Single Friendships - Sihol Gianito Situmorang

Most people are after the gift of marriage. Very few accept the gift of singleness (honestly, most think it's a curse). Nevertheless, even fewer appreciate the gift of friendship. I personally think friendship is the most under appreciated gift both by single and married people. Heck, just like singleness I think most people do not even consider it a gift. We take it for granted.

Are you two together?
No, we're 'just friends'.

That's really what we feel about our friends most of the time. Just friends. It's a lesser status to 'being together' somehow. We have lost the gift of godly friendship where friends are not 'just friends', where friends are not just the people you hang out with, but people whom you love 'passionately' and you actually become one with. Somehow sexual/romantic relationship has gotten a higher status. We think such passionate love is only reserved for sexual/romantic relationship. Hence, in this romantic age where emotions are worshiped, we think that the gift of marriage is the most spectacular gift of all. However, this is not true. Just read the Bible and you will see that the deepest relationships portrayed are actually not sexual/romantic/marital but friendship/brotherhood. David and Jonathan. Ruth and Naomi. Abraham and Lot. Elijah and Elisha. Jesus and His disciples, especially the disciple whom Jesus loved. Paul and Timothy. They're not 'just friends'. They're godly friends. There's only a handful of verses on marriage but there's a myriad of verses on friendship because...

It's not just singles that need friendship. Married people need friendship as well. If you're not friends with your spouse, your marriage will most likely be bland at best and hellish at worst. It's not marriage that makes your friendship better, it's your friendship that makes your marriage better. Think about this, what is the best thing you can say about your spouse? "I married my best friend", right? Perhaps because people do not know how to be godly friends with other people in the first place, they end up not knowing how to be godly friends with their spouse. They just know how to be 'just friends'.

Moreover, you don't just need friendship with your spouse but you also need friendship with other people as well. David was married. Jonathan was married. Ruth was married. Abraham was married. Lot was married. We were not designed to be with just one person forever. If that was the case, then Adam and Eve would not need to procreate. The idea of marriage was never mainly about being with that one person forever because marriage is NOT forever (Matthew 22:30) and honestly you do not need marriage to do that. It was always about physically expanding God's family (Genesis 9:7) and giving the offspring the stable godly environment.

Now I'm not saying that we can't have one or more friends whom we love or prefer more than other friends. Of course, we will have one or more friends who are closer to us than other friends. That is normal. Even Jesus had only one disciple referred as "the disciple whom He loved" and only three disciples closest to Him whom He brought to pray with at the garden. Ideally, your spouse should be your best friend but even if your spouse is your best friend, you still need friendship with other people. Your spouse can't be your everything because your spouse is only an imperfect human being. Your spouse can't meet all your desire or need. Only God can. A husband still needs male friends because there are just some things that no woman can give that only male peers can and vice versa. I think many marriages have become strained because of the lack of friendship and unrealistic expectation of putting the entire burden on just one imperfect person. Hence, even though marriage may not be for everyone (Matthew 19:12), everyone needs friendship, including married people.

Especially as Christians, we desperately need friendship in the church. Nowadays, people go to church and they see 'familiar faces'. But that's all they're familiar with, the faces. They don't know what their brothers and sisters are dealing or struggling with. They don't know what their joy and passion in life are. Our fellowship has become nothing but a ritual visit or a worship concert (I can't decide which one is worse!). Rarely do we go beyond that. No wonder the body of Christ often does not function properly.

While marriage is all about making vows, which is conditional, friendship is not always about that and friends are not related by blood. And that's exactly what makes friendship so great! You're not bound to this person by any vow or familial tie and yet you are willing to go through thick and thin with this person. However, there is such a thing as covenant friendship. We see this over and over in the Bible.

And Elijah said to Elisha, 'Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Bethel.' But Elisha replied, 'As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you!' So they went down together to Bethel. (2 Kings 2:2)

After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David. From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home. And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself. (1 Samuel 18:1-3)

So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD call David's enemies to account." And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself. (1 Samuel 20:16-17)

But Ruth replied, 'Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me. (Ruth 1:16-17)

Hence even making covenant or vows was not exclusive to marital relationship. These people were not 'just friends' but they were covenant friends. They stuck together until the end. Ruth was basically giving the 'til-death-do-us-part vow to Naomi. I guess it's not only for married people. And before you say anything, no, they're not lesbians. Naomi told Ruth to marry Boaz and she did eventually. So, making vows between friends should not keep them from getting married. It has nothing to do with that

Godly friendship involves a lot of affection. But no thanks to the sexual revolution, these days people can no longer distinguish between affectional intimacy and sexual intimacy. Nowadays any intimacy is considered sexual and this hurts friendship, especially between men! Oddly, in the past (and fortunately still is in some culture today) affectional intimacy among friends was the norm but now we see two guys rubbing noses and immediately we think "gay!" Not so, rubbing noses is just an expression of affection and respect. They're actually not gay, yo!

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. (2 Samuel 1:26)

This is NOT gay. This is what godly friendship looks like. Free your mind from preconceived ideas of modern sexuality that is nothing but modern societal norm.

After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together--but David wept the most. (1 Samuel 20:41)

The background story is David had to leave Jonathan and the palace because Saul wanted to kill David. Therefore, David and Jonathan had to meet in secret for David's sake. They kissed each other not because they were a sexual a couple, no, but simply because they missed each other so much. And so, this kind of affection and longing is again not reserved only for married couples. Again, sorry to disappoint some of you but this is NOT homosexuality. This is godly friendship.

I (Paul) am sending him (Onesimus)--who is my very heart--back to you. (Philemon 1:12)

I imagine if I said this about a friend whom I love most, people would start accusing of me being gay. Mi corazon, amore, love, etc., today all these verbal expressions of affection are reserved only for married couples but funny, in the Bible there is no such regulation. These limitations that modern society has imposed on us have really hurt friendship, especially between male friends. Our friendship becomes bland and shallow. We are led to believe that passionate relationship is reserved only for sexual/romantic/marital relationship. Men especially are led to believe friendship with other men must be void of emotions/affection and consist nothing but superficial things like sport or competition. I'm glad the Bible is there to show us quite the opposite!

Whenever I hear lyrics like "I'd die for you, everything I do, I do it for you", it's always directed towards sexual/romantic/spousal partners. But that's so funny because in the Bible, it is not like that at all. Thank God!

No one has greater love than this - that one lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Jesus did not say that the greatest love is that one lays down his life for his wife, no, but for his friends. Moreover, of course, ideally, our spouse should be our (best) friend and so we should be willing to die for our spouse but the idea here is that it's about friendship, not marriage. If you're not friends with your spouse, I doubt you will be willing to die for your spouse. However, true friends they lay down their life for their friends and you do not need to get married to attain this depth of friendship. I will repeat, it's not marriage that makes your friendship better. It's your friendship that makes your marriage better.

Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you." (1 Samuel 20:4)

Sounds familiar? If you didn't know the context, you'd probably think it was a line from a "love" song for romantic/sexual couples. But fortunately it's not. This is what godly friendship should be like. This is the kind of friendship Christians are lacking. It's a friendship to die for and it's not just all emotions and words. It's also about action. Jonathan actually risked his life twice for David. It was not one of David's many wives that risked life for him, it was Jonathan. And no, they are not a gay couple but they're not 'just friends' either. They are godly friends. Wow. Isn't that weird? Everything we have believed about relationship is being turned upside-down.

Romantic films and "love" songs have blown up sexual/romantic relationship so much that it has become an idol. It's hurting people. Many people feel pressured to get married otherwise they're "missing" something. And sadly this belief has crept into the body of Christ. A friend of mine actually felt pressured to start dating a girl because genuinely concerned Christians continuously encouraged, no sorry, I mean... PUSHED him to do it thinking he should do that in order to experience the fulfilled Christian life. But this is not true. Marriage cannot heal homosexuality because often (not always) homosexuality is caused by a deficit of same gender love and no woman can give you the fatherly or the masculine love that you long for. We put marriage in a pedestal and we often use the Bible to do that. Let's put marriage back where it belongs.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25)

Do you know that the commandment to love like Christ is not only for husbands but to all disciples?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

Or what about this?

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:28)

That's not exclusive to husband and wife either. The commandment to love someone else as ourselves is for every disciple.

And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:39)

Even Jonathan loved David as himself, their souls were knit together, and yet they were not married to each other. You see, in the Bible marriage is not the most significant human relationship or this over the top romanticized relationship. Marriage is just a type or relationship. Marriage is different than friendship because marriage usually entails wedding celebration, sexual intercourse and the creation of family. But other than that, the friendship between husband and wife itself is no different than that of two friends regardless of the gender. The only problem is that we have forgotten the art of godly friendship and idolize the romanticized marriage. We exchange godly friendship for Disney/Hollywood tales.

Marriage is a great way to show God's love for His people and it's sad that many married couples do quite the opposite. However, marriage is not the only way to point people to God's love. God uses so many different types of relationship to portray the relationship He desires to have with us, brothers (Hebrews 2:11), friends (John 15:14), Father-child (Matthew 6:9), and even Master-servant. Every relationship SHOULD point to God because God is relational. The idea that two men (or two women) cannot portray the relationship God has with His people is simply untrue. Two men CAN portray the relationship God has with His people but just NOT through marriage, rather through brotherhood or friendship or Father-son relationship. The relationship David and Jonathan had also reflected true love (John 15:13). Jonathan was willing to lay down his life for David just like Christ was willing to lay down His for His church. Oddly none of David's many wives was willing to do that.

So what is the point I'm trying to make? By any means, I'm not against marriage. By God's grace, He has used me to save a friend's marriage. I want people to have a godly marriage. What I am saying is... First, do not idolize the romanticized marriage. Marriage is not the goal in life. It is not the be all and end all. It is not superior to friendship. Second, being single won't be synonymous with being alone or lonely if we just learn to appreciate the gift of friendship. Be the friend you want people to be to you (Luke 6:31). Last, let's learn to appreciate God's gifts equally. Moreover, most importantly let's learn to love the giver, God, more than the gift! He is the most spectacular gift!