Christian Flatshare

Should Christians live in a mixed house? Yes, if they’re married to each other. That one’s simple. But what if they’re all just mates? After all can’t Christian guys be good mates with Christian girls? It might even be good for some Christian lads who haven’t got the first idea how to relate to women to spend some time in the company of the opposite sex!

We kicked this one around at the Co-Mission Apprenticeship workshop yesterday. I wanted their take on things. I’d been contacted by one of the lads in church and asked for my opinion. Never one who needs to be asked twice, I was very happy to give it. ‘No, you shouldn’t. It’s not sinful. But it’s not wise. And why would any Christian want to do anything unwise?’ was essentially my answer. I think he wanted something a little bit more nuanced. And a ‘yes’ would have been well received!

To his credit he wasn’t difficult and his responses were gracious and respectful. I wasn’t going to make a ruling on it. And he wasn’t asking me for it. But I became acutely aware that I was becoming part of the ill defined ‘older generation’. My answers must have seemed like something from a foregone era.

But it’s a good question to ask. It’s not a question some Christians would even think about asking. The guys involved deserve some credit for not living unthinkingly. If they decide to take my advice then it could hit them financially. They need that extra bedroom to be filled.

1. We need to act for the good of ourselves

Let’s be clear, living in a mixed house is not wrong. There’s nothing in the Bible about sharing a flat with a member of the opposite sex. But there’s plenty about feeling sexual immorality. And that’s where this issue bites. For blokes in particular. Our lustful desires and temptations need no encouragement. It’s not the girls’ fault. It’s ours. But it’s real and we mustn’t be naive about the power of our sinful nature and our weakness to fight it. We’re constantly tempted to think that we’ll be alright. We minimise the strength of sin. And we especially understimate the attractiveness of sexual sin. So why would we flirt with potential disaster? If I’m driving a car on a steep and narrow mountain road I don’t drive the car recklessly by going full speed ahead and getting as close to the edge as I can. I’m only one mistake away from disaster. If I’m wise. I slow down and I steer well clear of the cliff edge. To my mind mixed flatshares are driving a little close to the edge. All it takes is one of the lads to be away for the weekend, a late night, a bit of alcohol, a large sofa and a romantic comedy and it could all go pear shaped.

2. We need to act for the good of others.

Although sexual temptation may not be our besetting sin, it may well be for others. In fact, the odds are it is. Because if it’s not our issue then we must be the one man in the world who’s the exception that proves the rule. And so why would we do something that might cause our brother to stumble?

But, we also need to act for the good of our Christian sister. Although her issue may not be sexual temptation, we could well be encouraging her to form an inappropriate emotional attachment to her flatmates. One or two of the more mature women at the workshop made the point that it’s quite possible for a young woman to go into a house of blokes and enjoy the emotional intensity of having a unique friendship with the lads she lives with. Your housemates are the people you download onto, they’re the people you relax and unwind with. They’re the people you connect with and form some degree of emotional dependency. That’s not alway obvious until, say, one of the lads with whom she’s close starts seeing another girl and she’s devastated. Only then, perhaps, does it become obvious what’s been going on in her head and her heart. He may have  been, and in every likelihood would have been, completely unaware of what was going on.

For the sake of our Christian brothers and sisters it’s not the wisest thing to do.

3. We need to act for the good of the gospel

This is a harder one to articulate. But a repeated concern of the Pastoral Epistles is the reputation that Christians have with non-Christians. We are to be ‘above reproach’. That’s especially true for Christian leaders. They have to hold themselves to higher standards. Whilst it’s normal amongst non-Christians to live in mixed houses and perhaps for the odd sexual encounater to take place, that ought not to be the case amongst Christians. Many of us have lived in mixed accommodation environments at university but there’s a different dynamic at play as we move through our twenties. We ought to be aware of the assumptions that people may make about our sexual ethics when we have mixed flatshares. We communicate a concern for sexual purity when we live in single sex houses. And we especially communicate that to others in our congregation who see that we take sin seriously.

I was impressed that the lads sought my response. I have no idea whether they’ll take it. But I thought asking me was a wise action in itself. In my experience I’m a hopless judge in marginal cases involving me and the wise thing to do! And so it’s always sensible to seek godly counsel. But it’s probably worth seeking accountability and being willing to submit to anothers’ ruling on this issue. Say something like, ‘it’s not my decision to make, I don’t trust myself on this one because I’ll always believe the best’.

14 thoughts on “Christian Flatshare

  1. Phil C November 19, 2009 / 5:07 pm

    Thanks perks.

    The second point is helpful, but it would be a bit extreme to swear off mixed accommodation because of it. Why is Bernice fancying Fred an “inappropriate emotional attachment”? Unrequited interest isn’t inappropriate or wrong, it’s just a bit depressing for a while.

    I think the third point isn’t really relevant today. If someone is being clear and open about their commitment to living for Christ, it shouldn’t be an issue.

    And don’t forget the positives of mixed accommodation – like you say, it can help guys and girls to relate, and it can be a lot of fun.

    All that said, the first point is more than enough to make the case. But does it make a difference if the people involved are ugly? Or if one of them is going out with someone else, not in the house?

  2. Lauri November 20, 2009 / 12:17 pm

    Phil I think the second point might be something related to a more gender specific issue. Might what you can readily relate to in point 1 relate more readily to women in point 2?

    Perks I am a bit confused, you say in the end of your first para that you would not make a judgment but you did in the middle of the first para. When you say judgment, do you mean that you do not see this as a church related discipline issue, but when you say you don’t think its a good idea that is your advice as a friend/pastor? I guess because its not a sin matter?

  3. theurbanpastor November 20, 2009 / 12:38 pm

    lauri
    Just so I’m clear – which paragraph are we talking about?
    I said that I’m not going to make a ruling on it, by which I meant in my capacity as a church leader I’m not about to say that it’s sinful for all Christians to share a flat with people of teh oppsoite gender. The Bible doesn’t say that. And so I won’t! But if they want my wisdom on the issue then of course I’ll give my ‘judgement’ which is, that it’s very unwise. Does that help clarify things?

  4. Lauri November 20, 2009 / 12:44 pm

    Yeah Perks, that clarifies what I was asking.

  5. Phil C November 20, 2009 / 12:53 pm

    Lauri: yes, I suppose so. I think there is just one big point here, really, and it’s that we should flee temptation full-stop. That is a really good argument and enough for me to be convinced that it is not a wise thing to do. I think the second point does need clarification but it will probably take things off-topic.

    I think Perks is saying that it’s not wise to do it, but it’s not a prohibition. So assuming that there is no pressure to do it (e.g. financial pressure, or a friend being homeless), and it’s not necessary, why would you?

  6. Phil C November 20, 2009 / 12:53 pm

    Ah, he has spoken. Sorry!

  7. sarah November 21, 2009 / 10:46 am

    Interesting prespective, but not alway that easy to achieve when needing find either a room or a room to fill in London. So if it had to be done what recommendations would you give for clean living?

    I think it would depend on the circumstances, based on your reasons it would be bad to live with anyone you fancy or could become too friendly with. So if they weren’t were type, and a bit ugly you would be fine. And if they are unlikely to become your best friend-you’il be alright as well.

    I’ve lived in a mixed house share when I moved to London and it was fine. Both the girls and boys kept a reasonable standard of dress, and I can safely say no romantic comedies were ever watched.

    And a mixed household does add a nice dynamic from a girls perspective, males often add a slightly more relaxed feel to the house. And when necessary give you a different perspective.

    Wherever you should live in a mixed house-share, should it also depend on the number of people living in house and the gender mix?

    And should it also depend how often you are in house? I hardly see my housemates, as we’il all busy people. Infact the only time I could guarantee to see them would be Sunday evening, but I’m often at church.

  8. Bruce November 22, 2009 / 2:57 pm

    Interesting blog post. I kinda agree with Perks.

  9. Mark November 23, 2009 / 11:12 am

    Any thoughts Perks on whether it’s wise for a married couple to have a lodger? And what if it’s a young couple and their lodger is equally young?

    • theurbanpastor November 24, 2009 / 10:51 am

      It’s not great is it?
      The married couple need ‘space’ to build good foundations for their marriage; emotionally, relationally and sexually. They need the freedom to develop and mature in each of those areas without fear of interruption from others.

  10. David Moore November 24, 2009 / 7:47 am

    You can now search online for single gender Christian flatshare in the UK at Christian flatshare.

  11. Susan Richards March 6, 2012 / 9:38 pm

    University halls of residence are almost always 6 or 7 mixed sex in a shared flat. Which can be quite an education! Having had 2 children go through university, it is something I had not thought about as an issue. Thanks for raising it though.

  12. Ed Drew March 8, 2013 / 11:30 am

    Just to comment on Sarah’s observation, “So if they weren’t were type, and a bit ugly you would be fine” – and I’m sure this was typed a little in jest…. But its not that simple. It relates to Perks 2nd point. In a house I lived in, some of us made the selfish decision that because we could not ever foresee a relationship developing, others of us in the house felt the same. We can’t know how another’s heart and mind are working, we can’t say that because we’re not fighting a temptation or developing a crush, that another isn’t either. These things happen in life, but when living together its a very different situation.

    Thanks Perks. Practical, Gospel shaped living discussed.

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