You may know how the urban dictionary defines “friends with benefits” but true friendship brings the greatest benefit. Your spouse was designed to be your truest and most intimate friend with signifiant benefits.
“This is my lover, this my friend…” (Song 5:16 NIV)
You may know how the urban dictionary defines “friends with benefits” but true friendship brings the greatest benefit. All true friends should be friends with benefits. Here is a few quotes about friendship:
True friends stab you in the front.
A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.
OK, so which one is it? I assume that if a true friend stabs you in the front, it is because he is not going to give you total freedom to be yourself. What do you want in a friend – I mean a real friend? Do you want someone you can trust with your very soul or do you just want a buddy to go to the game with? Do you want someone who will tell you like it is or do you want someone who doesn’t care about your life and choices as long as you go to the game with him? One of my favorite people, Rich Mullins, said:
“What I look for in a friendship is someone who will beat you up. You get in a big fight and then the winner rides the other guy home on the bike.”
I think as we get older we become much pickier about who we call a friend. When we are young we have lots of friends. But as we get older and wiser we learn that a true friend is a very rare thing. Sure — you may have 400 friends on facebook, and all 400 may know exactly what you ate for dinner (because they saw a picture of it), but they don’t know you. They might be more like a Jim Morrison kind of friend. They don’t really care what you ate for dinner because they give you the freedom to eat and tweet whatever you want. But a true friend is the Oscar Wild kind of friend – someone you trust enough to give them a knife and say, “I give you permission to cut me when and where I need to be cut.”
May I suggest that your spouse was designed to be your best friend? She’s a real friend. He’s a true friend. The kind of friend who has a knife and the permission to cut you. Last week we talked about fighting in and for your marriage. And I agree with Rich that real friends fight and true friendship is not hindered by the fight, in fact it improves because of the fight.
Tonight I’d like to convince you to allow your spouse to be your best friend – your closest companion. And then I want to prove that with that friendship comes the ultimate benefit. The title of tonight’s message is “Friends with Benefits”. There are two points – friendship and the benefits of friendship.
First, let’s look at the definition of friendship. As mentioned earlier the word friend is something that we could throw around quite loosely but deep down inside we all know that true friendship is a rare find. Let’s look at what the Bible says about friendship.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. (Proverbs 27:9)
It’s clear from these passages that the definition of a friend is someone who is there for you through thick and thin (loves at all times and sticks closer than a brother), it is someone who calls you to the carpet (Faithful are the wounds of a friend and sweetness comes from his ernest council). A friend is someone who is dependable and yet also sharpens you – make you better. A friend counsels you and speaks the kind of truth that hurts.
I wonder, do you have a friend like that? It has been my experience that most people do not. We may have several “friends” but I am confident that most people do not have even one real friend. I have asked a lot of my “friends” if they have a friend like that – and most all of them have agreed that true friends are a rare find. For instance, if I want to play golf I have a handful of friends that I can text or tweet and hopefully find someone who is available to play golf. If I want to go out for beer I could ‘grab some buds’ – and if I happened on a pair of tickets to a Cards game I’m pretty sure I could find someone to join me. But, when it comes to this kind of friendship, I can honestly say that in my life I have had just under a few.
Honestly, I think this is very sad. Incidentally, that is precisely why we all hunger for community – and that is why community is at the center of our mission here at MISSIODEI. People long for friendship. We were created for friendship.
So how should we define a true friend? From these passages in Proverbs it is clear that finding friendship isn’t just about finding someone who likes the same baseball team as you – or someone who agrees with you politically or musically. In fact, it sounds like friendship is hard. It takes work. It takes courage. It takes tenacity. A friend is some one who cares enough to give earnest counsel. Look at this famous passage. Proverbs 27:17 is often quoted when talking about true friendship:
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (ESV)
As iron sharpens iron, so friend sharpens friend” (NET)
Literally, in Hebrew, it sounds like this.
“Iron by iron is sharpened, And a man sharpens the face of his friend.” (YLT)
Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (KJV)
What does that even mean!? It means that a friend is just like a sharp sword. The blade of a sword is often called the face. As it rubs against another face, it sharpens it. A true friend, knows you well enough to be face to face and while being face to face, sharpens your face – or your persona – or your countenance. I real friend changes you and is also changed by you. By definition, you can see why it would be a benefit to have a friend like this. A real friend is in fact – a friend with benefits.
Do you agree with the statement that a true friend is a rare find. Why do you think that is? IS there any hope in changing that?
So now that we have, at least a decent definition of friendship (I say decent because we don’t have the time to talk about friendship with God, or to dig into the fact that Jesus intentionally calls us his friends, or even to discuss that the Trinity, and therefore the imago dei, is rooted in a deep theological understanding of friendship. Friendship is huge – theologically speaking – despite the fact that we have turned it into something shallow and almost meaningless.) Nevertheless, now that we have a good working definition, it is time to turn now and look at our passage on marriage. What does Ephesians 5 teach us about friendship in marriage?
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5
THE BENEFITS OF FRIENDSHIP
As I mentioned before, I want to convince you to make your spouse your best friend – your compadre. Ask yourself this question, “Is my spouse my friend?” Have you given him the knife? Have you given her permission to stab you in the front?
Last week we discussed that one of the primary ways to save your marriage from stupid and fruitless arguments is to fight for the “we” instead of the “me”. Today I want to take that a step further. What if, on top of fighting for the “we” and as part as fighting for the “we”, you fought also to make your spouse the best he/she can be. What if you fought for the “he” or for the “she”. You’re no longer fighting for the “me”, instead your always looking out for and protecting the “we” while at the same time fighting to make the she/he the best version of the she/he – she/he can be.
Look at what Paul says, “He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own body, but nourishes and cherishes it.” So, therefore, ergo — take care of your spouse. In Genesis God gave the man a companion to be his spouse. When God presented Eve to Adam the first thing out of his mouth was a soul song written by Etta James – “AT LAST!”
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23)
The female speaker in Song of Solomon echoes Adam when she says, “This is my lover, this is my friend” (5:16).” Timothy Keller explains that through all this poetry Adam is really saying:
“At Last! Love you? Are you kidding me? I am you! We are the same.” Keller
Just as a true friend sharpens the face of his true friend, so a spouse should sharpen, wash, and sanctify the other. To put it simply, the purpose of marriage is to be in a relationship with someone who will make you better. Marriage is a sacrament. It is a sanctifying relationship between two friends who sharpen each other. Marriage is a covenant between 2 friends – friends with benefits!
“Marriage by its very nature has the “power of truth”—the power to show you the truth about who you are. People are appalled when they get sharp, far-reaching criticisms from their spouses. They immediately begin to think they married the wrong person. But you must realize that it isn’t ultimately your spouse who is exposing the sinfulness of your heart—it’s marriage itself.” Keller
Now I need to be clear about one thing. Your are not helping your spouse to become your best version of him/her (that would just cause all sorts of new problems), instead you are helping him/her become God’s best version. The mystery of marriage is that it looks like the Gospel. Marriage is a picture of Jesus who gave his life for you and even now is changing you from one degree of glory to another. In the same way, we give our lives to our spouse and through that intimate friendship we are sharpening and encouraging and helping them to look more like Christ. Or as Keller put it, “their glory self”.
“Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It 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!’” Keller, Timothy
Now – for those scholars in the room, I should say that I am fully aware that in this passage here in Ephesians the command to love your spouse as your own body is directed at the husband. However, because Paul is using the body metaphor, which is a metaphor he frequently aims at the church, it is clear that he is intentionally making a comparison between marriage and the church. He states that implicitly. The church is a circle of friends who love, sharpen and serve each other towards Christ. In the same way, a marriage is a union between 2 friends who love, sharpen and serve each other toward Christ. We’ll look at more of that next week when we take an exegetical look at submission and love. But for now I want to say that marriage itself is a sanctifying institution. It is the job of both friends to sharpen the other. It is not just the husband job to sanctify. Remember she is his help-mate. She is helping him to become his glory-self, and he is washing and presenting her spotless.
All you really need to do is stop to think about that for a moment. Most men will tell you they are where they are today because of their wife. It is often said that behind every great man is a great woman. I once heard a story about President George W. Bush and his wife Laura. They were driving in the Texas countryside when they came to Midland, where the president stopped for gas. It turned out that the gas station attendant was a former high school boyfriend of Laura’s. Driving away from the gas station George turned to his wife and said: “Ain’t that odd Laura? If you had married that guy you would be the wife of a gas station attendant instead of the wife of the president.” “No, George dear. If I had married him he would be the president of the United states of America”, the First Lady replied.
On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate your marriage as friendship with benefits? What might you change in order to begin helping your spouse toward her/his glory-self?
So let’s get practical for a minute or two. I can imagine some couples sitting hear right now making a list of things their spouse needs to start working on. Yes, I want to help him reach his glory-self, so when we get home, no wait — when we get in the car, I’m going to tell him X, Y, and Z. In fact, better yet, I’m just gonna give him my list. Please DO NOT DO THAT. Instead think of it in term of serving. Just like the church. The church is a body, of hands and feet – and Paul says this body works together to serve one another and to serve others. So the hands serve and the feet serve along side – and remember the hand isn’t better than the foot – and so on and so on. See also 1 Corinthians. So, think of your role in helping your spouse to their glory-self as a serving role. Ask yourself, “How can I better serve my spouse so that he/she can better serve Jesus.” Let me offer a few practical applications.
Talk to Your Spouse
Real friends talk – and talking is a two way street. You need to tell your spouse stuff. You have got to let them in. This is why I keep encouraging you to let your spouse be your friend. Let him in. Tell her your feelings. A friend can not help you, if a friend does not know you. Your spouse may know a lot about you, but does she know you. You can trust her. C. S. Lewis, when talking about the difference between sexual love and friendship love said;
Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities. C. S. Lewis
Sometimes we think that because we live together, and sleep together and eat together that we also know everything about our spouse. That’s boring. We think the mystery is gone, but that is not true. Don’t you believe that for a second. The mystery is gone because you don’t talk to your spouse. Learn the art of asking good questions. You know, like you did when you were dating. Ask him, “Honey what is the one thing you want to be remembered for when you die?” You might be surprised with the answer. You may thing you already know the answer, but it could have changed. Ask her, “Baby, is there anything you would change about our marriage or our home?” That’s a scary question. Ask your spouse about their dreams and fears. Talk. Just talk. Be friends who talk.
Serve Your Spouse
Once you know some the answers to questions like that, next you need to serve them. Help him pursue those dreams – help her accomplish those goals – help your spouse overcome those fears. Now, this is the application section of tonight’s message so let me give a clear application. This week I want each of you to ask your spouse this question;
“What one thing can I do for you in the next few days to ensure that you have an awesome week? Give me one thing I can do for you.”
It will probably be something simple. My wife said, “Give me 30 minutes a day to go for a walk. I just want to get out of the house, be alone, get some exercise, think and pray.” When she said that – I almost started to cry. “That’s all you want – shoot! I can do that- I want to do that.”
So there is a real simple and easy application for this week. But beyond that – don’t forget about those dreams and goals and fears too. I am a firm believer that God wired us the way he did for a purpose. For instance, my wife is an artist. God gave her those gifts. So I am often thinking about how I can encourage and make space for your to use and play in those gifts. One Christmas I made her an easel and bought a bunch a paint and canvases. I want to push her toward her glory-self and I truly believe that art has something to do with that.
Don’t get trapped into think legalistically about the glory self. It’s too easy, and far too simple if you ask me, just to immediately think that the first thing you need to do is encourage your spouse to have a quiet time. That may be what he/she needs but that is easy. Anyone can do that for your spouse – you are her husband – you can do more than that. Help her accomplish her dreams.
Speak Into Their Soul
There is this lingo we use in church circles. You may hear someone say, “He spoke into my life.” or “I need some one to speak into my life.” Maybe you’ve heard people talk like that. What we mean when we talk like that is that there are times (whether intentional or not) that we say something that the person we are talking to will never forget. When that happens we say, “He spoke into my life.” As a youth pastor for 20 years I have experienced this. I have heard stories from former teenagers tell me, “You said this and that totally changed the course of my life.” Most of the time I don’t even remember having said it.
Now I am sure you know what I am talking about because there have been people who have spoken into your life. In fact all of us have these words that echo in our hearts of something someone once said about us. Sometimes those things are negative. Maybe someone told you were lazy, or selfish, or ugly. If you are anything like me – you probably have hard time forgetting those things and you have probably started to believe them as true.
Now. Here is what is so fascinating about marriage. Your spouse has the power to change all of that. She has the ability to reprogram those words. For instance, let’s say the husband has this fear that he is a wimp. He heard that growing up, his dad always tried to make a man out of him and all he heard was “I am not manly enough”. Then he gets married and she starts bragging about how courageous he is. How he stands firm and works hard. She starts to call him her knight in shining armor, her cowboy. And do you know what happens? Well — he starts to believe it. No longer does he hear the taunts of the high school bullies, now he only hears his wife saying, “Baby, you are more man than those guys could ever be.”
That will change his life! Oh man this is powerful stuff. You have the power to speak into your spouses very soul. Do it. Encourage her. Tell her she is beautiful. Tell her she is smart. Tell him he is courages. Tell him he’s magnificent. Give your spouse the confidence to accomplish their biggest dreams and conquer their ugliest fears.
Now I need to say this too. You do have the power to reprogram their self image, so — be very careful what you say because the opposite is also true. Everyone in town my say tell my wife she is beautiful, (they better not…) but if I don’t say it – well she start to think she is not. Im telling you, you have power. Use it to benefit your friend.
Can you imagine it? What if your spouse was your friend? What if she was the kind of friend who took pleasure in serving you. What if it was his greatest ambition to encourage you? Can you imagine what that marriage would look like? Who doesn’t want a marriage like that?
JESUS, A FRIEND WITH BENEFITS
Let me close by telling you about Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate friend with benefits. He has found great pleasure in serving you. He literally made it his ambition to encourage you to shine! He is right now making you the very best that you can be. He is washing you, and taking away the wrinkles and the blemishes. He is grooming you to presented to God. And he does this because he loves you. He is your husband and your friend.
Listen to what he told his disciples. Listen to the kinds of words he uses. Listen to how he talks about those people who are followers of Jesus. Jesus said;
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:13-16, ESV)
No longer do I cal you servants, even though we al strive to be a servant of Christ – as we should – but no longer do I call you such – Jesus says. Instead I want you to know that you are my friends. Why, because I have talked to you. I have told you everything. I have told you what’s on my heart, and all that the Father has told me. Because you are my friend, I want to speak into your life. I want you to know that I chose you. I wanted you. Do you hear that. I think your special. You have worth to me. I chose you. I know that you are going to succeed. The fruit of your labor will last. And because you are my friend I will serve you. Ask me anything in my fathers name and its done.
Jesus is the ultimate friend with benefits. And the bible teaches that your marriage should like like that.
Ecc 4:9-12 – read at weddings????
1- better results from toil
2- pick up – help in time in need
3- comfort in the cold hard nights of life
4- strength in numbers
** #1 ** They help each other
Historically and theologically the concept of friendship is rooted in the doctrine of the trinity. Aquinas, Augustine, Barth, Multmann, each approach friendship from the imago dei. What do I mean by that? The bible teaches that we are all created in the image (imago) of God (dei). Which means that we were made to look like him. We were made to reflect his character and personality. God is 3 in 1, which means that each of these distinct persons relate in a very intra-personal way. Since we were created in that image we were all made to relate to others through friendship.
Let me say this, the theology of friendship is ginormous. Please don’t think that I am making some stretch here just to make friendship seem like a bigger deal than it really is. That is exactly why true friendship is so rare. Because we have stopped seeing it as the big deal that it is. In a nut shell – friendship is a powerful theological concept and we can never understand God until we understand friendship. Friendship is theological. It is rooted in who God is. And all that theology gets summed up on the cross. That is precisely why Jesus chose the term friend when he taught about his love for us.
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from the Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13–15).
He laid down his life so that we might be reconciled to god. Which means we were once enemies of god, but now we are intimate friends. “Friend,” argues Moltmann, should become one of the church’s titles for Jesus alongside “prophet,” “priest” and “king” and the Church should again become the friends of Jesus as well as the communion of saints.”
Moving on in this theological picture of friendship we come now to the church. The church is a community of friends. this is why you may have seen chruches and universities with friend in the title. Friends univiersity, etccc. a circle of freinds – who work together as one. We are one body, with hands and feet and legs etc…
Now i want to add, im not suggesting that iu not have other friends. I want us all to be friends. Ral friends. And we all need to grab some buds. If ou catch my drifft. Our marraiges will benefit aswell from the friendships we have with others. We must
Paul uses the same body metaphor to talk about the circle of friends in the church as he does to talk about the husband and the wife. Now, what is fascinating about the way Paul uses this illustration is that it is all connected. What happens because of the gospel and what happens in the church is the same thing that happens between a man and a woman in marriage. Let me unpack that statement. First the gospel. Through the gospel god has made us who were once enemies, once hostile toward god, close. He has drawn us near. He has made us his friend. He is the friend if sinners. And as our friends, he is making us holy. We are changing from one degree of holiness to another. Second, the church. The church is now called his body. We are a circle of friends who together make up his body. He is our friend and we submit to him, not because he demands it, but because we are his friends. We submit to christ as the head and he cares for his body by sanctifying her (the church). Finally in marriage the exact same is true. The wife and the husband are friends. She submits to him, not because he demands it, but because he is her friend. And he sanctifies her as his own body.