3. Reconcile conflicts. The Bible declares that at one time we were all enemies of God. (Col. 1:21). This work was accomplished because Jesus wanted friendship and relationship with us. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). The cross was the supreme demonstration of His love and offer of friendship.
He could only make this offer by first reconciling us unto Himself by His death. However, His life also proved that He was serious about reconciliation. Scripture tells us that Jesus was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). He befriended those who were the outcasts of society, those that others hated and despised. He even reached out the hand of friendship to those who despised Him. This was His way of life and the example that drew each of us to be His friend.
You must possess the same heart and take the same action of loving reconciliation toward your spouse if you ever want to become friends. Unresolved conflicts greatly destroy marital friendship and intimacy. Each unresolved conflict must be seen as one brick in an imaginary wall that divides your marriage. When you refuse to reconcile each issue you only build the wall that divides you higher and higher.
If this wall-building continues, eventually you will have little or no relationship with each other. Therefore, you must continually seek to reconcile all those issues that you have suppressed or avoided in your relationship. Be assured that the moment you begin to hold resentment and bitterness in your heart, the friendship and intimacy will immediately begin to disappear. This is true in all relationships.
Consider how this works with a co-worker that you are holding resentment toward. When you refuse to reconcile a particular conflict, you can both sense the tension and strain between you. The friendship can’t continue until the conflict is brought out in the open and resolved. This is why Paul encouraged Christians to keep a very short account with each other when conflicts arise. He said, “. . . do not let the sun go down on your wrath . . .” (Eph. 4:26).
Yet, Christian couples commonly violate this principle and refuse to reconcile, allowing issues to go unresolved for days, weeks, months, or even years. Remember, when you go to bed angry, you wake up just as angry the next morning. Wouldn’t it be better to resolve the issue the same day and wake up in the morning with a tender heart instead of a hard one?
Yes, it is difficult to resolve some conflicts. But remember, love and a desire for renewed friendship will always seek reconciliation. So keep working at it! Examine your own heart as to where you have not been a good friend or have failed to be loving. Confess it to your spouse and ask forgiveness. If you want the friendship and romance to grow in your marriage, you must resolve the conflicts.
4. Be responsive to your mate’s requests. This is another essential and important aspect of friendship. Let me illustrate by using a parallel situation. If one of your friends made a request for help with some activity that was very important to him or her, and you refused without a good reason, wouldn’t there be an immediate strain upon your friendship?
Or, if you asked one of your friends to stop a specific action that was offensive to you and he or she would forget over and over again, wouldn’t your friend’s insensitivity aggravate and upset you? If these actions continued, you would begin to assume that this person who asserted to be your friend might not care as much as professed.
Isn’t that what you would conclude? Of course it is. Real friendship means that you listen to the requests made and sacrificially give in order to meet those requests or needs. You would especially try to respond to a request if it was an issue that offended your friend. If you continually refused, you wouldn’t be friends for very long.
Jesus taught this principle of friendship in relation to Himself when He said, “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Our friendship with Christ requires an eagerness to please and is of a much higher order than any human relationship because we are called to obey Him in all things. However, if we were continually disregarding Christ He would obviously question the sincerity of our profession of love.
Similarly, if you desire to build friendship within your marriage relationship, sensitivity to your mate’s requests is fundamental. You must begin to listen to what your spouse is telling you concerning his or her needs and actively seek to respond in a loving way.
What is your partner specifically asking you to do? Is it an offensive behavior that needs to stop, or a caring action that needs to be performed? If these requests are reasonable and biblical, you should seek to sacrificially love and give to your spouse in these areas. This may not be easy, but no one ever said that sacrificial love would be easy. That’s why it’s called sacrificial.