Sharing Life as Friends
Abby and I have been sharing a house for about 14 years now. People often ask us about how living together works, and what advice we’d give to other same-sex attracted Christians looking to live communally.
It’s clear that sharing life with others is a Christian principle; the Bible talks about us being family. Indeed, we are the body of Christ and we belong to each other. Clearly, there’s much more to Christian community than just weekly meetings or catching up every now and again. We’re to be deeply involved in each other’s lives.
In our culture (and sometimes church), we are often presented with a false choice between a romantic relationship on the one hand, or isolation and loneliness on the other. We’ve really devalued friendship but, as Christians, we have a unique opportunity to live in a radically counter-cultural way that is infused with the love of Jesus. Many single people choose to live alone, which is entirely appropriate for some, but that isn’t the only option. For others, sharing with a Christian friend can open doors to godly companionship, a richer spiritual life and a counter-cultural witness to God’s goodness. So what do we need to think about if we’re considering this step?
Firstly, it’s important to recognise that close friends sharing a house should do so in the context of the local church community. There is a danger that friends can become emotionally dependent on each other and look to each other to meet needs, rather than looking to Jesus and his church. Biblical friendship has Jesus at the centre, is outward-looking rather than insular and exclusive, and seeks to include and serve others.
Examining Our Motivations
It’s important to examine our hearts before God and think carefully about why we want to share. As Jeremiah says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
We must allow God to expose any ungodly motivations, and we should seek wise counsel and prayer from the wider church community. Emotional dependency and sexual temptation are both risks that shouldn’t be taken lightly and should be talked and prayed about before committing to sharing. I have found that sexual temptation, in general, was much worse when I lived on my own and that it’s fairly minimal now because I’m experiencing healthy physical contact in a range of friendships, and I’m not isolated or lonely. But we’re all different and, for some people, sharing a house with someone of the same sex would be an unwise temptation. Even if sharing is likely to be a positive thing for both people, it’s important to have reached a certain level of spiritual maturity and confidence, and a mutual commitment to honour God and keep the friendship pure.
Ongoing accountability is vital. Abby and I both have wise people who we can pray with regularly and can share any difficulties with. I have people who will ask me tough questions to challenge me in my faith and holiness, and we are both in different prayer triplets. We also make sure that we both cultivate our individual relationships with God, and set aside time to pray and read the Bible together.
One of the things we were concerned about was how our relationship would look and how to describe our situation to others. The way I describe my friendship with Abby sometimes depends on context (for example, I might say sister, housemate, friend, companion). I prefer ‘friend’ as it’s an opportunity to model a biblical friendship that challenges some of the cultural ideas of friendship.
Being transparent and taking opportunities to explain the relationship often leads to gospel opportunities, and we always try to prevent people from drawing wrong conclusions where possible. (For example, when showing people around the house, they can see our separate rooms. With lots of people I just outright tell them that we’re not in a sexual relationship).
One of the really wonderful things about sharing has been involvement in each other’s family lives. I’ve been on holiday with Abby and her sister and brother-in-law, and she’s been away with me and my mum, dad, sister, brother and their spouses and kids. It could be tempting to go on holiday only with each other, but we want to include others in our plans, so we often go away with Christian and non-Christian friends and family.
Sharing and Supporting
Another big blessing that has come from sharing is being able to support one another through ill health. Abby has had numerous major surgeries, and I have Bipolar Disorder which is sometimes tricky to manage, so it’s great to be able to help each other through hard times and be able to look after others who come to stay with us.
Sharing possessions is another biblical principle that living together enables us to put into practice. I find the account of the early church in Acts very inspiring: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2: 44 – 45)
We have a joint account for household finances, and inevitably we have quite a lot of shared belongings as we’ve lived together for so long. But we both believe in sharing things more widely as everything belongs to God anyway, so our possessions belong to the wider church and our other friends too, so they are to be used to help them.
Being able to share household tasks is another blessing. We’ve been able to divide up the jobs into things that play to our strengths, and that we like doing (so Abby cooks, and I do all the finances). The problem is that neither of us likes dusting!
To sum up; sharing a house can be a wonderfully life-giving experience providing that our focus isn’t just on getting our relational needs met through one other person, but that our homes are outward-looking and other-involving. We all thrive when we can involve a range of friends from different backgrounds and of different ages in our lives.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Summer 2020 edition of Ascend