Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Brothers and Sisters in Christ

I know growing up in the families we do we are aware somewhat of how to treat our brothers in Christ but I think we need a reminder often. The Botkins put it very well.

How to Think About Young Men

By Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin

A number of young women have asked us about relationships with young men. They want to know how a young woman should interact with those of the opposite sex, or should she at all?

Note: Every daughter should look to the guidance of her parents on this. She should know what her father (and mother) think about conversations with strangers, friends, suitors, and potential suitors. The advice in this article presupposes that your father approves of pure conversations and interaction with young men, and that our suggestions would only be applied in the situations and manner he has approved. If the thoughts below represent a different practice than what your father or elders have prescribed for you, continue to follow the direction you have been given by those in jurisdictional authority over you.

The issue of how eligible young people can interact in a pure and comfortable way has been considered by wiser and more mature minds than ours. However, we would like to submit a few thoughts as two young people currently navigating these waters ourselves, and having listened to the perspectives of many friends, both male and female, on this issue.

In this post we will be offering some collected observations from the most mature young people we know (with a heavy dose of advice from the older and married, our parents most of all).

It is generally known that Christians are supposed to interact as brothers and sisters in Christ, but during the highly-charged season of eligibility, young people in the typical church are not sure how to do this.

Even in family-integrated churches, guys and girls often don’t know how to interact comfortably as brothers and sisters. We usually see this expressed in one of two ways: either flirting and posturing, or shying demurely away from any interaction with the other sex. These two symptoms may seem opposites, but they both stem from the same root problem: a failure to think of the other as “[brothers or] sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2)

In other words: thinking of the other sex chiefly as marriage material. This problem can be intensified by the fact that most of us don’t know what a real brother-sister relationship looks like, thus having no foundation or framework to transfer over to our spiritual brothers. Our father has always taught us that understanding the fraternal relationship can help us understand why men and women in the Body of Christ are referred to as brother and sister, and give us the wisdom to gracefully maneuver a season so (potentially) fraught with complexity.

Obviously, there must be some distinctions between how we treat family members and young people outside the family. Because this “eligibility” phase can be volatile, young people need to be extra thoughtful in how they deal with these relationships – not excessively worried about convention, but always thinking carefully about how to love the people around them, considering what is appropriate for the situation, and submitting to the guidelines set by their parents.

In this article, we will not attempt to set forth a code of conduct, or rules of “engagement” between the sexes – rules and safeguards are for your own family to determine as you seek the Scriptures. What we want to explore here is a sisterly attitude toward young men. Remember, our patterns of conduct begin in the heart and mind. We cannot treat young men as brothers until we think of them as brothers. It does not follow that we should throw propriety to the wind and embrace all young men with unconstrained sibling familiarity, but we can identify and follow many of the same principles that we do with our own brothers, without the same level of intimacy.

What does it mean to think of young men as brothers?

What principles of sisterly love are applicable to other young men?

A sister should be looking out for her brother’s best interests. Of course she doesn’t want to see him get hurt, defrauded, or painfully disappointed.

She prays for him, for his future wife and family.

She understands that he is an imperfect human being, with flaws and weaknesses that should be viewed with charity, patience and understanding.

She views him as a fellow human made in the image of God – neither more nor less.

A sister should realize that her brother will answer to God for every word he says, every thought he has, every deed he does – including in his dealings with women. This should put the fear of God into her to not want to see stumbling blocks put before him.

A sister should realize that young men are supposed to be seeking the Kingdom first (as are we! Matt. 6:23). We should not willfully distract them. Ours should be the kind of relationship that will encourage them in their focus on serving God, in their manly endeavors, rather than the kind of relationship that would feed their weaknesses and vanity. Young women can fuel or even ignite a man’s penchant for mere “interaction” – bantering, toying, dallying, trivial exchanges about nothings — a shallow (and selfish) substitute for hearty friendship and substantial conversation.

What the young men say

We have an advantage many girls would love to have – we have five brothers, who all talk openly with us about what they do and do not appreciate in the conduct of young women toward them and their friends. Our brothers have told us they find it easier to think of and treat a young lady as a sister in Christ, when she acts like a sister in Christ. Solid young men can usually discern fairly quickly whether a girl is unselfishly looking out for the best interests of her Christian brothers, or views them simply as prospective marriage material – or worse, as objects to sport with. They’re inclined to feel more comfortable around a girl who clearly has no designs or expectations, and uneasy speaking to a girl who seems focused on her eligibility, the matrimonial possibilities, the deep significance of their interaction… (Among other things, the guys can be concerned that their brotherly friendliness will be misconstrued as a mark of intention.)

According to our brothers, they appreciate it when:

A girl seems comfortable and at ease.

A girl talks to them in the same spirit that their sisters do.

A girl is a good conversationalist, well educated and with interesting things to say. (Able to speak intelligently on subjects that will be of general interest to a mixed audience – e.g., topics other than sewing, fad diets, clothes, chick flicks, themselves, etc.)

A girl has a genuine interest in the things of God, and an eagerness to speak of them and discuss them.

They do not appreciate it when:

A girl seems excessively self-conscious and distracted by the fact that AN ELIGIBLE YOUNG MAN IS TALKING TO HER!

A girl exhibits leech-like behavior – however flattering it was intended to be.

A girl is over-aggressively friendly.

A girl demonstrates a Deliberate Shunning of Young Men, complete with avoiding eye contact and hiding behind human shields.

Conclusion

Knowing how to interact with all purity is a test – parents and young people have had to deal with this throughout history, sometimes trying to solve problems through strict societal conventions and rigid codes of conduct.

Standards and rules of decorum should be regarded. The trouble is, they don’t ultimately fix the problems. Only treating the attitudes of our hearts – cultivating agape love, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and the perception and intuition to discern the need of the moment – will help us act like the sisters in Christ we should be.

Girls – consider the young men you know as the future husbands of women the Lord has already chosen. In fact, you can be praying for their wives right now (note: not match-making), and don’t forget to pray for the men themselves, that the Lord will guide and protect them in the choosing of a wife.

Try to act like a sister, not a prospect. Don’t be obsessed with your own eligibility, or theirs either, for that matter. Selfless, honest interaction with young men has the potential to edify, stimulate, educate, inspire and encourage both parties. Don’t complicate, or hinder, these friendships by playing psycho-romantic guessing games.

And finally, ladies – relax! Be joyful. Trust in the sovereignty of God. Be thankful for these opportunities for friendship with the children of God. Remember that these young men are precious souls blood-bought by Christ, and fellow soldiers in His cause. Let us build friendships that will continue long after this season of singleness is past, and into eternity.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. — John 13:34

2 comments:

Green Gardening Girl said...

WOW!! That was a wonderful article. As a sixteen year old I deal with that a lot. Well said Anna and Sophia.

Mr Abrahamson said...

Worst of all is to not pay attention to a man; not to greet a man is to treat him as a thing, or God forbid like an animal or a woman.