As a woman, I have wrestled with the question a lot over the past 10 years.

Can men and women "just" be friends? 

When Harry Met Sally made the question famous, but it’s been one we’ve been throwing around for at least the last century. Society has changed; the days of men in the field and women in the kitchen are by and large distant memories. Today, men and women are side by side in just about every arena. Men and women do not just meet in order to get married and have babies, but are co-workers and equals in the business world. This has forced men and woman to learn how to interact with one another outside of romantic relationships.

This is the world we live in now. From school to work to the gym, men and women mix company. But can they really be friends?

According to the Bible . . . Yes. But having some guidelines and boundaries is both right and wise.

The Apostle Paul gives us a simple guide for how men and women can be friends in 1 Timothy 5:1–2, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, in all purity.” So, treat younger men and women as siblings, and older men and women as parents, “with absolute purity” to use the phrase in the NIV.

The church should still be exercising these guidelines in friendships today.

First, ladies:

  • Stop dating guys in your head. Don’t assume a guy wants to be more than friends until he communicates that. If you find a guy attractive and want to get to know him better than do that, but don't let your head/heart get further ahead day dreaming your life away in what-ifs.
  • Don’t manipulate. Don’t go out of your way to grab a guy’s attention. Don’t stalk him. With social media our every move can be tracked if a guy posts a photo from a coffee shop don’t go out of your way to go there just for a “meet cute”. Trust the Lord to open his eyes to you.
  • Stop flirting just for attention. The way you interact with men should make them want to be more like Christ, not pursue you more than the Lord. Don’t play games with a man’s emotions or interest he may show in you. If you are interested respond. If not be honoring and let him know.
  • Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. Your brothers around you aren’t your accountability partners. If what you are sharing with them (suffering or celebration) doesn’t bring glory to God, don’t share it.
  • Dress and act modestly. Don’t be a distraction to your brothers; they have enough of those in the world. Be aware of what you are wearing and what you talking about in front of the men around you.

And to the men:

  • Communicate clearly. This means all forms of communication: texting, Twitter, Facebook, face-to-face, etc. Women should not have to question your intentions every time they are around you or receive a text from you. If you intend to just be friends with a woman, let her know. I promise you she won’t break.
  • Let your actions echo your words. Don’t single a woman out unless you want to pursue her. Remember she’s not just “one of the guys”.
  • Don’t crave submission. The women around you aren’t called to submit to you unless you are their husband, father, or pastor.
  • Be a one-woman man. Not just sexually, but also emotionally. If you are in a relationship with a woman, honor her by how you communicate and interact with other women.
  • Don’t be a creep in actions or words. Treat women as you would your own sister or mother. Don’t single a woman out over a season and then just disappear. Be wise in how you speak about other women in front of women. Rating a woman’s hotness in front of other women is never a good idea and will harm your friendship. It also will communicate and get around quickly that you value a woman’s appearance more than godliness.

Can men and women be just friends? Absolutely, when we treat each other as our brothers and sisters in all purity, give up our own selfish gain, and honor each other as we do our own family.