Last week I wrote a blog post about true friendship, what it means to be a friend Biblically, and whether or not Christians should be friends with non-Christians. I may have stirred up some contention in your minds, and I wanted to clarify what I meant when I said believers shouldn’t be friends with nonbelievers. This example that was given to me has been extremely helpful in understanding where people should stand in their intimacy with me.
First let me say that we live in a day where people and things are invading private space more than ever. Many marriages are breaking up because the children are put in the place of the spouse. Every relationship in our lives has its proper place. It’s when we mess with that pattern that our lives begin to crumble. I hope that this example can clarify some of these things for you, as they have for me.
When I first heard the example of relationships and the temple in Jerusalem, I did some research of my own. I was amazed as I saw how perfectly that design works with the way our lives ought to be:
The Outer Court – the Court of Gentiles
The first layer is where the Gentiles were allowed to enter and fellowship with the Jews. They were not allowed to go any further than that line. As the Jews were separated from the Gentiles, so we are called to be separate from the world. This does not mean that we are never to associate with non-Christians. Please don’t misunderstand me. Jesus ate with sinners, but for a purpose. Paul met and reasoned with sinners, but for a purpose. I think that purpose was two-fold, as exemplified in the temple and in 1 Peter 2:
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
The Gentiles are to be brought in that they might, as in the temple, 1) behold the need for sacrifice and grace and 2) to behold the glory of God within. They are not to be intimate counselors, brought deeper into fellowship in their current state of unbelief; the tension is that we desire them to come in, but in full faith in God. I have seen the ill effects on a Christian when they only have non-Christian friends around them; it leads them to sin, conviction, and guilt, and their witness is tarnished.
The Inner Courts – The Courts of Women and Men
I found it quite interesting that the next court was particularly for the women, since I am a guy. Ladies, for you the next two sections will be the exact opposite. However, as I said before, we live in an age where relationships between men and women, particularly young men and women, are being corrupted. Why? I think it is because this wall of separation has been removed in the name of “equality”. Again, listen closely and don’t misinterpret me: all are in equal need of a Savior and stand in equal grace in Christ, no matter their gender; but in practically everything else, men and women are entirely unequal. Paul commands Timothy to treat “the younger [women] as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). Peter calls women “the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7). Don’t take that as an insult; take it as a compliment. The best way I can think to explain is an analogy a friend of mine gave: men are like cast-iron kettle pots, made for sitting in the heat of the furnace, boiling and brewing and taking the hits; women are like fine china, to be handled with grace and care, to be treated in a refined manner.
As a man, I should never treat a lady like I treat my brothers in Christ. I am to care for my sisters as family, but with a particular tenderness; never flirtatious, never playful or rowdily. I should be open to them as family; but there are some things about me that no woman should ever know, save one (we’ll get to that later). Thus, though they are part of my family in Christ, they are not in the position my brothers are.
The Court of Priests (Family and Deeper Friendships)
As I said earlier, there are some things my sisters will never know about me; but even more there are some things that some brothers will never know that others do. The next chamber in is the Court of Priests. This place is reserved for those who are closest to me: my family, my band of brothers, and eventually, Lord willing, my children. These people have a deeper and more ready access to me than anyone in the previous courts. They know me better than anyone else, either because I’ve lived with them my whole life or because I have grown close to them over time.
Proverbs 17:17 says that “a brother is born for adversity.” Though I said in my last post on friendship that that verse could be retranslated, I love the idea that my older brother is given to me to be a help and a source of strength in time of need. God has given me these particular family members and these particularly deep friendships so that I might be encouraged, edified, and, if necessary, rebuked. When you let people deep into your life, and trust is built, they will likely see your flaws better than you do; thus, though it is true in all relationships, it is especially true in this one that we must be humble and submit ourselves to one another, that we may grow together.
The Holy of Holies – the Most Intimate Place
And now we come to the final chamber. For me, this chamber is currently empty, because it is reserved for one person alone. Of course, my greatest intimacy is to be with God; but in regards to human relationships, there is one person who should take the most intimate spot in my life: my wife. Ephesians 5 gives us a powerful example of what it means to be married, using Christ’s relationship to the church as an example. As a husband, I am to love her, give myself for her, sanctify her, cherish and nourish her. My relationship with her is to be the most intimate, the deepest relationship in my entire life. That’s why Charles Spurgeon called the Song of Solomon the holy of holies of the Bible. When this chamber is defiled by allowing the outside to influence it, that intimacy will be broken and harder to find.
Honestly, this theme of friendships and relationships could be (and has been turned into) a book. The purpose of this is to realign ourselves with God’s pattern, that He might be most glorified. When humanity fell, everything was broken by sin, rebellion, and selfishness. But God can, and has, reversed the effects of sin on the cross of Jesus Christ. He alone is the Friend who has loved so deeply that He gave His life, even to those who hated Him. Allow Him to build your life into His pattern; and if you do not know Him, then give your life to Him this day, for is not the Lamb that was slain worthy to receive the rewards of His sufferings?