Friends First

A Discussion on Marriage and Relationships

For millennia, marriages have been arranged. The likelihood of being able to marry a person’s “true love” was not good. So, how have marriages survived? Some kind of understanding had to be established.

There is the military approach, where the husband is the general and the wife is the soldier; there is the dictator approach, where the husband is the supreme authority and the wife is the second-class citizen; there is the Puppet kingdom approach, where the wife rules vicariously through her husband; there is the lovers approach, where everything is based on how much love they are feeling for their mate at the moment; and then there is the Friends approach, which is what I think is the true approach to marriage.

The Friends approach views marriage as an opportunity to multiply life. There are many benefits to partnership. Two are better than one in work, health, business, love, and family.

  • Work- Two men can lift an average of four  times the weight of one, and four times the size of load. Some things cannot be done alone quickly or efficiently.
  • Health- When one gets sick or injured, the other cares for the one and picks up the slack where needed.
  • Business- Men tend to make good dreamers and workers; women tend to make good managers and details people. It’s a good fit.
  • Love- The heterosexual relationship is designed by God to join two sides of a coin (two VERY DIFFERENT makeups) to create a new identity, a new “person.” Of course, there is also the literal creation of a new person in children.
  • Family- The man is traditionally the Provider/Protector and the woman is the Household Manager/Nurturer. These positions were never intended to be done by just one person, and, indeed, cannot be done proficiently. Grace is given when needed, but the ideal cannot ever be realized singly.

The Friends approach is the practical side of marriage. To like each other is much more necessary than being in love with each other. In the book/movie, “Love Comes Softly,” two frontier people come together out of necessity in a type of business arrangement in order to survive. They become friends, and eventually come to love each other. By the way, the relationship was platonic until much later in the story, which goes to show that sex, though necessary for procreation, is not necessary for relationship. Lovers need to understand that when there is a breach in relationship, it is best to back off the physical demands and concentrate on repairing the breach. Friendship first.

When two people live together, they are roommates, and roommates need to have a contract between them, figuratively speaking. There is security in knowing where the lines are. Boundaries need to be set, jobs assigned, and plans made. Then, and only then, can peace rule in the house, and love grow, whether it’s romantic or filial.

Protection is the first order of business. We must protect each other’s information, belongings, feelings, opinions, dreams, and beliefs. We must know our “roommate” well enough to agree with all of these areas before “signing a contract.” This contract can be a marriage license or a sexual relationship. Both are binding.

The second order of business is mutual respect. In the Declaration of Independence, the phrase, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” gives three examples of “unalienable rights” (impossible to take away, God-given). The pursuit of happiness for Christians is wrapped up in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Non-believers need simply to be on the same page worldview-wise. “Life” means, “the right to live;” we respect that! Liberty means, “the focus of the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely,” but restrict themselves for the sake of others’ right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Friendships are fun until conflict arises. That’s when both parties need to fall back to what I call, “the Civil mode.” In order to show respect to the partner, it is imperative that we maintain a civil tongue and demeanor. We treat each other like acquaintances with the idea that we want to make/keep this person as an ally, if not a friend. We review the contract and our goals and boundaries, as well as the assigned job descriptions, and negotiate if need be. The goal is to remain friends and for the relationship to have an opportunity to grow, even flourish.

The third order of business is self-denial. Most people do not realize that liberty is self-denial. We give up certain freedoms in order to come together in community. This “self-death” works on all levels of civilization, particularly in marriage. We must make the commitment to do “whatever it takes” to reach the goals set forth in the marriage contract. The traditional marriage vow says, ” I, (name), take you, (name), to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold [pertaining to mutual ownership of possessions and bodies, where sex is concerned] from this day forward, for better or for worse [circumstances], for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love [sacrificially] and to cherish [hold in high honor and esteem]; from this day forward until death do us part [a lifetime].” This kind of love is the love that God showed the world by giving his Son, Jesus, for us. If we have nothing else–no “lovey-dovey” feelings, no shared interest, even no enjoyment of being together–we have the shared commitment of serving each other out of self-denial and self-sacrifice. We preserve something bigger than ourselves when we honor the marriage contract.

Why work at being friends? Because our friendships are what make our lives enjoyable. Our mates need to be our best friend. To share that position with anyone else jeopardizes the foundation of our marriages. Let’s work hard to recover and maintain the Friendship of our mates. It’s important–no, it’s VITAL!!!

Called to Strive

It has come to my attention that there are several Christian couples who are having a hard time getting along as couples and are considering divorce. I understand that a hostile atmosphere–or a cold war–wears on a person, but there are other things to consider, namely, the renown of Christ.

Ideally (and originally), marriage is a picture of God and His people and of Christ and the Church. It’s about the relationship and fellowship that is shared. Divorce messes up that picture and fails to bring glory to His name. We are a part of something much bigger and that is eternal; we must view our marriages and our lives with eternity in mind. We are lights in a dark world to show people what a relationship with God in Christ is like. We want them to want God. Marriage is one of the ways that God brings salvation to the world.

Then there is the individual sanctification of each of you. The process of becoming like Christ is unique for each of us. When you came to Christ, He became your Companion, your Guide, and your God. He has you where you are for a reason: It is the best place for you to become like Him and to shine for Him. The verse that comes to mind is Ephesians 6:13b, “and after you have done everything, to stand.” We are naturally self-centered to the core, which is why we must die daily. Only then will we become like Him as He works through us. Dead people don’t have feelings.

So, how do we deal with the harsh words and hurt feelings and the strife? It begins with giving up our expectations of how things should be. Yes those ideals are valid, but they are goals to be reached together, not weapons to use against your spouse.

The next thing to do is to let go of the past and its painful memories. If God does anything for Your marriage, it will be in the present and future. Live today with tomorrow in view. Who knows? Tomorrow may be eternity! The Imperials sang a song whose refrain is:

“Keep on walkin’, you don’t know how far you’ve come,

Keep on walkin’, for all you know it may be done

the Father might be standin’ up right now

to give the call and end it all,

So keep on walkin’.”

The other thing to do is to throw down your defenses of pride, anger, and even your sense of fairness. Verses like 1 Cor. 13:4-8, Gal. 5:22-23, and Phil. 2:3-5 should be our mantra (see below). Eph. 5:33 speaks of love and respect. There is no clause in there that talks about if it is deserved or about your spouse earning it. We are simply told to do it. So, DO IT!

In all of the trials and heartache, your children and your friends and family will see Christ in you. The Holy Spirit WILL BRING GLORY to Himself. As for us, we have this promise in Hebrews 12:11-13, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms [your relationship with Christ] and weak knees [your response to the Spirit]. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame [your marriage and your spouse] may not be disabled, but rather healed.”

So, BE ENCOURAGED! The Holy Spirit will arm you for battle (Ps. 89:13)–not against your spouse, but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Know that “Christ loves His Bride, the Church, and gave Himself up for us to make us holy, cleansing us with the water through His Word, and will present us to Himself as a radiant Bride, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25 adapted).

Let’s work to that end. Let us be about the Father’s business. Let’s start at home! Start with this: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life”  Phil. 2:14-16a.



1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast,  it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily  angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always  hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others [your spouse]. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.


NOTE: If you are wondering where the title fits in, look at Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation [work your salvation from the inside to the outside] with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act [gives you the desire and the power] according to his good purpose.”

Another term for “work out” is “strive.” It denotes struggle toward an end. Midwives strive with women in labor; coaches strive with athletes. The Holy Spirit strives with us; spouses strive with spouses. So strive!