After yesterday’s brief review of The Meaning of Marriage, today I will go through the first half in more detail:
In Chapter 1: The Secret of Marriage, Keller states that secret of marriage is the gospel, for the gospel helps us to understand marriage and marriage helps us to understand the gospel. It is through the gospel that we find the power and the pattern for marriage:
God’s saving love in Christ...is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. (p48)
The truth and love combined in the gospel gives us the power and the knowledge of how to be married.
It is true that marriage is hard work, but it is worth it:
Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. (p21)
Keller also deals with a very helpful misconception in this chapter: the idea that we have to find our soul mate, the perfect person to marry. No, he says, we never marry the ‘right person’. For 2 reasons: we change throughout our lives and we are sinful.
In Chapter 2: The Power for Marriage, Keller unpacks the idea that is in the Holy Spirit who helps us to have the power for marriage, working against the main enemy of marriage – the sinful self-centredness of our hearts.
Only if you have the ministry of the Spirit in your life will you be fully furnished to face the challenges of marriage in general. And only if you are filled with the Spirit will you have all you need to perform the duty of serving your spouse in particular. (p52-3)
He challenges us to look at the reasons for issues in a marriage:
When facing any problem in marriage, the first thing you look for at the base of it is, in some measure, self-centredness and an unwillingness to serve or minister to the other. (p59)
Making it a priority to know, fear and serve the Lord Jesus gives us power and strength for this type of marriage and helps us to continue to want to serve the other and let go of our self-centredness.
I found this chapter particularly helpful in thinking through where many issues in marriage come from – our desire to put ourselves first, rather than serve first.
Chapter 3: The Essence of Marriage helps us to consider what is at the centre of marriage – love. But so much more than that – a covenantal love. A love that is a promise and a commitment, a love that promises to last the future, not just the present.
When the Bible speaks of love, it measures it primarily not by how much you want to receive but by how much you are willing to give of yourself to someone. How much are you willing to lose for the sake of this person? How much of your freedom are you willing to forsake? How much of your precious time, emotion, and resources are you willing to invest in this person? (p78)
A marriage is a covenant relationship, one is that is a covenant made both between two people, but also between a person and God. In the marriage ceremony you make promises before God: “Will you take this woman to be your wife?” is not answered to the wife, but to God: “I will”. Then you make promises to each other.
[A covenant] is a relationship far more intimate and personal that a merely legal, business relationship. Yet at the same time, it is far more durable, binding and unconditional that one based on mere feeling and affection. A covenant relationship is a stunning blend of law and love. (p84, my emphasis)
Not only that but the covenant love of a marriage declares much more that a current love for one another, but a future intention to continue to love:
In a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances. (p87)
Therefore in any marriage, there will be times when we must choose to continue to love our spouses, when it doesn’t come easily. Love at this point is action, not feeling. It is decision to follow through on the promise previously made.
Each of these chapters had helpful insights both for me and others whom we talk about marriage with. Lots to think about and lots to work on!
More coming tomorrow...