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’.