Bigger than you
I finished this John Piper book about a week ago. It’s been simmering. Because it’s big. It’s not a book for the weak-hearted or the feel-goods. And neither is it a book only for the married.
Every marriage is bigger than the two people in it. Much bigger. God designed the marriage relationship to humanly reflect the covenant relationship between Christ and the church.
Do we weight marriages with the seriousness of that larger relationship? It’s never about just us. As always, it’s about him.
Be married for God’s glory, not just for your own happiness. “God gets glory when two very different and very imperfect people forge a life of faithfulness in the furnace of affliction by relying on Christ.”
Marriage among Christians is mainly meant to tell the truth about the gospel—that Christ died for his church who loves him and [he] never breaks his covenant with his bride.
In essence, Jesus says,...“I have come to show you the drama that marriage was meant to represent in my sacrificial, covenant-keeping love for my sinful bride. I have come to give you the power to stay married, or to stay single, so that either way you keep your promises and show what my covenant is like and how sacred is the covenant bond of marriage.”
Marriage is “a parable of permanence written from eternity about the greatest story that ever was. The parable is about Christ and his church.”
Not about staying in love
Over and over Piper reiterates that “staying married is not mainly about staying in love, but about keeping covenant....Staying in love isn’t the first task of marriage. It is a happy overflow of covenant-keeping for Christ’s sake.” We are in this covenant because God has joined us together; he is the main actor in the event of marriage. Who are we as humans to break the sacred union that God has created?
Although this is not a practical handbook of “how to improve your marriage,” it does makes you think about your daily attitudes. Example: If you think your anger against your spouse is too big to overcome, imagine the enormosity of wrath that God could hold against you. Yet he doesn’t. He forgives us and bears with us; can we do the same with our spouse?
“Let the measure of God’s grace to you in the cross of Christ be the measure of your grace to your spouse…Forgiveness says: I will not treat you badly because of your sins against me or your annoying habits.”
Piper wastes no words on selling the beneficial effects of marriage on employment or poverty or health. He chooses not to focus there. Instead, “make God and the glory of his Son central, and you get the practical effects thrown in. Make the practical effects central, and you lose both.”
He concludes that marriage is a momentary gift. It may be filled with bright days or covered with clouds. Either way, it is short. Stay focused on God in it.
If we make secondary things primary, we will be embittered at the sorrows we must face. But if we set our face to make of marriage mainly what God designed it to be, no sorrows and no calamities can stand in our way...The beauty of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church shines brightest when nothing but Christ can sustain it.
I recommend this book for those happily married, for those hanging by a thread, and for those who are single. We owe it to the Father and to each other to bolster the importance of marriage in our circle of friends and family. Buy it or read it free on-line.
Here's another perspective of this book as reviewed by Tim Challies.