Tolle Lege: The Meaning of Marriage

Readability: 2

Length: 244 pp

Author: Tim Keller

Many Christian books on marriage contain some good practical advise for our marriages, unfortunately I feel many are as harmful as they are helpful. It does me little good to know how to drive a nail if I don’t know what I am building. The why of marriage must be clearly in mind if we are to know the practical what of marriage. This Momentary Marriage is my favorite why book, but The Meaning of Marriage is perhaps the most well-rounded. Keller lays a gospel foundation under marriage and then builds solid, well thought out application that is anchored in that foundation.

I’m tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage. At weddings, in church, and in Sunday School, much of what I’ve heard on the subject has as much depth as a Hallmark card. While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.

We should rightly object to the binary choice that both traditional and contemporary marriage seem to give us. Is the purpose of marriage to deny your interests for the good of the family, of is it rather to assert your interests for the fulfillment of yourself? The Christian teaching does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice. Jesus gave himself up; he died to himself to save us and make us his. Now we give ourselves up, we die to ourselves, first when we repent and believe the gospel, and later as we submit to his will day by day. Subordination ourselves to him, however, is radically safe, because he has already shown that he was willing to got to hell and back for us. This banishes fears that loving surrender means loss to oneself.

[T]he picture of marriage given here [Ephesians 5] is not of two needy people, unsure of their own value and purpose, finding their significance and meaning in one another’s arms. if you add two vacuums to each other, you only get a bigger and stronger vacuum, a giant sucking sound. Rather, Paul assumes that each spouse already has settled the big questions of life– why they were made by God and who they are in Christ.

[W]hen you envision the “someone better,” you can think of the future version of the person to whom you are already married. The someone better is the spouse you already have. God has indeed given us a desire for the perfect spouse, but you should seek it in the one to whom your married. Why discard this partner for someone else only to discover that person’s deep, hidden flaws? Some people with serial marriages go through the cycle of infatuation, disillusionment, rejection, and flight to someone else – over and over. The only way you’re going to actually begin to see another person’s glory-self is to stick with him or her.

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