14 thoughts on “Divine Friendship, Divine Grace

  1. Good post Kristi. So I’ve mulled this one over on men/women relationships in my brain for awhile now. I’ll just be honest, I’m really undecided and so hearing your thoughts on it definitely added some fantastic perspective. And I can’t disagree with anything you said Biblically. I think that’s the Biblical standard we should live by when you gave the example of Jesus and Mary and Martha’s relationship.

    So I’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts on a couple items I’ve thought are major roadblocks, at least in my mind. (And I love to have a malleable heart to Christ, so I’m just trying to understand what is his Truth in this area) The first is the spouse. Say you have Bob and Jill. And let’s say Bob works at an office and one of his coworkers is Diane. And he and Diane and Jill are all believers. Bob and Jill have a good, healthy, Godly based marriage. Bob and Diane befriend each other through their common work and discover they are both Christians and begin to grow a friendship, a brother-sister relationship around Christ. However, Jill, his wife, starts to become jealous over this friendship. Jill would prefer Bob does not spend extra time with Diane and it actually starts to become a stumbling block in their marriage. Bob argues that it is fine and Biblical to have a relationship with Diane and Jill reads the Bible differently and feels like Bob is not respecting her feelings and heart. What does Bob do at this point to follow God’s will?

    So, to continue my thought experiment…let’s rewind to one of the first times Bob and Diane had a spark of friendship. Let’s say Bob knew how his wife Jill would feel if he pursued a friendship with Diane, and he decided to anyway because he wanted to have the Godly friendship with a sister in Christ that, honestly, we are created to have. (seriously, God did create men and women to interact as brothers and sisters…otherwise we are really just veiling the women in the Bride and it’s the same thing as Islam) So, did Bob sin be befriending Diane, knowing Jill’s heart in the situation? Or is Jill the one who’s wrong? And then last question, how does the concept of being above reproach mentioned in 1 Ti 3:2 and not putting stumbling blocks in anyone’s way from 2 Co 6:3 fit in here? Because either way Bob chooses, he’s doing some damage right? If he chooses to not put a stumbling block in his way, he’s turning his back on his sister in Christ. But if he takes on a friendship with Diane, he’s definitely entering into the pure friendship that I think God desires to exist within the church, but he’s putting a stumbling block in front of his wife. It’s almost like a paradox in my mind, and I’ve just came to the conclusion to read it as: the marriage trumps the friendship, so Jill should win here. Bob messed up. But did he really? To use an analogy, if a child asks God his Father at a gas station, can I get a Snickers bar, and God says yes and love your sister and make her happy, but then his sister grabs it and says you can’t have that because I don’t want you to, what does the child do? But then if Jesus were to say, no, that’s not right and say male/female friendships as brother/sister relationships are ok and should exist in the church, then Jill needs to update her theology and Bob is in good shape. Who’s right in your opinion?

    I’d really like to hear your thoughts! I think it’s great you’re talking about this topic, because honestly we need this kind of dialogue in the church. We really, truly do. God bless and hope you have a nice day! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Joel! First, thanks for your comment! I appreciated all your well articulated thoughts and that you took the time to respond.

      You have some great questions, and none that are straightforward or easy to answer. The truth is that there is no “right” answer because each situation and each relationship is so different.

      That being said though, I think there are some wise guidelines. In a perfect world, Diane and Bob and Jill could all be friends and no one would worry about it. Since we do not live in a perfect world, first and foremost, Bob’s responsibility is to his wife. She needs to feel honored, valued and respected and heard by her husband. Sometimes just being heard and validated is all that is needed, in my experience. But ultimately, Bob needs to honor his wife. There may be reasons why she is overly sensitive to this kind of situation. Maybe Bob hasn’t always been faithful, maybe she’s had someone be unfaithful to her in the past, and Bob needs to be sensitive to those things. However, I would say that there is a difference between honoring your spouse and enabling them to continue in a sinful pattern. If Jill is unreasonably jealous or overbearing, I think it would be good for Bob to gently help her grow through that. I don’t know what that line is for Bob and Jill, that’s up for them to decide through lots of conversation and prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit. I think the best thing that Bob can do is keep the door of communication open with his wife and be vigilant in making wise choices in his relationship with Diane. There are some things we can all agree are not necessarily sinful, but just unwise, but the reality is that it is SO important for men and women to learn to work together. It will take a lot of work, and it will be messy, but it is necessary work for the Body of Christ.

      In regards to being above reproach, I don’t have a great answer for you, because I have not studied that scripture in context of it’s original meaning.. I’m in process of writing a book right now on the importance of women in church leadership and how practically it should get worked out, so that would be a great scripture to understand. I wonder what originally he meant by “above reproach” was there a sexual connotation in it? We use it a lot in that context, but I wonder if that’s even what he meant originally? Let’s do some study on that and see what we come up with!

      Similarly, when you talk about Bob’s friendship with Diane being a stumbling block to his wife.. I’m not sure that’s what the idea of stumbling block meant originally. Wasn’t Paul talking about people who are basically hindering someone else’s relationship with Jesus? I don’t see that being the case in the context that you mentioned, but maybe I need clarification?

      In the end, it’s not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong.. Ultimately in conflict, both of the humans are wrong (at least partly) and the only one who is right is God. πŸ˜‰ This whole situation needs to be absolutely bathed in grace from all sides in order to get anywhere. But, if we can do that, I think we can all win.

      1. That’s a really good answer! Let me process that and respond back, and I’ll do a little follow up on the research items too πŸ™‚ thank you! I definitely think the Spirit was working through you there.

      2. And I really appreciate you taking the time to respond as well! I’m sorry I kinda comment bombed you there! I just never see anyone discussing this subject and I kinda unloaded πŸ˜‰

      3. Alrighty Krista, I had a few minutes to process and have a couple thoughts to your comment, so let me start at the top…with Bob, Jill and Diane, I completely agree with what you said. All three being friends is preferable, at the very least there needs to be good communication between Bob and Jill and ultimately he needs to be there for his wife.

        As for men and women working together, yes. I completely agree too. And I am definitely a believer that women should be a immovable part of the church. Honestly, if I’m really honest, it would be great to not have this weird separation of men and women in the church. It’s just odd. Now, I think there are places for an all-women’s group or all-men’s group? Absolutely. Should it pervade church culture? No. I’ve been to some fantastic churches where it’s awkward to even talk to woman…it’s kinda like, uh, what are you doing dude? That being said, I have to state the opposite side of the coin. We live in a fallen world. And even though the biblical standard is a brother/sister relationship that would never imply a sexual connotation, thoughts happen. Sometimes it’s just psychology, sometimes it’s demonic, sometimes, it’s somebody’s heart is just messed up, but I feel like I would be naive to not at least put that into my calculation for how this would play out in most circles. Then layer on top of that we have decades, if not centuries of a way of thinking in the church in the vein of, ‘this just isn’t something you do. You don’t go to lunch with a lady if you’re a married man. You don’t have a friendship with a woman other than your wife.’ I honestly can’t believe I wrote that myself because I am very anti-status quo when it comes to the church if she has a stance that differs from what I think is the truth in the Word. I think the change is that this is just sooo personal. It’s one thing when I change my opinion on where the temple mount was located in Jerusalem vs the wailing wall because I uncovered new evidence in 1 and 2 Samuel and in Roman history where the Anotnia fortress might have been located. Some hardliners might get ticked over that one, but really who cares. It’s a totally different deal when we’re dealing with something as sticky and malleable as relationships and hearts, especially the spousal relationship and the opposite sex. Enter what I thought was fantastic about what you said, go with guidance from the Holy Spirit, keep the door of communication wide open, try to make it work as inclusive as possible with the other spouse. But, I’m curious, do you have any thoughts as far as just the whole fallen world aspect to married men and women having relationships, even if the spouse are kosher with it? I think that’s a guidance by the Spirit thing too, along with a couple no-brainers like, don’t put yourself in a situation where it is just inappropriate…I’m not sure how far in we draw the boundaries on that one, but I think we could vet that out and come to some shalom with one another in the Spirit on it (sorry I’ve got some Jewish in me on my dad’s side, and I just have to drop a couple Hebrew words, oy vey!!)

        I’ll definitely order a copy of your book when you release it! I look forward to reading it, because I think the church has a long way to go with getting on the right Biblical track to male/female relationships in the church. All that to say, bottom line, I think your perspective is spot on and I wish that was how it was in the church. It might make a lot of people’s lives better πŸ™‚

        Now that we have Mr Bob and Mrs Jill’s marriage back on the right track, let’s take a gander at some of those research items πŸ™‚ The Koine Greek word for stumbling block is skanadlon (check out the BLB Thayer’s Lexicon entry here…pretty illuminating: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4625&t=ESV <==Sorry you'll have to copy and paste that; I bet it won't let me hyperlink it) Some synonyms for it would be trap, snare, trigger for a trap. Apparently it was only used in Hellenistic lit for a cause of moral stumbling or a trap for an enemy. Skandalon eventually evolved into "scandal" in our modern English. I think the paradigm seems to revolve more around tripping someone up so that they "land in trouble" or sin, in this case. I'm not sure if the connotation in 1st century Greek was sexual or if it was more of a broad term used of tripping anyone up into sin.

        So to your question on what Paul was talking about in context. In Romans 14, it seemed to be more in context of not judging your brother. So you're spot on with that one. And then a couple other instances with regard to Christ as the stumbling block. And one in Revelation about false teaching being a stumbling block to the Israelites. So, you're exactly right, from what I can gather in context in Scripture, there is no specific sexual connotation, it's more of an umbrella term that is applied either to falling away from Christ or strife between brothers and sisters in the body.

        I am very curious on the historical context…I have a blog that I really love and the author is a little more learned on the historical context that I. I might see if I can pull him in for his thoughts on what skandalon meant in koine lit if you don't mind…This is a good edifying conversation btw. Tov maud! (very good!)

        What do you think? Did you dig into the text at all with stumbling block? Have a great night and God bless!

  2. I thought about this some more and wanted to give a couple thoughts on the Hebrew side of things. Skandalon, σκάνδαλον, is the LXX (Septuagint) word for mikhshol (transliterated),

    So mikhshol starts off in Leviticus 19:14, “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block [mikhshol] in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am Yahweh.” There’s a whole science built around this verse in Judaism (check out http://jlaw.com/Articles/placingstumbling.html). It’s an oddity that God called out the blind specifically in this verse, so a lot of people take that to be a metaphor for people who are spiritually or emotionally blind. Basically, don’t cause your brother or sister to sin. Don’t do something that will trip them up from the good path they are on which will cause them, at some later point in time (whether in 10 minutes or 10 days), to fall into sin. I think Paul definitely had this view in 1 Corinthians 8:13…he was ready to go vegan if it meant he would not cause his brother to sin (basically, whatever it takes to keep my brother and sister on the holy path, I’m in to do)

    As for how mikhshol can occur…in the OT, mikhshol seems to occur one of two ways: 1) one’s own sin and desire to run to sources other than God for life can set up stumbling blocks in one’s heart (Eze 14:4,7) – so a person was on a good path, didn’t have good eyesight, and got entangled in sin, and 2) God sets up stumbling blocks in his peoples’ lives when they turn from him for the purpose of repentance (Jer 6:21, along with v 8, 7, 26; in context) – so a person was on a bad path, didn’t have good eyesight, and God placed the stumbling block in front of them to shake them out of their ways. I think the basic idea is to trip someone up while they are walking/running to some location; whether that’s a physical place or an objective spiritual and emotional place. So to circle back to our original idea, does stumbling block have an innate sexual connotation? No and kinda. No in that stumbling block was not specifically referring to a sexually immoral situation or action (or contemplation of action). Kinda, in that stumbling block in Hebrew ties back to that umbrella term idea. I think one open item, that could be clutch here, is that the stumbling block is placed before a blind person! The context never really seems to indicate it is ever placed before someone who is looking for it, or has good sight. In Jeremiah and Ezekiel God either set up the stumbling block to slap them upside the head and wake the Israelites up; or in the other possible way, people in their own delusions (blindness) set up stumbling blocks in their hearts. So, if we live in the day (1 Th 5:5), stumbling blocks are not a concern for us.

    Anyways, these are just a couple extra research notes. I think there’s a lot more readily available evidence on the Hebrew side because we can see how the idea of a stumbling block morphed out of these verses in the Law and Prophets and how the Jewish people responded (which included Paul, who was expertly trained in the Law). Ok, I’ll stop now lol. Sorry, literally one of my favorite things in the world to do is to discuss, at length and in depth, the Bible. I could do it all day!

    1. Good morning, Joel! Sorry for the delay in response, I was out of town all day yesterday, and I honestly haven’t had the opportunity to do any study on any of this yet. However, I am becoming more and more like you.. I find much joy in thinking through ideas and concepts in the Bible to learn the historical relevance and think through how the timelessness of what is said applies to us today. I LOVE seeing how other people think through things, and how different people process different things in different ways and how there is so much grace (or should be) in all of that because we are all a reflection of God, which validates our processes and our conclusions, I think. I have also appreciated this conversation with you, and the way that you are graciously approaching it and thinking through ideas. Thank you for how kindly you are conversing.

      I love the research that you did on the origination of the idea of stumbling block. It is helpful to have that context of what it originally communicated. I’d like to take what you have uncovered for us, and bring it into present day church culture. From my perspective and experience (and others’ experience they have shared) when the word, or idea of stumbling block is communicated within the church culture, what is meant by it is usually of a sexual nature. As is the idea of guarding oneself against temptation. The original ideas of a stumbling block, or guarding against temptation, were general in nature, not specifically sexual. But that’s the context in which these ideas are heavily used today. Not always, but often.

      My guess is that our society is so overly sexed and that is what everyone is talking about and focusing on, but whatever the reason, women and men are suffering, and so is the church. When women in a general way, are categorized as temptresses or stumbling blocks to men, ESPECIALLY men in church leadership, they become someone, or something to be feared. They become objectified, dehumanized. The result is that women in the church are held at arms length and not allowed to get close to the inner circle of church leadership because we fear temptation and avoid stumbling blocks at all costs. Women suffer because of this; we get saddled with the weight of being a burden through no fault of our own, just by the mere fact that we are female. Women suffer because, in light of the fear of others, we are not allowed to serve as we are gifted and called to serve. Men suffer because they push the responsibility of the sin in their own hearts onto women and are therefore not growing in maturity as God has called them to. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) And the church suffers because we are severely lacking women’s voices and perspectives in church leadership. God intended for women to partner with men to take dominion of the earth. The world, the church, desperately needs both in order to operate in the way God intended.

      It may seem a small thing, but it’s not. It is subtle, and cloaked in what seems like righteousness, but this is a really big deal. The church cannot continue to view women as objects to use or avoid as leadership sees fit. The church views women essentially the same way the culture does. It’s the opposite side of the same coin, which is so terribly tragic. The only way to counteract this, is to see women like sisters as Jesus demonstrated.

      I’ll get off my soapbox now =) This is just where my heart is and my passion ignites. I LONG to see the church embrace the example of how Jesus treated women; equally as humans. For the good of everyone, we must!

      1. Hey Kristi! Hope you are having a good late afternoon! (It’s late afternoon where I am anyway) And a good trip πŸ™‚ I love out-of-towners because it usually gives me some chill time to spend with God and just unpack my heart to him.

        So, my first thoughts from your comment was, I loved it. I think it’s awesome that you take a lot of joy out of digging into these things. I do too, it’s one of those things that I just love doing. And I’m with you, I love seeing how people process life with God and the Word differently. And I think there’s a lot of confirmation when two people who process very differently come to the same conclusion in Christ; that shows the Holy Spirit is working within both people to bring them to the same spot, just not necessarily by the same path. And I really appreciate what you said about me approaching this kindly. That was very thoughtful of you. I would never want to disrespect a sister (or brother, for that matter) in Christ because we view things differently, but we both still have the same heart for Jesus. It’s all about him anyway! I also want to say thank you to you for being kind and approaching this with a lot of maturity in Christ. I think people can have a tendency to just “go all out” on others when they are putting something out there that is deeply embedded their heart. And your maturity in Christ really shows through in how you talk about women being treated equally in the church. That’s wonderful and thank you.

        So glad that you liked the research! And I agree wholeheartedly, that today’s context for stumbling block is sexual in nature and that’s out of context scripturally. On what you said about women being categorized as temptresses and being saddled with a burden just because of who women are created to be, I agree. I see where you are coming from there.

        I’d like to to share a bit of my story to highlight my walk with this and maybe illuminate a couple challenges that I see to get male/female relationships in the church back to a Biblical standard. I am a husband and a father to 3 children, with a good Christ-centered marriage. I have been a Christian for 15 years this August. I would consider myself an established, mature Christian (well, I guess that’s relative right? We’re all just children growing up in this, but that’s a big tangent in itself) I was never really around women at all before I met my wife. I never dated before her (which is how I planned for it to go and I’m happy with that choice), and then when I met her I was very on board with above reproach as a distancing from other women. I really distanced myself from women, both at work as well as the church. We started going to an otherwise fantastic church, except they were very strict on male/female boundaries. And at the time I thought this was right. I thought this is just how it should be. The men pursue relationships with other men and women stick to women, and there’s no real mixing going on between the two groups unless it’s in a very select setting. Well, no, no we’re not. So we leave that church for other reasons and move on, and that mentality fades to the background, but it’s latent effects are still there. It just sticks around. So I graduate college and all of a sudden find myself in positions of importance, highly visible areas within companies. And naturally, I find myself interacting with women, much, much more than I ever had in the past. Before I could just avoid the latent awkwardness I had by just being around guys intentionally; awkwardness not just within me but also in conversation in my marriage because we had never exercised those muscles (to use a metaphor) of communicating about a spouse having types of relationships with the other sex, or interacting with members of the opposite sex. But in work I never once found myself intentionally keeping myself at arms length with women that I worked with. Women have an immense amount to offer in the workplace, just as much as men. And eventually I find myself talking about Christ with people at work, talking about him with other believers is my fave, and I see myself in situations where I could take that next step and actually develop a brother-sister relationship with someone else in the church. But I didn’t. Men have a tendency, a sinful one, to run when they are needed to do hard things. And I ran. I walked out of those situations. But it wasn’t so much because I felt like brother-sister relationships were not in line with Scripture. Seriously. In fact, I honestly thought that good relationships at the brother-sister level are very much in line with the Word. But, because I hadn’t exercised those communication lines with my wife I found it easiest to just walk out of starting friendships and ministering to people of the opposite sex. There wasn’t ever anything in the way of pushing people away as far as the business side of the workplace went, but as far as the side conversations and relationships that occur naturally in the workplace, I checked out. Was that the right choice on my part? No. Instead I wasted a good opportunity, probably many good opportunities, to strengthen a fellow believer(s) in Christ because I was too much of a coward essentially, because of how things have been going on in my mind and life for years and years. And I’m sure there was spiritual collateral damage because of my choice to just walk. I know there was. Now I work somewhere totally different and there are women believers at my work and I’ve grown up in this area more than before. And I have dealt enough with myself in Christ that I can have those conversations in my marriage and not feel like I’m overstepping those latent boundaries by sitting around talking about Christ with someone that I work with. I’m not where I want to be on this issue, seriously. But I want to grow into holiness and healthiness when it comes to relationships with everyone in the body of Christ, male and female.

        Maybe my story is the exception, not the rule as far as men pushing women away. I can tell you this, men in Christ were created to need sisters in Christ. If that’s missing in a child of God’s life, there’s a problem. Because both sexes image God, male and female. You have to have both to image him. And segregation in the church is just not the answer. It’s the cowardly way out. And hiding behind a veil of righteousness and holy than thou-ness is embarrassing, I agree. And the holier-than-thou attitude might be the big driver on the male side in the church against stepping into that sibling-in-Christ relationship with women. And I can see every reason why women who want to offer a lot to the church, especially in leadership, are very upset with the culture that has been created.

        Anyways, there’s my novel of my walk with coming into who I am supposed to be in Christ. I’m not there, but like you said, I’m bathed in grace daily and I’ll just keep moving forward with Christ each day. Kristi, I think you need to shout your feelings about this issue from the rooftop, because this has to change. If we didn’t have the segregation, if we didn’t have the latent cultural separation of the sexes in the church, I think we would all take a big step forward into becoming the image bearers of Christ that we are striving to become.

        Hope you have a good evening and God bless you!

      2. And also, I completely agree…whether men in church leadership are hiding behind power, cowardice, Billy Graham rule, fraudulent righteousness or whatever…it definitely objectifies women and puts them on the spot, which is not Christlike at all. I, and any other man in Christ, is not created to have all same-sex friendships. No, there is a place that only daughters in Christ can fill in in the life of sons of Christ. And I’ve realized this in my own life as I’ve walked through these events. And I’m at the point where I think God is wanting to brush up against me on this one, and change me to make me more like Jesus in my relationships.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I love hearing people’s stories and perspectives! I’ve appreciated this conversation a lot. From all of us women, who are weary and frustrated with the way things currently are in so many places, I thank you for your humble heart that is ready to listen to the stories and experiences of others. That is a gift and truly the most important part of anything changing.. Not perfection, not lack of sin, just simply people willing to listen to one another.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Kristi! And on behalf of the men who do want to see this changed as I do, I look forward to seeing Jesus bring this reconciliation in the church between brother and sisters. You are gifted as well and I love hearing your perspective. I really enjoyed this conversation too! God bless! πŸ™‚

  4. Late to the party here but I think that the research by Joel is pretty solid. Without trying to go back and track down his references, on the surface it rings true. What you’ve derived from it also sounds reasonable. There isn’t a “sexual” connotation or denotation to it in original language, even idiomatically. It would be included only, as you put it, in an umbrella sense.

    I suppose what really intrigues me though, Kristi, is your push for women to be accepted in ministry. I’d like you to do something for me, please read 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34. Let me know what you think of Huldah as a spiritual leader. I really want to tell you what I think, but I think it best if you go first. I look forward to your thoughts.

    1. Hi Matt! Welcome! I will admit to not having much, if any previous knowledge of Huldah or her role in the Bible, other than maybe having heard her name before, and strangely, reading a bit about her in another blog post I randomly came across today. Based on just reading what you suggested, and the blog post I read earlier, she seems to me to be a pretty epic example of a prophetic leader, who also happened to be a woman..

      1. RIGHT? She’s the bomb! AND everyone knows it, AND they seem to be okay with it. So, what’s the big deal? If God’s okay, with it, why are so many of us having issues with it?

        I suspect without really knowing that she was the lead prophet in the “school” Isaiah was part of in Jerusalem. If so, that would mean that she took over for Isaiah after he died, and may have been responsible for part of what is recorded in his book of the Bible. Long shot, and no external reference for that one, so who knows. But interesting to consider.
        Either way, she was directly involved in what became the last ditch revival of the Hebrew people before Babylon came and executed God’s justice on Jerusalem. God used her in very influential ways, clearly. I refer to to her EVERY time I get into this discussion, and so far, no one knew anything about her. She’s my secret weapon in such discussions.

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