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Reading Recommendation: "The Meaning of Marriage"

It’s August, which means anniversary posts are all over social media. So, this month I am recommending Chloe’s and my favorite book on marriage: “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller. Every year Chloe and I aim to read another book on marriage or parenting together to keep learning and growing towards Christ as a couple. Below are six quotes from the marriage book we have found to be the most interesting and helpful so far. If you are married and looking for a book to read on your upcoming anniversary weekend or if you are single and looking for someone to marry - I hope you’ll read this book and in so doing be drawn more deeply into the beauty of the gospel of Christ as displayed through marriage!

1. The reason marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us (p. 44).

2. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God (p. 101).
3. ‘Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him…The Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning’…I can guarantee that, whoever you marry, you will fall “out of like” with them…So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling…and if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love (p. 107).

4. Within the Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’” (p. 133).

5. People are so appalled when they get sharp, far-reaching criticism from their spouses. They immediately begin to think they married the wrong person. But you must realize that it isn’t ultimately your spouse who is exposing the sinfulness of your heart – it’s marriage itself. Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it (p. 154).

6. In the Old Testament, there were often “covenant renewal ceremonies”…When you get married, you make a solemn covenant with your spouse – the Bible calls your spouse your “covenant partner” (Proverbs 2:17). That day is a great day, and your hearts are full. But as time goes on, there is a need to rekindle the heart and renew the commitment. There must be an opportunity to recall all that the other person means to you and to give yourself anew. Sex between a husband and a wife is the unique way to do that. Indeed, sex is perhaps the most powerful God-created way to help you give your entire self to another human being. Sex is God’s appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another, “I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.” You must not use sex to say anything less. So, according to the Bible, a covenant is necessary for sex. It creates a place of security for vulnerability and intimacy. But though a marriage covenant is necessary for sex, sex is also necessary for the maintenance of the covenant. It is your covenant renewal service (p. 256).

What is your favorite book on marriage? Let us know in the comments below!

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