As Brothers and Sisters

If you’re tuned in to the questions young people are asking these days, you’ll notice that many of them involve relationships:

  • Why are so many believers in their 20s and 30s not getting married?
  • When is the best time to pursue a relationship?
  • Why are opposite sex friendships so difficult in the church?

Of course there are no easy answers here. Relationships are hard. People are complex. Cultural norms are shifting.

But consider this advice Paul gave to Timothy:

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. | 1 Timothy 4:12

A few verses later:

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. | 1 Timothy 5:1-2

Paul told Timothy to be an example for other Christians by treating everyone as family.

If you have brothers or sisters, you know the wonderful closeness that comes with having siblings. It really is a blessing to spend time with someone who is part of the same family and shares so much in common with you. Can you imagine how cool it would be if we were that close to everyone at church?

Let’s honestly ask ourselves:

Do we follow Paul’s advice?

More specifically:

If you’re a young man, do you encourage young women as sisters?
If you’re a young woman, do you encourage young men as brothers?

Many of us (including me) often fail in this area. It’s like there’s an awkward invisible wall separating the two genders at church. Girls hang out with girls, guys hang out with guys. Meaningful conversations and fellowship between guys and girls is rare.

(Some of this mentality can be traced back to I Kissed Dating Goodbye—a hugely influential book written by a single 21-year-old in the 1990s. The book’s premise—that believers should be careful and intentional with romantic relationships—was solid. But, as the author has since acknowledged, its practical consequences were somewhat disastrous.)

Bottom line: many young men in the church are reluctant to befriend young women. Many young women are left wondering, “Where are all the men?” Countless believers are remaining single through their 20s, 30s, and even 40s, even though they long to be married.

Maybe this predicament is partly caused by our failure to follow Paul’s advice.

Perhaps we should rethink how we view our brothers and sisters in the church.

Those young men you see at church each Sunday? They’re human, just like you. So are the young women. Like you, they have problems, personalities, life plans. We’re so much more similar than we are different.

Yes, we should respect appropriate boundaries and conduct ourselves in purity, as Paul says in that verse above. But don’t totally quarantine yourself from getting to know your brothers and sisters in Christ at church.

We should aim to encourage each other, no matter our age or gender or culture.

In Christ, we’re family. We’re brothers and sisters. We’re here for one another.

Maybe it’s time we start acting more like it.

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