Monday, February 25, 2013

what's the point of marriage? (2) marriage looks upward: John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage

The ultimate thing we can say about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory. That is, it exists to display God… The highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display.1
“What is marriage for?” asks John Piper in This Momentary Marriage. He answers that marriage doesn’t primarily look inward to the wellbeing of the relationship, nor even outward to the good of society or the world.2 Its ultimate movement is upward, for it was made to display the love between Christ and his people (Gen 2:18-25 cf. Eph 5:21-33). As we keep covenant with our spouse, serve them in love, and give them grace, we tell “the truth about God’s covenant with us in Jesus Christ”.3 This is a vital perspective on marriage, and I’m glad Piper devoted a book to it; as his wife Noel says, “You cannot say too often that marriage is a model of Christ and the church”.4

I always enjoy Piper’s lyricism and logic, but his books can sometimes be a little daunting. Not this one! It’s a short and easy read, and while it emphasizes eternal realities, it’s very practical. I particularly enjoyed chapter four, on forgiveness and forbearance and how to bend God’s grace towards one’s spouse; and chapter eight, on submission, which gave me a vision for the strong faith at the heart of biblical womanhood; and chapter nine, about the great truths displayed uniquely by singleness.

The book is a little meandering, but there are gems in the tangents. For example, the chapter on hospitality includes wise pastoral advice encouraging married and single people to share their lives. I won’t be the only one who differs from Piper on divorce and remarriage, and I would have liked to ask further questions about issues like the duty of procreation, but these are small quibbles.

So would I recommend This Momentary Marriage? Yes. It’s a great starting-point for understanding how both marriage and singleness display eternal realities, and what one’s role in this should be. It’s also rich food for mature marriages; my husband and I read it together and were helped to love each other better. But I wouldn’t stop here. To explore the marriage relationship more deeply, I’d turn to a book by American pastor and theologian Timothy Keller....

I'll tell you about Keller's book next week, or you can read about it in my full article The Briefing.

1. John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, Crossway, Wheaton, 2009, p. 25.
2. ibid., pp. 177-8.
3. ibid., pp. 25-26.
4. ibid., p. 42.

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