From Acquaintanceship To Friendship
Shoulder To Shoulder
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Genesis 2:18-24
Sunday 12th May 2013
Today, as part of our Family Convention 2013, ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ we continue on our exploration of the truths and principles that will strengthen our families. Last week, in the message ‘We Are better Together’ we looked at the importance of building healthy marriages, which in turn, result in healthy families and a healthier society and examined the five expressions of synergy. Today, I want to delve deeper into marriage and look at how we can experience God’s best for our marriages; this message is as much relevant to those who are married as it is to those who aspire to enter the institution of marriage; the truths that we will share go to the fundamental core of marriage and will therefore be of importance in preparing you for what God will bring you into.
Genesis 2: 24 says, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’. Although the English translation makes reference to a male leaving his mother and father, the Hebrew text indicates a reference to ‘mankind’ and therefore the principles revealed in this text are equally applicable to both males and females. Here, we can see a number of progressive steps: there is a leaving, a joining (or cleaving) and then oneness. There is a level of oneness to be achieved only by first leaving and then cleaving to your spouse. The instruction to man to leave his mother and father and to cleave to his wife is not simply referring to physical parents but an instruction to leave everything which is representative of the past, including the hurts, the pains and the failures. Many of us are still carrying around the baggage from the past and have not even begun to embark upon the journey of embracing the future. Unless, however you leave the past, you cannot cleave and without cleaving, oneness is unattainable.
It is God’s desire for your marriage to go beyond mere acquaintanceship and into true friendship; the reality however is that many marriages have survived on the most basic superficial level and thus couples have not experienced God’s best. Friendship is the highest level of relationship in marriage; indeed, friendship is the highest level of relationship with God. We are told in Exodus 33: 11, ‘The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.’ Similarly, In Isaiah 41: 8, God described Abraham as His friend and in John 15: 14, we see Jesus referring to His disciples as His friends, ‘You are my friends if you do what I command.’ It is God’s desire therefore in marriage that husband and wife attain not simply acquaintanceship but friendship; this is His plan for marriage. We must be dissatisfied with mere acquaintanceship if we are going to be able to Go Forward shoulder to shoulder. Instead, using the language of Philippians 3, we must press on, leaving behind the elementary and basic as there is so much more ahead to lay hold of.
If we look at what God says about friendship, we can begin to understand more clearly what His desires are for marriage. Proverbs 17:17 says, ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.’ The ability to love at all times is what distinguishes friendship from mere acquaintanceship. What you have entered into covenant, it is on the understanding that there is no-where else to go when things get difficult. A friend never ceases to love, irrespective of the circumstances, whether good, bad or ugly. Friendship speaks of commitment and dependability and support. Proverbs 18: 24 says, ‘A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.’ A true friend sticks, much like a tattoo; a true friend is welded to you. There is a sharing of values, vision and conviction. A true friend feels your pain and celebrates your victories. As you move from acquaintanceship to friendship in your marriage, you will see your spouse as your burden- bearer, the one whom values, forgives and supports you and is entirely truthful to you. Proverbs 27: 17 describes a friend as sharpening the countenance of a friend much in the way that iron sharpens iron. This means that true friendship offers hope, affirmation and encouragement. It is this level of enrichment and fulfilment that awaits us in marriage if we are prepared to go beyond the ordinary and superficial and press in to God’s best. The statement in Genesis 2: 24 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ is repeated a total of 4 times in the bible; it can be found in Matthew 19: 5, Mark 10: 7-8 and Ephesians 5: 31. We can infer from this degree of emphasis that God is imparting to us a truth of great significance: the process of leaving, cleaving in order to attain oneness is the key to achieving His best. Let’s look in more detail at the key components in this process:
To ‘leave’ one’s mother and father in this context we have established is not to be taken merely literally; it does not mean ignoring your parents, forgetting them or withdrawing from your responsibilities to them. It is more representative of the truth that the husband and wife relationship is the priority relationship and that the relationship with your parents and all other relationships must now take the back seat. Without a willingness to leave other relationships, there can be no cleaving; the relationship with your spouse must be your priority. ‘Leaving’ means having a greater regard for your spouse’s opinions and concerns than that of your parents. This need not result in a power-struggle, however it means recognising that your spouse’s concerns rank more highly than that of anyone else. It means being willing to defend your spouse rather than trying to change your spouse in response to your parents’ opinions. ‘Leaving’ means ceasing to be dependent on your parents for financial, emotional or practical support, approval or assistance. There are, unfortunately, many marriages being operated by ‘remote control’, being directed by the opinions of those living many miles away. ‘Leaving’ means, whilst loving and appreciating your parents, understanding that your priority relationship is now that with your spouse.
Whilst we are looking at the process of ‘leaving’, I should address parents as they are key to the success of this process: It should be the goal of parents to prepare their children to be independent of them; training them to leave rather than to stay. The day that your child enters into the marriage covenant and says “I do”, you must accept that your influence over their lives must recede. God’s modus operandi is for them to leave you. You must therefore teach your children to be decision-makers, able to manage their affairs carefully and wisely without your direction. Parents should continue to develop their own marriages and continue to develop friendship with each other rather than becoming too emotionally dependent on their children. It is often the case however that parents have spent the best part of their married lives pouring themselves into their children such that when the children leave the home, they discover that they are strangers. This is why the statistics show an increasing trend of divorces occurring amongst middle-aged people with grown children; although on paper, they may have been married for 40 years, they were in fact strangers, held together only by the presence of the children.
Let’s turn now and look at what is entailed in the process of ‘cleaving’: The Hebrew word used here is indicative of gluing or sticking. Amos 3: 3 says, ‘Can two walk together unless they are in agreement?’ Can you walk shoulder to shoulder unless there is agreement? There must be agreement, a meeting place, a place of communion, a tent of meeting. It is impossible to cleave without agreement. In order to cleave, there must be agreement, a common interest. 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 says, ‘Now many the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.’ Here we can understand that we are a spirit, we have a soul and we live in a body. In order to experience God’s best in marriage, there must be a connection in each of these three distinct realms. Many marriages are operating on nothing more than a physical connection. This is not sufficient. If I am attempting to affix a poster to a surface, the more of the surface area that is glued, the stronger the connection will be. If every point of connection is made in marriage, the stronger the marriage will be, particularly in difficult times. Let’s look at how we can improve connection at each of these key points:
In order to enhance the Physical Connection you must make an effort to find something that you can participate in jointly and enjoy. Be fully involved in raising your children together; husbands, do not leave this to your wife alone –be an active part of your children’s development together. In order to further enhance your physical connection, enjoy your sex-lives together. Sex was made for marriage and therefore you should enjoy this together. Sex, does not start in the evening but can begin the moment that you leave the home, with texts and calls throughout the day. It is important however that you make your wife know that she is respected, honoured and loved.
We hear that the family that prays together stays together; this is true but it is equally true that the family that plays together stays together. Have fun; make jokes; tease each other. In every adult there is an inner child; do not take yourself so seriously that your inner child cannot emerge. Enjoy meals together and enjoy vacations together.
In terms of enhancing your Soul Connection this must be broken down to its component parts as your soul comprises your mind, your emotions and your will. What is the quality of your thoughts regarding your spouse? Do you think the best of your spouse? The bible confirms that we are the sum total of our thoughts; our thoughts therefore translate in to our reality. Philippians 4:8 provides the instruction, ‘Fix your thoughts on whatever is true, and honourable, and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’ This applies as much to marriage as it does in every other context; develop good thoughts about your spouse, seeing her as your helpmeet and friend rather than focusing on her weaknesses.
As regards your connection at an emotional level, it is beyond doubt that God gave us feelings and emotions to enjoy. However, emotions can be both positive and negative and can lead us in a particular direction, which if we are not careful, the enemy can exploit to lead us out of the will of God. For this reason therefore we must be in control of and manage our emotions rather than allowing our emotions control us. We are not supposed to be led by our emotions. It is good to feel joy and happiness and share this with your spouse, allowing this to permeate your marriage; yielding to a desire to cry uncontrollably all day, every day for months on end is an example of being controlled by a negative emotion which will destroy your marriage. Negative emotions must not take ownership of your life however positive emotions will enhance your cleaving together.
Your will represents your decision-making function and therefore develop the habit of including your spouse in your decision-making. Seek your spouse’s input and valuing their opinion also enhances the process of cleaving.
Your Spiritual Connection is key if you are to experience God’s best for your marriage. The spirit is the real you which is connected to God and therefore there must be an altar of worship in your marriage at which you both connect with God. Your role in confessing the counsel of the Lord over your spouse, prayer and intercession results in a connection at a deeper spiritual level.
In conclusion therefore, God desires the highest level of relationship between you and your spouse; true friendship. The true beauty of marriage can never be experienced unless you are prepared to go far beyond the superficial and connect at a far deeper level, beyond mere acquaintanceship and into true friendship. Diamonds are never found simply scattered on the ground; precious stones are only extracted as a result of effort at a deeper level. In order to experience God’s best for your marriage, there needs to be a commitment to ensuring a connection at all levels: the physical, the soul, namely the mind, will and emotions and also the spiritual. As you commit to step out from acquaintanceship to real friendship, may you experience an abundance of rich and satisfying fruit in your marriage – Amen!
Now Apply the Word HERE
Download the PDF of this message HERE