Friendship is an integral part of a truly Christian marriage and a safeguard against emotional adultery. In our years together we have seen many couples, including pastors and their wives, commit emotional adultery. Emotional adultery is having as your close friend someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse.
Sadly, too many books and sermons on marriage focus only on the Bible verses about marriage. They should also examine the mountain of Bible verses on friendship because those apply to the most vital human friendship of all with our very best friend, our spouse. The Bible itself weds marriage and friendship. A wife in Song of Songs says, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend” (5:16).
We have a few true friends. There are people we do not choose to do life with but simply have them in our life by circumstance (for example, family, coworkers, classmates); those who are not godly, trustworthy, or loving; those who are not peers (both those ahead of and behind us in maturity and life lessons); and those with whom our lives happen to intersect but there is no intentionality to live life together (for example, neighbors we barely know).
But the word friend is too often used for relationships that are not friendships, including online “friends” on social networking Web sites. This can lead to unreasonable expectations or someone being hurt and disappointed. So the word friend needs to be used carefully. We make a mistake when we call anyone we are friendly to a “friend.” This is an especially important distinction for extroverts, those in ministry, and those in serving professions, where you know and help a large number of people.
Marital friendship requires both the husband and wife to be willing to invest what it takes to be a good friend. Friendship is costly in everything— time, energy, emotion, and sometimes money. Those who want their spouses to be friends without seeking to be good friends in return are selfish and demanding. And those who want to be good friends but do not help their spouses reciprocate are prone to be taken advantage of, abused, neglected, and suffer from their marriages.
The sad truth is that we live in a world that encourages selfishness, independence, convenience, isolation, and using people rather than loving them. Curiously, people holding these same values simultaneously complain about the lack of community, kindness, hospitality, love, generosity, and friendship in our day. Perhaps more than ever, we must acknowledge that friendship is desperately needed, and the first step is not whining about our lack of friends, but rather becoming good friends. This is why Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.”
Marriage often starts out as a journey between friends. It gets off course as friends become business partners trying to pay the bills, parents trying to raise the kids, caregivers trying to tend to aging parents, cab drivers trying to shuttle family members to various events, event planners trying to pull off everything from holidays to birthday parties, and lovers trying to keep the flames of passion hot. Perhaps the key is to always be working on the friendship, because in the end the rest of marriage seems to come together more easily and happily when you are working on it with your friend.
How about you? Is the person you are dating or married to good friends with Jesus and you? For the married, how is your friendship with your spouse?
Note: this blog is adapted from the Driscoll’s book Real Marriage