A New Kind of Couple: When Best Friends Become Romantic
I love you endlessly.
I can’t live without you.
You’re my other half.
Romance isn’t just for male-female couples anymore. You no longer have to wait for a spouse to enjoy the intimacy of an exclusive relationship. You can find it in your best friend.
Increasingly, statements like the ones above describe not just a spouse or boyfriend, but a best friend. Along with gushy words, other romantic displays of affection are sprouting up in friendships, including among Christians: holding hands, cuddling, sharing beds, celebrating anniversaries, and creating special nicknames. This exaltation of intimacy in friendship can come with some less-than-desirable side effects: jealousy when a new friend enters the picture, fear when that friend is gone, and unnatural physical affection.
Today’s Society Tells a Lie
For years, the media has been selling the lie that our greatest joy is to love someone and be loved in return. Movies, TV shows, books, and magazines all compel you to find the one person who gets you, who is always there for you — the one with whom you belong. Millions have bought the deception and so spend their life searching for “the one.”
Many believers “Christianize” this cultural lie by seeking a godly spouse to satisfy the ache for closeness and belonging. While marriage to a godly man or woman is a good desire worth pursuing, it cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our hungry hearts.
Others believe the lie and, not having a spouse, try to find that love in friendship. Finally, I found someone who gets me, the one with whom I belong: my BFF. But friendship also cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our hungry hearts.
At the root of this lie is a craving for intimacy that we don’t believe God can satisfy. Our unbelief produces a desire to savor every drop of closeness available to us through the people around us.
Created for Community
Since the serpent first opened his mouth in the garden, he’s been trying to convince us that God is not enough for us: You’re missing out. God’s holding out on you (Genesis 3:1–6). And since then, every one of us struggles against the temptation to look to God’s creation, instead of to God himself, for satisfaction. The temptation often comes in the form of people. Husbands, children, and friends all seem more necessary to us at times than God.
Please don’t misunderstand me: God created us for community. We desperately need healthy, intimate, godly friends. Truly it is not good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18). But when we elevate any good, even necessary, gift above the Giver, we run away from lasting happiness, not toward it.
Moses warns us, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). We need food, but not more than we need God. He created us to need food and water and friends to point us to himself, the bread of life and the fountain of living waters and the friend of sinners (John 6:35; Jeremiah 2:13; Matthew 11:19).
Yes, we need the community of other people, we need the church, but never more than God himself. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8). God created us to be in community to point us to himself. Healthy Christian friendship functions as a signpost, not a stop sign. It urges us to run hard after the One our souls were made for.
Friendship Falls Short
Friendship (and marriage, for that matter) was never meant to be our final refuge, but to point us to the One who is. So, when a friendship becomes our stabilizer, our safe haven, and our felt peace, it has lost its ability to serve our real security, our real happiness, and our real peace. It has become an idol.
Unfortunately, many Christians don’t have a category for a sinful friendship, especially a same-sex friendship. This false sense of security is the reason many have walked into enslaving idolatry without a second thought: they assumed a Christian friend could never be an idol. On top of that, this kind of dependency in friendship is common and culturally acceptable. A best friend can become a god — a functional savior who rescues you from all the hardships and frustrations in life. And very few call it sin.
Only Place for Romance
Paul warns us in Romans 1 that where idolatry exists, perversion is not far behind. Perversion is simply the distortion of something good from its original, intended purpose. And romantic expression in friendship is one such distortion. It has no place in a friendship because romance, by its very nature, is exclusive, and friendship is never to be exclusive.
The Bible is clear that marriages alone are to be exclusive, binding, and possessive — “you belong to me” (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 7:4, 39). No other relationship gets the title of “one flesh,” or the permission to cultivate ownership (this is my spouse). Therefore, no other relationship is designed to handle the romantic celebration of exclusive love.
We all need friends who stick closer than a brother, who will be there for us in good and bad times, but to treat a friendship with the weight, exclusivity, and ownership of a marriage brings serious dangers. In just a moment, things can go from seemingly safe and good to horribly bad and harmful.
Friendship for Jesus
A friendship that celebrates its own exclusivity and intimacy distorts friendship’s purpose — from companionship for the glory and enjoyment of God to companionship for the glory and enjoyment of each other. The result is an ingrown friendship where personal neediness sits in the driver’s seat, instead of sacrificial love. As soon as you need your friend in order to be happy, you lose the ability to truly love her.
Over long periods of time, this type of friendship can lead to addictive dependencies, debilitating despair when something interferes with the friendship, and unnatural sexual attraction or interaction. These are all distortions of God’s intended purpose for friendship, community, and love, and they will not make us happy in the long run.
Unlike the BFF models in the world, biblical friendship looks outside itself to find its purpose. And like everything else, that purpose should be the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Resolve today to be a friend who leaves exclusivity and romance for marriage, who consistently pushes others toward Christ and not yourself, and who finds your refuge in God, not in friends.
Originally posted on DesiringGod.org.