Pastor Mark Driscoll of Trinity Church in Arizona has warned that many Christian couples are committing what he describes as "emotional adultery," and said that couples need to remember the importance of friendship in their relationship.
"Friendship is an integral part of a truly Christian marriage and a safeguard against emotional adultery. In our years together we have seen many couples, including pastors and their wives, commit emotional adultery. Emotional adultery is having as your close friend someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse," Driscoll wrote in a blog post alongside his wife, Grace.
"Sadly, too many books and sermons on marriage focus only on the Bible verses about marriage. They should also examine the mountain of Bible verses on friendship because those apply to the most vital human friendship of all with our very best friend, our spouse. The Bible itself weds marriage and friendship. A wife in Song of Songs says, 'This is my beloved, and this is my friend' (5:16)," the post adds.
The Driscolls warned that due to social networking websites, the word "friend" is getting distorted, and it is a mistake to call anyone that is friendly a "friend."
They said that both the husband and wife in a marriage need to invest in being good friends to one another.
"Friendship is costly in everything — time, energy, emotion, and sometimes money. Those who want their spouses to be friends without seeking to be good friends in return are selfish and demanding," they wrote.
"And those who want to be good friends but do not help their spouses reciprocate are prone to be taken advantage of, abused, neglected, and suffer from their marriages."
The pastor and his wife argued that couples must never stop working on their friendship, because at the end "the rest of marriage seems to come together more easily and happily when you are working on it with your friend."
Driscoll has written and spoken on marriage advice numerous times in the past year, though back in September he admitted that he made the mistake of being sexually active before he was married and before he became a Christian.
Speaking in a video in September about the question of marrying non-virgins, the Trinity Church pastor said:
"I was sexually active before I met Grace, she was a Christian, and I was not." Thus, the couple "had to talk and walk through some things" before they decided to get married.
Driscoll argued in the video that despite past mistakes, turning to Jesus frees one from the weight of sin.
"In addition to being forgiven, you are also cleansed. Jesus not only forgives you, he makes you clean," he said at the time.