Single? Married? Then this book is for you. Adapted from a sermon series he gave to Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Timothy Keller presents a fresh perspective on the meaning of marriage to the curious reader.
Written in a conversational tone, the author quotes from a variety of sources as he presents his points. I have learnt so much about myself through this book and I’m sure you will too.
The learning begins from the very first chapter. I discovered the importance of having the gospel fill our hearts with God’s love because that would be what sustains us when our spouse loves us imperfectly. That probably isn’t very new to some of you, but I began to gain a glimmer of understanding of how vital this point is in the following chapters.
I also learnt that one of the reasons why I was hypersensitive to the comments of others would perhaps be because of how self-centered I was. That was a revelation to me. In addition, the author notes that all through our lives, our friends and family members would have probably pointed out some of our flaws which we have dismissed. It is only in marriage that would expose our flaws for what they are because of their effect on our spouse, the one who would bear the brunt of it.
An important point made in the book is the goodness of singleness and the goodness of marriage. He points out that the Western church (and probably in mine too) has elevated the status of marriage that it has become quite difficult for the single person. He quotes from Stanley Hauerwas that “Christianity was the very first religion that held up singlehood as a viable way of life.” I was blown away.
Here is an excerpt:
Why did the early church have this attitude? The Christian gospel and hope of the future kingdom de-idolized marriage. There was no more radical act in that day and time than to live a life that did not produce heirs. Having children was the main way to achieve significance for an adult, since children would remember you. They also gave you security, since they would care for you in old age. Christians who remained single, then, were making the statement that our future is not guaranteed by the family but by God.
Single adult Christians were bearing testimony that God, not family, was their hope. God would guarantee their future, first by giving them their truest family - the church - so they never lacked for brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, in Christ. But ultimately, Christians’ inheritance is nothing less than the fullness of the kingdom of God in the new heaven and new earth. Hauerwas goes on to point out that Christian hope not only made it possible for singles to live fulfilled lives without spouse and children, but it also was an impetus for people to marry and have children and not be afraid to bring them into this dark world. “For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope… that God has not abandoned this world…”
Yet marriage is good too.
And I quote,
Unlike our commitment-averse, postmodern society, Christianity does not fear or avoid marriage either. Adults in Western society are deeply shaped by individualism, a fear and even hatred of limiting options for the sake of others. Many people are living single lives today not in the conscious, lonely misery of wanting marriage too much but rather in the largely unconscious, lonely misery or wanting marriage too little, out of fear of it.
While traditional societies tend to make an idol out of marriage (because they make an idol out of the family and tribe), contemporary societies tend to make an idol of independence (because they make an idol out of individual choice and happiness). While the traditional motive for marriage has been social duty, stability, and status, the contemporary motive for marriage is personal fulfillment. Both of these motives are partially right, of course, but they tend to become ultimates if the gospel has not changed your mind and heart.
And he ends with the chapter of “Sex and Marriage” which was written beautifully and expounded on the importance and purpose of sex and why it should only be practiced in marriage.
If you’d like to get this book, you can order it through Amazon, Book Depository or get it locally (if you're in Singapore) at Kinokuniya or Tecman.