Introduction: I sent you out last weekend with the assignment to ask significant relationships in your life, ”What can I do to serve you?” I’ve heard some great stories… One guy told me he asked his boss and got assigned overtime and was not too happy about it. The best one…

Dear Pastor Ryan,

After hearing JD’s message yesterday, I went home and prepared to sheer my two Babydoll Sheep. My wife saw what I was doing and asked ”How may I serve you?”. Not to deter her from a deeper walk in faith, I asked if she would help me sheer the sheep.

She began sheering the under side of my male sheep. To all o our horror she nearly sheered off his sheep-­-hood with one pass of the sheers. I guess proper instruction was not given prior to allowing her to serve me and the sheep is VERY disappointed in the results. And obviously she was unaware of the placement of the sheep’s anatomy.

Two hours and $336.00 later an emergency vet arrived and sewed back on the sheep’s body part. We are hoping he will live. We were instructed during the service to continue serving each other for a week. One afternoon of applying J.D.’s sermon cost us $336.00. Is there a total that we are aiming for? Marty

But the vast majority were positive…

We are on week 3 of our series on relationships, First Love. Each week we are looking at the classic biblical passage on relationships, Ephesians 5:21-32. (turn there if you will)

I want to start off today by telling you about one of the most important marriages in history, though probably one you’ve never heard of. It is the marriage Martin Luther to Katherine von Bora. (Mark Driscoll talks about it in his book Real Marriage.)

Martin Luther and Katie von Bora (The context): Luther, as you know, is famous for starting the Reformation. The core of the Reformation was that the Bible, not the teaching of the church, should be our authority for life. Well, one of the areas he took issue with was the teaching that all clergy be celibate. He said, ”That’s nowhere in the Bible,” and he was, of course, correct. He wrote a book called On Monastic Vows in which he proved that forced celibacy on priests was an invention of man. And he ended the book by encouraging monks and nuns to throw off their vows and get married for the glory of God. (The heist): Well, a group of nuns read his book, found his reasoning compelling, and threw off their values. But the Roman Catholic Church would not let them leave the convent. So Luther helped arrange this big heist-12 women were smuggled out of a convent in 12 empty fish barrels. Luther was like the original George Clooney. ”Luther’s 12.” The wedding: They found husbands for all of them but 1, Katharine von Bora, turned out pretty tough to get a husband for. She was brash, proud, and fairly unattractive.

singleness, didn’t want to marry her. But she wore him down and they finally got married. This is all true When asked why he married her, Luther responded, ”To spite the devil.” (Which has to be the least romantic reason for a wedding in the history of mankind.) So, the marriage did not exactly start off like a fairy tale, but they ended up having on the most incredible marriages in history. We know most about their marriage through their letters. They are awesome. Truly hilarious. She was really smart, pretty fiery, and quick-­-witted. But they were passionately in love. – His favorite title for her was, ”Lord Katie,” but other pet names included ”Dear Rib, my Empress, my true love, my Sweetheart, dear gift of God.” In Luther’s earliest writings on marriage, he treated marriage as something primarily functional-something God designed to propagate the human race and something we should enter into to stave off sexual temptation. But toward the end his life he would call Katie von Bora ”the greatest (earthly) gift of grace a man could have.”1 She was more than his lover; she was his confidant, his companion, his best friend.

Friendship is one of the most forgotten elements of marriage. Many of you probably realize your spouse is supposed to be your friend, but you really see attraction and passion and romance as the core of marriage. If anything, you see marriage as primarily romance spiced wit a little friendship. But really marriage is friendship spiced with a little romance.2

Eventually she came up to Luther and said (essentially),

”You got me into this mess. You owe me a husband. If you don’t find me one, then you’ll have to marry me.” Luther, who was 40 years old and a virgin (the original 40-­-year-­-old virgin) and quite content in his

If you want a marriage to be endearing and enduring, friendship has to be the core basis of it.

He doesn’t use the word ”friendship” there, but when you think abou it, there are a couple of things in that passage that teach you marriage is essentially friendship:

One respected sociologist says it this way, ”The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance and passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor (in all those things) is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship.

So men and women come from the same planet after all.”3

Proverbs 2:17 calls your spouse your ”al-­-loop,” a unique Hebrew word that lexicons translate as ”special confidant” or ”best friend.”4 And in the great biblical book of romance, Song of Solomon, the bride says of her groom, ”This is my lover; this is my friend.”5

That’s the core of what Paul says in Ephesians 5:25…

Ephesians 5:25-28

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

(1. Friendship = analogy of the body) FIRST of all, he uses the analogy of the body. Pervades the passage. Fascinating one. In one sense we can think of our body as separate from us; in another sense we can’t. I am one with my body. My wife is in one sense separate from me, yet she is one with me. We have fused our entire lives together. Our homes. Our futures. Most of life we will experience together. We are two separate beings united into one. Throughout this passage Paul refers to the Genesis account of man and woman’s creation. Look at vs. 31: In marriage a man and woman should ‘leave father and mother’ and cleave to (or become one with) his wife. That’s the essence of marriage. Becoming one. In fact, when Adam saw Eve in the Garden, he said, ”This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Some scholars say that what he is saying is, ”I see a part of who I am, my own soul, my own body!” He didn’t say, ”Wow, what a hot babe! Can’t wait to get my hands on that…” He said, ”I see my own a piece of my own soul and body!” That’s what a friend is: someone who feels and shares your deepest interests and passions.

(2. Friendship = progression toward a common cause) Second, you see in this passage a progression toward a common cause: Christlikeness. Veronica and I have been assigned to help each other in the greatest of all pursuits: preparing for glory.

This is our greatest passion, preparing to see Jesus, and Veronica and I are assigned to one another to help one another along the way.

What makes a friendship great is a sense of unity in a common cause. Think of how many epic movies that has this as the plot: Lord of the Rings. The Dirty Dozen. Young Guns. Band of Brothers. Ocean’s 11. (all the movies I like). C.S. Lewis says there is one kind of love, eros, in which the lover is focused on each other, face to face, absorbed in each other. But there’s another kind of love, phileo, which are people side by side, absorbed by some common interest.6 This is friendship.

Now, friendship, or common cause, can be found around a lot of things. If someone else and I share a common love for a sport, or hobby, or a favorite band or author, we can find friendship around that. I have friends in my life like that, and so do you. But the deeper the shared interest, the greater the friendship. For a Christian, the deepest passion is seeing Jesus, growing in Jesus, being like Jesus. Christian marriage is supposed to be a comrade in your greatest passion and a companion for the greatest journey! Tim Keller says in Christianity ”to fall in love is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, ‘I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”’7 Your hope is that one day you and your spouse will hear, ”Well done, good and faithful servants. Over the years you lifted each other up. You sacrificed for each other. You washed one another’s feet. You confronted each other. You prayed for each other. You hugged and you loved each other and you continually pushed each other toward me. And now look at you. You’re radiant.”8 It is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness tha keeps the marriage going, because it is friendship on the deepest level.

Even when you get tired of your spouse, and irritated, and you want a new one, you realize, ”The new spouse that I really want is them in their glorified state.” One day I will see Veronica in heaven in all her glorified beauty and I’ll say, ”I knew it! I always knew you could be that.” And it’s my honor to move her toward that destination here. You ever hear the proverbial story about Michelangelo who was asked how he could carve a magnificent statue of say, a horse, from a block of stone He said, ”I just see the horse in the stone and chip away everything that is not the horse.” That is marriage. You see the radiant beauty of Christlikeness in your spouse and you wash and chip away everything that is not that. There are sparks that fly in marriage. Sometimes they are different than the ones that fly in dating. But still good ones!

So, let’s stop here for a minute and ask,

What makes for friendship? (From analogy of body)

A. Common cause (which we have been over). If you don’t share common cause the friendship will never last. You’ll get bored with each other. Being into each other can only take you so far.9

B. Constancy A friend is someone you know will never leave because they are as committed to you as they are to themselves. You’re like a part of their body. Proverbs 17:17, ”A friend loves at all times, and a brother is made for adversity.” A friend is someone who walks in when everyone else walks out. The person who should most trust your constancy is your spouse. They should know that while you get upset with them, you are not going anywhere; you’re the one who believes the best about them and give them the benefit of the doubt. Because here’s the thing: Someone is not going to let you in until they know you’re not going to reject them, to walk away or humiliate them or expose their weaknesses. It kills me to hear spouses tearing their other spouse down, because I know that there is no way their spouse will ever open up to them-how could they? They don’t feel safe. My body, generally speaking, knows it is safe with me. I may be unhappy with some part of it, but my body knows, ”I can trust J.D.” Think about trimming your fingernails… ever had someone else do it? Kind of scary…! But my body lets J.D. do it, because my body knows that if it feels pain; J.D. is going to feel pain, and J.D. is not going to let that happen. That even when J.D. does cause the body pain, it’s for the body’s good. J.D.’s presence with his body is constant.

C. Transparency In order to have a friendship you’ve got to open yourself up. Share what’s going on emotionally. A companion, who is like your own body, has to see what’s really going on! Some of you men are a closed book to your spouse, and that’s why she’s not your friend. For some of you men, I have one simple activity that could absolutely transform your marriage (like last week I gave you 1 question): Come home and tell your wife one thing that happened that day and how you (key word) FELT about it. It may be a babystep, but it would be a huge one that would go a long way in uniting you t your wife in friendship. More on that in a minute. But one word by C.S. Lewis: ”Eros will have naked bodies; friendship, naked personalities.”10

Transparency: Allow them to call out your sin. Believe me, they already see it. And be humble. My natural tendency is to reject your counsel… Verses I have memorized: Proverbs 9:8 ”Reprove a wise man and he will love you for it; but fools despise wisdom and correction.” Question for you: When it comes to how you respond to your spouse’s correction, which are you? Fool. NATURALLY you are a fool. To be wise takes an intentional decisions.

D. Trust of good intention Let me go back to the analogy of the body. Cleaning the bod is an intimate thing and you wouldn’t want someone else doin it. Imagine someone else brushing your teeth or shaving you. It’s scary. You don’t want someone just poking an jabbing around there. You want to know they will be gentle. I don’t want someone to shave me who just takes a razor and slashes at my face.

o In order for your spouse to let you ”clean” their ”spiritual” body, they have to know you have good intentions and won’t go in there poking and slashing. Some of you should not be so harsh and cruel to your spouse. (As I prepared for this, I feel like there’s a woman in here who has been that way recently and you need to repent.) Simple thing here: for every one negative comment, there should be about 5 positive. This is big mistake fathers make with children; bosses make with employees; teachers with students; and wives and husbands with each other. We tend to only notice and point out the weaknesses. When people feel like you are down on them, they won’t really listen to you. But when they know you are their biggest fan, they will often take your criticisms more to heart because they know it comes from someone who really cares. How I respond to people I know care about me… In all relationships (and especially marriage), we tend to assume the positives, and notice the weaknesses. We should assume the weaknesses and notice the positives. You married a sinner; that should not be a surprise. So instead of berating them over their sinfulness, speak blessing and empowerment over their lives. See the beautiful creation at work inside of them and call it out in them. Hold the crown of Jesus over their head and grow them into it. For every one word of criticism, speak 5 words of affirmation. Veronica is awesome at this. I realized something this week as I prepared. Veronica really is my functional pastor. I haven’t really had a pastor since college. She watches out for my soul, and speaks wisdom and blessing to me. The reason I let her do that is because she is my biggest fan.

So the core of marriage is friendship. In light of that, I have…

4 practical points:

1. Prioritize friendship in the dating process If you are single, what are you most looking for in a spouse? It’s kind of a stereotype that men overvalue looks in a mate and women overvalue earning potential. But neither of those things make for endearing, enduring marriages. Beauty fades: you will lose your sexual appeal and you physical beauty over time; we all kind of end up looking the same. Earning potential may not turn out. And even if you get those things, neither makes for a really fulfilling relationship. What Adam needed in the garden was not just a sexua partner; he needed a companion-bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.11 Remember: marriage is not romance spiced with friendship, but friendship spiced with romance. (or SPIKED)

Let me get up in your business for a minute: Many of you single walk into a room and write off 80% of the people immediately. You don’t like the shape of their jaw. You wanted someone a little more dark-­-skinned. They have a weird part in their hair. They weren’t an athlete in college. They wear relaxed fit rather than fitted jeans. None of that stuff really makes for a happy, enduring marriage!

Psychologists say that infatuation lasts, at its longest, about 18 months. And then it’s gone. Listen to this: Christian counselor Gary Thomas: ”In 1967, a study of college-­-age women found that 76 percen of women said they would marry someone if the man had every trait they were looking for, even if they didn’t fell ‘romantic love’ toward them. In more recent research, 91 percent of women said ‘absolutely not.’ That’s a huge shift. People have been pursuing such pairings (based on infatuation) for several generations now, and I’m asking you to be an astute and honest observer: how’s that working out for us?”12 o ”I’ve rarely had a wife complain to me about her husband’s looks. When wives come to me, it’s almost always about character issues: ‘He shouldn’t do this thing. He should do that thing, but doesn’t. How do I fix this?’ Yet most women are not seeking men of character first. They are seeking men with whom they feel ‘in love.”’13 Let me tell you why most marriages are so bad. People have gotten through the infatuation stage and now they are bored. They got the idea from books or TV that if you’d just find the person with whom you had the perfect chemistry, if the infatuation was strong enough, it would last forever. But it doesn’t, it never does. And now that that has died, you have nothing left. You didn’t prioritize friendship in the dating process, and you haven’t developed friendship after the marriage started. If you’ll press through that death of infatuation, you’ll find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time!”14

What I first saw in Veronica made me love her has a friend (I’ve told you the story of the list I made…). Over the years we neglected that, and our relationship suffered. We are recovering it now, and it’s better than ever!

Couple of really practical things for you if you are single: If you’re single, don’t marry a non-­-Christian! You’ll never be able to share the deepest unity. Because if you’re a Christian walking with God, the deepest part of you is the part that knows God. You say, ”I’m married to a non-­-Christian now.” That’s ok, you can still make it, and God has purposes for you in your marriage the way it is. But unfortunately, yes, you’ll never be able to share the same kind of unity you could share if they loved and were committed to Jesus like you were. Doesn’t mean you should leave them (because 1 Cor is clear that you should not, and God has different purposes for you in the marriage), but pray fo them. Singles: Beware the intoxication of physical contact. There are a lot of reasons why you should keep physical contact before marriage to a minimum, but here’s one you might often overlook: physical, erotic contact has a way of clouding all you judgment. You need, in the dating process, how much of a lifelong friend this person can be. And you can’t do that when you’re all strung out on infatuation and the buzz of physical contact. You should marry someone with whom sex is the crowning jewel in a relationship, not the centerpiece of it. Sex should be only like the frosting on the cupcake The only way you’ll be able to judge that is by keeping that drug out of the dating process.

2. Prioritize friendship in the marriage Nothing can replace the centrality of friendship in your marriage. If you don’t prioritize the friendship, the relationship will slowly die. Your career can’t replace your priority of your friendship with your spouse… Your love and commitment to your kids cannot replace the priority of your friendship with you spouse, though this is what often happens.

The center of the home is NOT parent and child; it is husband and wife. The Bible says, Eph 6:4, ”Raise up your kids…” You know what that means, don’t you? Get rid of them. Technically, the word you use is ”rear” Love that image. Get behind them and start pushing them up; to a place where they are not dependent on you! God did not put a parent child in the garden; he put a husband/wife.15 In order for my home to be solid, my relationship with my wife has to be strong. The greatest gift I can love my kids is to prioritize my wife, even over them!16

Married people: you have to prioritize friendship in marriage above all things! Listen: Marriage has an unparalleled power over your life. You have tied your life to another person, literally, as Paul says, you have become one body with her! Because marriage has an unparalleled power in our lives, it should have an unparalleled priority.17 CONCENTRIC CIRCLES: If your marriage is strong, then even if the rest of your life falls apart, you can usually make it. I have heard it said there are 3 kinds of married relationships: Back to back: a couple has turned their back on each other. They live separately; maybe in the same house, but only roommates. Side by side: work together on the house; the kids; the business; serving the church. Face to face: this kind of relationship is one in which, in addition to shoulder-­-to-­-shoulder work, they get a lot of face time drawing each other out in conversation, friendship and intimacy.18 Many of you need to work on #3. Through simple communication! My wife and I were a study once… ”How did that mak you feel”? Women do this more naturally. They engage each other about feelings. They stare at each other for hours over coffee pouring out their feelings. I don’t eve naturally do that. We have to be doing something. – I’m reminded of the Brian Regan story in which his wife asks him after he gets home playing golf with a friend who had just broken up with his girlfriend. ”How is he?” ”I guess fine.” Is he datin anybody? I don’t know. How could you play with golf with him for 3 hours and that not come up? How would that come up? ”Hey, good putt… you dating anybody?” Guys, that’s something we need to work on. So try that simple exercise. Both of you, when you get home in the evenings: One statement to your spouse about something that happened that day and how you felt about it. What I do: make a list on EVERNOTE. I blind copy her on a lot of emails. You say, ‘I can see now I made a mistake. I didn’t prioritize friendship in the dating process; I was infatuated with her looks or his earning potential… and my spouse is not my friend.’ Well, you have a lot more in common than you realize. You share a home; maybe kids; if you’re Christians your greatest passion. Leaving, because you feel mismatched, is never a biblical option. You’re going to have to work at whatever friendship you can, and trust God, and you’ll probably find that the results are better than you’d expected. (I’m telling you, the power of God’s grace is amazing.)

3. Marriage is not the only place to experience friendship Remember the first week-marriage is temporary; the church is eternal. In marriage you become ”one body.” What is the other institution in the Bible that is called the body? The church. Don’t miss that. The church is a place that God intended for us to experience cross-­-gendered friendship. You see, when God created Adam and Eve he created them both, but in different ways, in the image of God. He deposited various of his attributes in either gender. We each, male and female, are incomplete without the other, and we long to be united with each other. That happens in marriage for many people. And if you’re single, you long for that too, and God intended you to experience a measure of that in the church. Now, there are limits, of course. Married people fuse together in friendship in ways singles in the church cannot. Obviously. But the church is a place where you get another taste of that coming kingdom of which marriage and family were just a sign: Christ’s relationship to his people. The church is the father to the fatherless. The surrogate, or eternal family for those that are without one in this age. Church = community of friends

4. Beware the marriage counterfeits People sometimes can’t understand why sex outside of marriage is wrong. You actually catch a glimpse of it here. Sex is the ultimate fusion. God designed a vulnerability in sex that would only be safe, at least in this life, within an absolute, exclusive, lifelong covenant. Sex in marriage can tear you apart; certainly outside of marriage. It’s like a glue.

It’s the two genders (God having deposited his attributes in each gender), coming together as an act o oneness. Two different beings; different genders, becoming one, in the midst of a lifelong, exclusive covenant. Sex apart from that is not fully human. Sex outside of a lifelong covenant is physical oneness apar from oneness in other area. It’s separating the soul from the body and having unity in one area but not the others. It’s half human. It’s like zombie sex. Body without soul. Unity of the body without unity of the soul. Homosexual sex is an attempt at physical unity between two genders that are the same. Alisdair MacIntyre: After Virtue said that the way you know if an action is wrong is based on what it was designed for. If I hammer a nail with my watch and it breaks I don’t say, ”Bad watch.” You have to know why God designed sex to know if something is right or wrong… God intended sex and marriage to be between two genders he made opposites, into which he’d deposited the various aspects of his attributes, so that our union would be more of a completion and we would learn to love ”the other” that God had made. That’s why he says homosexuality is sinful. It’s not because God’s not open to variety. But like these other examples, it’s a counterfeit for the real thing that doesn’t serve the full extent of the purposes he has for sex. So beware the substitutes. And you married people beware trying to have friends of the opposite sex who are not your spouse. When you’re married, you shouldn’t have a lot of close friends from the opposite sex. That is only asking for trouble. Many of you men share more of your problems with a girl at work…

FACEBOOK Emotional adultery is having a friend of the opposite gender who is more of a friend to you than your spouse is. WHY YOU DO IT: It’s easy. You don’t have to go through all the pain of someone who sees all of your junk and has to be ”one body” with you. (I once heard about a guy who had a close female friend serve as his best man. Now, I’m not the judge, but, girls, if a guy suggests that in your wedding, I’d suggest you reconsider.)

Conclusion: Friendship is one of the most crucial, but most overlooked, dimensions of marriage. I’ve given you a lot here, but I hope you’ll chew on it.

I’ve given you an activity: Ask each day one thing that happened and how you feel about it. When something gets you emotionally, men, write it down, and share it (something that makes you mad, sad-not about them). My wife loves it when I pull out my little book!

I hope you realize that the pattern and power for all of this is Jesus. Remember the love triangle. Jesus at top. He is literally a fountain of love. He has loved you like you’ve never been loved.

The reason you struggle so much in your marriage is you are not connected to the source; the foundation is not strong; severed from the root

If you reconnect with God, it will do more to fix your marriage than any sermon or seminar.

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About The Author

J.D. Greear, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, is the pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). Two main things characterize The Summit Church: its gospel focus and sending culture. The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity, it's also the pool itself. Joy, reckless generosity, and audacious faith all come by learning more about God's extravagant love found in Christ. God has blessed the Summit Church with tremendous growth. Under J.D.'s leadership, the Summit has grown from a plateaued church of 300 to one of more than 10,000, making it one of Outreach magazine’s “top 25 fastest-growing churches in America” for several years running. J.D. has also led the Summit to further the kingdom of God by pursuing a bold vision to plant one thousand new churches by the year 2050. In the last ten years, the church has sent out more than 300 people to serve on church planting teams, both domestically and internationally. J.D. completed his Ph.D. in Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also a faculty member, writing on the correlations between early church presentations of the gospel and Islamic theology. Having lived serving among Muslims, he has a burden to see them, as well as every nation on earth, come to know and love the salvation of God in Christ. He and his beautiful wife Veronica live in Raleigh, NC and are raising four ridiculously cute kids: Kharis, Alethia, Ryah, and Adon.

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