Marriage or Friendship?

Touchstone, January-February 2012, with Gregory J. Mansour.

No one should be against true friendship, whether friends are of the same sex or opposite sexes. Friendships are good, and they can be very deep and fulfilling. The ideal of friendship as a union of hearts and minds in which each one loves the other’s good as his or her own is beautifully exemplified in the friendship of David and Jonathan: “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:1).

Likewise, friendship was hardly absent from the life of our Lord. Jesus taught the value of ultimate sacrifice in terms of friendship (John 15:13); he wept over the death of his dear friend Lazarus (John 11:35); revealed his innermost self to his apostles in order to transform them from servants into friends (John 15:15); brought Peter, James, and John closer to him than the others (Matt. 17:1;Mark 9:2;Luke 9:28); and was closest of all to the “beloved disciple,” who reclined on his chest at the last supper (John 13:23).

Friendship, however, must not be confused with marriage. While friendships are unions of hearts and minds, marriage by its nature unites hearts, minds,andbodies. While friendships come in different degrees and kinds of commitment, marriage calls for a permanent and exclusive commitment as well as sexual complementarity. While friendships can be shaped by a variety of pursuits, marriage is naturally fulfilled by, and provides the best possible context for, the conception, care, and upbringing of children….