Our culture has set a predictable pattern for beginning relationships today. We are familiar with the routine: we see someone we are attracted to, our eyes meet theirs, we conveniently end up in a conversation with them, we spend a couple of days or weeks flirting until one of us finally admits we’d like to go out, and we start an emotions-led dating relationship in which we always try to present our best side to the other person. Even Christian relationships tend to follow this pattern; the only difference is that we say Jesus Christ is at the center and attempt to prove that fact by praying together, attending church together, and putting a few boundaries around our physical interaction.
But when emotions are leading the way, spiritual oneness cannot be developed. When we are careening along on the unpredictable river of feelings, the current takes control and sweeps us in whatever direction it wants. We are no longer able to allow Christ to be in total control of the relationship. The other dangerous aspect to consider is that emotional oneness – at its peak – desires to be expressed through physical touch. When emotions are allowed to run rampant, physical temptation becomes all the more intense and harder to control.
The great thing about first having a season of Christ-centered friendship is that a spiritual foundation can begin to develop before those emotions ever get in the way. In a friendship, there is not as much temptation to present only our best side to the other person in hopes that they will like us. We are free to simply be ourselves. We are able to see the other person for who they really are – rather than a smoothed-over, third-date version of their real self. In a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, we can tell far more easily if we are on the same page with the other person spiritually by observing his life in an everyday environment, watching how he treats others, listening to the words he says, and noticing where he puts his time and energy. And if something more is going to happen in the relationship, we can allow our spiritual connection to draw us together, rather than mere physical or emotional attraction. Emotional and physical intimacy can be enjoyed at their fullest when spiritual intimacy comes first.*