The Importance of Friendship in Marriage (The Meaning of Marriage Chapter 4)

Years ago, I applied to be a church planting missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention. In order to gain their approval, you have to go through a series of tests and interviews. One of those interviews is about marriage. They want to know how the stress of church planting will strain your marriage.
Jennifer and I entered that interview together and the woman seemed to be at a loss for words. She glanced over the tests we had taken. She looked at us and shook her head. Then she said, “I’ve never seen two people who scored so different on this test. Well, I have seen it, but those people are divorced.”

She could not believe we were together and she said so several times throughout the interview.

We just smiled at her and said, “We know, we are really different.”

And after that, we tried to figure out what kept our marriage together. We decided that we are together because we are friends.

Keller says the foundation for friendship is a common passion and vision. The reason so many friendships are temporary is because they do not maintain a common vision of life and therefore they begin to walk different paths. But Keller says Christian friendship is based on the common vision and passion of following Christ. Christian friendship is “not simply about going to concerts together or enjoying the same sporting event. It is the deep oneness that develops as two people journey together toward the same destination, helping one another through the dangers and challenges along the way.”
Christian friendship in marriage is centered in the willingness to help one another move toward our final destination. Too many Christian marriages are not asking, ‘How can we walk with Christ together?’ So, they have no unifying factor to their friendship. Over time, the differences grow. The friendship struggles.

Friendship love is often overlooked as an inferior kind of Christian love. Well meaning people say agape is the REAL Christian love and that the other loves are inferior. Friendship love is not an ‘inferior’ love. Marriages cannot overlook it because it is vital to creating a thriving relationship. In fact, as erotic as Song of Solomon is, the woman still calls her man a friend (5:16). She is attached to him in a real and meaningful way. They are lovers, but they are also friends. In fact, their friendship is the foundation for the erotic love they share.
The Bible says that God created woman to be a companion to man. Keller says, “When God brought the first man his spouse, he brought him not just a lover but the friend his heart had been seeking.”
God established marriage as a friendship. But what does it mean to be a friend?
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times.”
Proverbs 18:24 says friends stick closer than a brother.
Proverbs 27:5-6 says friends wound in a way that shows their faithfulness. In other words, they will tell you the truth even when the truth hurts.
Proverbs 27:17 says friends sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron.
A good marriage requires a sustained friendship. And friendship must be a priority. God set marriage up as the number one earthly priority. This means that every other earthly relationship is second to marriage. Your parents don’t come first. Your children don’t come first. All your friends don’t come first. Keller says, “Your marriage must be more important to you than anything else. No other human being should get more of your love, energy, industry, and commitment than your spouse. God asks that a man leave his father and mother, as powerful as that relationship may have been, to forge a new union that must be an even more important and powerful force in his life.”
Building a life-long friendship with your spouse is not a luxury; it is a vital necessity. It requires constant work. It requires a fixed center in Jesus Christ.
Christian marriage is unique because it gives us a common direction. No matter how different we might be, Christ holds us together. So many Christian marriages dissolve because they lose their center. Then they lose their friendship.

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