The Meaning of Marriage – chapter 4 – The Mission of Marriage

Hello! I have successfully completed Tim and Kathy Keller’s fantastic book, “The Meaning of Marriage.” I hope that you own this book for yourself. If not, I hope these chapter thoughts and highlights will encourage you to get one for yourself!   You can click these links to read my thoughts and highlights from chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3 and chapter 7 in my blog. The Kellers just released a couples daily devotional book that I’m hoping to read next year. Anyone else interested?

Keller’s answer to the question, “What is the purpose of marriage?” begins with the foundational principle that marriage is a friendship. God Himself exists as a triune being and God saw that it was not good for man to be alone.

In order to fully understand the mission of marriage, one must study the nature of friendship. Keller initially points out two particular features of good friends (transparency and constancy — “Real friends always let you in, and they never let you down”), but goes on to point out a third quality which he calls “common passion” or “sympathy.” Good friends have common interests or common visions, even when they have very different temperaments.  This means that “any two Christians, with nothing else but a common faith in Christ, can have a robust friendship, helping each other on their journey toward the new creation, as well as doing ministry together in the world.” (pg 124) Christ is a common bond that can cement two very different people together whether in marriage or in friendship.

Friends should encourage and affirm, as well as critique, one another. “If any two unrelated Christians are to provoke each other toward love and goodness (Hebrews 10:24), are to affirm each other’s gifts and hold each other accountable to grow out of their sins (Hebrews 3:13), how much more should a husband and wife do that?” (pg 130)

Mrs. Kathy Keller, “often says that most people, when they are looking for a spouse, are looking for a finished statue when they should be looking for a wonderful block of marble. Not so you can create the kind of person you want, but rather because you see what kind of person Jesus is making. When Michelangelo was asked how he carved his magnificent David, his reply is reputed to have been, “I looked inside the marble and just took away the bits that weren’t David.” When looking for a marriage partner, each must be able to look inside the other and see what God is doing and be excited about being part of the process of liberating the emerging “new you.”” (pg 133)

Rather than expecting to marry the “perfect person,” we must recognize that we all have flaws and imperfections. Instead, we ought to see marriage as a deep friendship between two people working together to be conformed into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Your spouse has got to be your best friend, or be on the way to becoming your best friend, or you won’t have a strong, rich marriage that endures and that makes you both vastly better persons for having been in it.” (pg 136)

If you see your spouse as mainly a sexual partner or financial partner or homemaker, “you will find that you will need pursuits outside of marriage to really engage your whole soul. In that case, children, parents, career, political or social activism, hobbies, or a network of close friends – one or more of these things – will capture your imagination, provide joy and meaning and absorb emotional energy more than your marriage. And that will be deadly. Your marriage will slowly die if your spouse senses that he or she is not the first priority in your life.” (pg 139)

“When some good thing becomes more engrossing and important than your spouse, it can destroy the marriage.” (pg 140) When you become the bride of Christ, you are expected to give Christ the supreme place in your life. God is a jealous God and He rightfully will not share you with another. Likewise, “marriage won’t work unless you put your marriage and your spouse first, and you don’t turn good things, like parents, children, career, and hobbies, into pseudo-spouses.” (pg 143)

“Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole. If your marriage is strong, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won’t matter. You will be able to move out into the world in strength. However, if your marriage is weak, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are marked by success and strength, it won’t matter. You will move out into the world in weakness.” (pg 144)

“Every page in the Bible cries that the journey to this horizon cannot be accomplished alone. We must face it and share it with brothers and sisters, friends of our heart. And the very best human friendship possible for that adventure is with the lover-friend who is your spouse.” (pg 145)

In thinking through this chapter again, I realize how wrong my thinking was as a single person. I had believed so many of our culture’s lies about the purpose of marriage.

If you, like me, are feeling discouraged after reading this chapter, let’s remind ourselves of what we KNOW about God. We know that God is absolutely faithful and absolutely good, absolutely sovereign and powerful and wise. We know that God’s steadfast love never ends and that His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23) We know that “what is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) We know that God is working all things together for good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)

You can’t change your spouse, but with God’s grace and strength, you can begin to change you.

How can you begin to make your husband your closest friend and top priority?

How can you build common interests, in faith and in your daily activities?

We’re in this together, for the glory of God. TWIG