I was told by a friend of mine who had attended the Women of Grace conference a couple of weeks ago that it seemed to be a reoccurring theme from ministers there that men and women could not be friends. This seems to be a reoccurring theme in my own life due to the fact that many of my dearest, closest friends throughout my life have been women.
Obviously, I would disagree with the ministers viewpoints considering that point. I do understand what they are trying to say. Male/Female friendships bring up all sorts of different dilemmas, issues and concerns, especially if one or both of the parties is married. Sin causes these issues. Sin causes us to focus on each others sexuality and the opinions of these ministers that men and women cannot be friends is a simplistic way of helping people avoid the occasion of sin.
That is not the way it is supposed to be though. That is not the way God intended things to be. It only though the entrance of sin into this world that causes this. God would prefer us to look at the opposite sex as brother or sisters---as people to love and not as objects to be used for sexual gratification. This is not to say that sex is bad----oh, no, no, no, no---the churches teaching on sex goes far beyond that and may amaze or astound you. I'll have to write on that later. The easiest way to explain what I'm trying to say is talk about what Pope John Paul II meant when he spoke about "Original Nakedness." Before the Fall, when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden they were naked. Naked and not ashamed. Why? Because they saw themselves as people to be loved and knew the other saw them as someone to be loved and not as an object to be used for their own gratification. What happened after they ate the apple though? They became embarrassed of their nakedness. They were afraid of the other seeing them in a lustful manner.
God wants us to love each other and to see each other as people to be loved. That is why is is entirely possible for men/women to be friends. We are supposed to love each other and not see each other as sexual objects.
Saying this is entirely easier than doing though and maintaining male/female friendships can be very difficult and very rewarding. I would say that I'm an expert in this matter---for probably 25 plus years my best friends have been female. Each friendship is different and with it's own dilemmas. I've been friends with women when I was single and I've been friends with women as a married man---both to married and single women.
Some of the difficulties are external and some are internal. The external difficulties are other people putting pressure on the friendship, causing rumors or jokes. The internal ones are being concerned about the external pressure ("Oh, what are people going to say?") or dealing with that sexual issue--controlling your thoughts.
My own experience has shown that the external difficulties seem to be the more difficult to deal with. I know what the friendship actually is all about so I don't care what other people think. I can control my own thoughts and make sure I don't go down that path of thinking of my friend in a sexual way. I've lost my best friend in the past due to them not being able to get over what other people thought. On the other hand, the easiest friendships I've had are those where it doesn't even come into the picture. My friendship with Heather Neds, for example, is very easy and simple--it just happens. We can meet up for lunch and share problems and concerns. Although, now that I think about it---we normally do have a reason for meeting. It may be to talk about church or kids. But no matter--we are still able to maintain a good solid friendship and be supports for each other with no one commenting.
I believe the ministers are wrong. Men and women can be friends. It's not always easy but often the best things having don't come easy. Our spiritual journeys, living life as God wants us to do not come easy but the reward is great.