Marriage: An End Point/Goal of Engagement
[Otherwise, a book review of ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ by Tim Keller with Kathy Keller]
Later this afternoon, two of my friends will be wed. It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed a friend’s marriage, but it’s surely one of the things that changes the dynamics of our friendship. Their marriage (and this is after the wedding) becomes a blessing, not only in their lives, but ours as well as a group of friends.
Previously, I’ve said that marriage is an end point/goal of engagement, as if to say that even engagement doesn’t have to end in a marriage. This is from my understanding of Paul’s writing to the Corinthians when he says,
25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. 27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
36 If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.[b]
Here I’ve assumed (as I’ve been taught) that virgins were mentions specifically because they were betrothed to be wed, as engaged people make a promise to be wed. Careful and better reading of this passage has allowed me to notice that Paul does not belittle marriage, but elevates singleness (in a society where heritage is important) and continues his critique of sexual sins from the previous chapter.
I’ve been made aware of this as a result of reading Tim (with Kathy) Keller’s ‘The Meaning of Marriage’. There’s so much I could say about how helpful I’ve found this book, even as a single person. But those of you who know me, would already know how much I have grown as a Christian as helped by Tim’s writing (and sermoning). Like his other books, Tim has been comprehensive in his long chapters about the topics he’s covered. But, for me anyway, he engages my concerns and consistently points to the Gospel.
I think the thing that I have found most helpful about this book is that it shows marriage desirable without making it a cheap substitute for the love of God. The public and contractual nature of marriage changes our usually consumer dating relationships to covenantal marriage relationships where we change from finding a date to satisfy our standards to submitting to pleasing, instead, our spouse.
And from listening to a lot of Tim’s sermons, I’ve found that some of his best thoughts actually come from his wife, Kathy. And this book doesn’t disappoint. In her chapter ‘Embracing the Other,’ Kathy demonstrates that both the man and the woman submit to the Jesus role in the marriage relationship, as ‘servant-leader’ and ‘strong helper’ respectively.
I think the best part for me was that a small part of the book had to do with sex. As with all marriages, there are greater and more beautiful things.
I would still feel that if an engagement didn’t lead to marriage, it would suck. But the great thing about marriage, and about Christian community, is that both point to the greater eternal marriage to be had. One to be fully realised between Christ and the Church.