How did Valentine’s day become “I-need-someone-to-make-much-of-me day”?
The popular idea of love conjures up images of being served and doted on by others. So if you don’t have someone buying you flowers, sending you notes, and telling you you’re awesome on Valentine’s day, it then becomes an excuse to be angry and depressed.
Christian, your view of love should be markedly different than this. The way of love shown to us by Christ is self-sacrifice: considering the needs of others as more important than your own. For us, Valentine’s day should prompt acts of self-sacrifice not thoughts of who might puff us up with praise and compliments.
The Chick Flick Lie
If your ideas of love and romance have been primarily shaped by movies, then you are already at a disadvantage. Almost all romantic comedies portray love as worshiping, or making much of, another person. A man finds his true love, and she becomes the center of his universe as he spends all his energy seeking to make much of her. This is NOT love.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. -1 John 4:10
Love is primarily realized in relationship with God, who though He alone deserves to be made much of, laid aside that right to die in our place and give us access to the Father. This is love.
If anything, for the Christian, a chick flick should prompt you to consider how to love other people. But unfortunately, the common response to these movies is 1. assuming we deserve the right to be treated this way (which we do not), and 2. to mope and complain when we don’t have this kind of fake love.
After the series I recently wrote dealing with codependency in friendship, a few people presented a very natural follow up question: If codependency isn’t ok in friendships, then should it be ok in marriage?
Remember, I’m defining codependency as tying your emotional sense of well-being to another person. To say it another way, it is giving more weight and importance to a person than to God. Assuming this definition, then codependency is NEVER ok. Even in marriage.
Unfortunately, codependency in marriage is an assumed reality for many. The truth is, most of us struggle to believe God is enough for us, so we are continually looking to people to make us feel ok. Because of this, a marriage can become a place where we finally feel like being codependent is acceptable. We hope, like the movies have portrayed, that we can bank on this person to fill the deepest parts of our longings and be the one on whom our general sense of wellbeing rests.
(This post inspired by the song “Prepare Him Room” by Paul Baloche. Check it out here.)
Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her king;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
The birth of Christ never ceases to amaze me. That Jesus would allow Himself to be restrained by a human body, let alone a baby’s body, is an unspeakable wonder.
Jesus, by whom all things were created, for whom all things were created.
Jesus, who holds all things together.
Jesus, the image of the invisible God.
This same Jesus willingly entered the filth of a sin-stained humanity in utter humility.
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords makes His grand entrance onto the globe without the majesty that is due Him. Rather, not regarding His equality with God a thing to be asserted, He emptied Himself, entering our world with nothing. Wrapped in rags, laid to rest among animals, greeted by lowly shepherds. Most of us, welcomed by announcements, baby showers, and gifts, were born with more pomp and ceremony than Jesus.
Why did He come this way? Why not descend to earth as a 30 year old man, coming to preach and then to die for sins? We must understand that Jesus didn’t simply come to pay the penalty of our sins. He came to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves: live a righteous life.
“When we are completely immersed in a society of people who consider a particular idolatrous attachment normal, it becomes almost impossible to discern it for what it is.” –Tim Keller
The culture around us is like a current, gently pushing us along according to its philosophies. Unless we are regularly clinging to the Truth and taking our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Cor 10:5), we will mindlessly drift along with this worldly current. This is why Paul encourages us to “see to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col 2:8)
There is a new trend that seems harmless on the surface, but it is anything but safe: the romanticizing of friendships. Though you may not have noticed this shift, it is very present. Just do a quick search of “best friends” or “BFF” on pinterest or google and here are a few things you will find:
“Friendiversary: anniversaries aren’t just for lovers anymore.”
“20 Best Friend Date Ideas.”
If you’re just jumping into this conversation, I hope you will go back and read the first 4 parts of this series for some context. I’ve been talking about the problem of codependent friendships which are rooted in idolatry and casting a vision for the purpose of Biblical friendship.
STEPS TOWARD FREEDOM
If it is evident that you have been idolizing a person in your life and have become emotionally dependent on them, here are some basic steps you can take to move toward freedom. Please keep in mind that the degree of which these steps are needed is based on how deeply entrenched you are in relational idolatry. For the one who calls her accountability partner too often before talking to God, some simple confession and repentance to another friend may be sufficient. For the one who yearns for spring break to be over so she can cuddle up with her roommate in bed again, these steps are far more important.
It’s also important to remember that different situations call for different things. This is where the wisdom and guidance of others is crucial. For example, even though emotional dependencies can form between two spouses, no form of separation is ever good in a marriage. An emotional dependency on a guy should be treated differently than an emotional dependency on a girl.
1. Be Honest and Repent
Be honest with yourself. Though it is painful to stare our sin in the eye, we can never make it go away by ignoring it. If we refuse to face the reality of our sin, we will only enlarge the consequences and prolong the pain.
Now that we’ve seen what an unhealthy friendship looks like, let’s talk about healthy friendships. To do that, we must start with the purpose of friendship, biblically.
FRIENDSHIP FOR JESUS
“O, who but the Christian feels such pleasures as are connected with friendship for our dear Lord Jesus Christ?” Samuel Pearce
Friendship FOR Jesus. What a sweet thing indeed. As we discuss Biblical Christian friendship, let us remember that like all other things, it is meant to point us to Christ. Unlike the ingrown friendship model of the world, friendship for Jesus looks outside itself to find its purpose. As John Piper has advocated, it is good that we “have a cluster of comrades in the faith with the mutual agreement that you will continually point each other to Jesus Christ for hope and strength.”
By no means exhaustive, below are four specific purposes that friends should serve in our lives.
1. FRIENDS HELP US FULLY ENJOY GOD
“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Eph 5:18-19
Things are best enjoyed in community. Your favorite movie is good when you watch it alone. It’s even better with friends. A great meal is enjoyable. But even more satisfying when you share it with friends. God Himself is a perfect triune community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, as those made in His image, we thrive in community. It is hardwired into us to share our joys with others. The best experiences in life are the ones we try to drag our friends into: “You have to see this movie!” “You have to come with me to this restaurant.”
In the last post, we looked into what the Bible has to say about idolatry. Idolatry is the root of every codependent relationship; it is what’s happening under the surface. Let’s now look at what goes on above the surface.
This sin of idolizing a friend is often called “emotional dependency” or “codependency” in the counseling world. D’Ann Davis from Living Hope ministries describes it this way:
“Most typically, those who struggle with emotional dependency are looking for a super intense, one-on-one relationship with a best friend who will meet all of their needs and will make other relationships unnecessary. A struggler typically loves to fuel all of her need and longing to connect into one person who can be her all-in-all (essentially her idol, or god, little “g”). She will be very entrenched in relational idolatry, whether or not she realizes it. She does not want to waste all of those precious seconds developing a friendship slowly over years; she wants intimacy, NOW, so she exchanges it for intensity.”
Emotional dependency is simply this: when your emotional sense of well-being is dependent on another person. We understand that Biblically this is idolatry, giving more weight and value to a person than to God. By continually looking to a friend to give you the security that only God can give, an emotional dependency forms. This can happen in any relationship: parent-child, husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, or two friends.
Emotional dependencies are harmful when they go one way. But when 2 people are mutually dependent on each other, it is worse. If you idolize a friend, but they don’t reciprocate your feelings, you are usually forced to deal with your insecurities and misplaced hope. When your friend reciprocates those intense feelings of neediness, the emotional dependency often goes unchecked (e.g. “if my friend who loves Jesus thinks this is fine, then it must be fine”). Unfortunately, to the world, a mutually codependent friendship is often just called “best friends.”