’s the same. Contrary to what these people assumed, Christian males and females, can have platonic relationships that aren’t novel. That is, it isn’t special or unique. It isn’t unrequited love blossoming. It is a friendship.
However, much like dating, being platonic friends should be intentional. The year we started going on plates (platonic lunch dates), kicked off with my friend speaking to me about a conversation he’d had with someone who was pastoring him. He was challenged to make sure he wasn’t leading his female friends on. So, he took the advice to heart, and made it clear that when we hung out together, particularly on our own, that I was his sister in Christ and his friend. Nothing more.
When your opposite sex friends are honest with you, be honest with them and yourself.
If I had a crush on my male friend, and believed that our time together was a conduit for anything more; I would have told him then and there. If intentions are being set, then set them clearly.
Here lies a danger. When we’re being told that our desire isn’t another’s, we don’t want to say anything.. just in case.
The quality of our friendship and his honesty, meant that it was safe for me to be honest. And, if you’re comfortable in a friendship, it should be safe too. As Christians, we know that no one is devoid of worldly desires. We all struggle with different things and we shouldn’t pretend that we don’t. Therefore, it should be safe to share how you feel with someone who is your friend; particularly if they are a Christian.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3: 12-14
If you’re being told that someone doesn’t share the same intentions as you, don’t respond unkindly. Your friend shouldn’t be worried about losing their friendship with you because of two different desires. However, do think of a clear way forward that protects their heart.
I never fell in love with my friend, anymore than him being my friend and brother. But I was never fearful of losing his friendship either.
But think of the children!
As Christians we also need to be aware about causing other people to stumble. We do this by being wise in the areas that they struggle with. Whenever I talked about spending time with my male friend, I referred to our time where we went to lunch as a plate. People would ask what the heck that was, and I’d explain it. I made our intentions clear, so that others weren’t mislead by what we were doing. If they questioned my friend’s motives, I told them to go ask him.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? – 1 Corinthians 8:9-10
But what if this intention changes?
Our plates continued well into the years that lead after. I honestly believe that if you’re really friends with someone, to the point you enjoy spending time together, then you should speak up when your intentions change.
The key difference to a plate and a date are your intentions.
You wouldn’t like a covert date where the other person thought it was, and you didn’t. So, if you want your plates to be dates, you need to tell the other person. If they don’t want plates to be dates, then you should reconsider what your plates look like.
Christian girls can be just friends with boys. Christian boys can be just friends with girls. However, be clear and honest about what your time together is because a plate does not equal a date.