Tag Archives: marriage

Marriage is for Losers

Great post by Dr Kelly Flanagan on relating well within marriage:

“In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything for your partner, listening to their darkest parts with a heart ache rather than a solution. It’s being even more present in the painful moments than in the good times. It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says that you’re right and they are wrong. It’s doing what is right and good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego. It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily. It is eliminating anything from your life, even the things you love, if they are keeping you from attending, caring, and serving. It is seeking peace by accepting the healthy but crazy-making things about your partner because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place. It is knowing that your spouse will never fully understand you, will never truly love you unconditionally–because they are a broken creature, too–and loving them to the end anyway.”

-(HT Tim Challies)

Book Review: This Momentary Marriage

There are more than enough books in the world on the subject of marriage. Every man and his dog wants to have an opinion on the subject. One of the features of being engaged is that now suddenly you own a large number of those books, as everybody scrambles to buy you a copy of their favourite (thanks everybody! I really am grateful, honest!)

One of those books that really stands out for me is This Momentary Marriage by John Piper. As you might expect, Piper holds a very high view of marriage, and paints a Biblical vision of just how glorious marriage as God designed it should be. But one of the distinguishing features of this book is the equally high view of singleness you’ll find in it.

Piper’s main premise is that marriage is not the ultimate, it’s not the thing that’s going to solve all our problems and make us happy and fulfilled. It’s a glorious thing, yes, and it holds a special place in God’s purposes for displaying his glory, but it’s only ever a temporary thing that will not exist in the New Creation. Just as the relationship between a husband and his wife is a tangible illustration of the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church, happily-single Christians are a tangible illustration of the sufficiency of Jesus and the final state all who trust in him are heading towards. So at the same time as giving us a higher view of marriage, it also stops us making it the very highest thing in our thoughts, helping us keep first things first rather than drifting into idolatry.

Most books on marriage claim to be suitable for all kinds of people: people already married, people about to be married, and people vaguely thinking about marriage in the future. But in my experience, it’s rare to find a marriage book that I would genuinely want to recommend to a single friend for fear of making them feel a little bit sad – I know that I’ve often read stuff about marriage in the past and just been made to feel like I was missing out on something. This book bucks the trend. It reminds all of us, single or married, that as Christians we have a relationship with the Creator of the Universe that’s going to last for eternity, and that that ought to excite us more than any human relationship.

Of course Piper also explores the usual practicalities of marriage: the purpose and place of sex, the Biblical view of gender roles, brining up children, and so on. He does so in a way that gets you excited about serving God in whatever situation you’re currently in, with the gifts and personality God has given you. I found the chapter on hospitality especially helpful: Piper says what a shame it is that often married and single people in the church end up being segregated, when there’s so much potential for good if single people were to show hospitality to married people and if married people were to show hospitality to single people.

If you’re a Christian, whether you’re married or not, be excited that there’s someone in your life who knows you better than you know yourself, and who loves you enough to die for you – and we get to go and spend the rest of eternity in intimate relationship with him! Everything else is just temporary, but our relationship with God lasts forever.

Related posts: My review of ‘Redeeming Singleness’ by Barry Danylak – which is the basis for Piper’s chapter on singleness in ‘This Momentary Marriage’. It’s helpful stuff for single people wondering about their place in the church.

How Jesus Cherishes His Church

Why Jesus Is My Hero #25 of 52

One of the features of belonging to a large city centre church is that you tend to get invited to a lot of weddings. Every wedding has a Bible reading, and let’s face it, unless you start getting really creative there aren’t a whole lot of appropriate Bible passages to choose from, so you tend to hear fairly similar sermons again and again. One of the downsides of always hearing the same passage used in the wedding context is that its meaning can become somewhat distorted – being applied always just to marriage when it might also be about something else.

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of Ephesians 5:22-33: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church”. Paul uses the marriage relationship as a beautiful illustration of the love that Jesus Christ has for his bride, the church – v32 “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church”. And yet somehow, it still comes as a shock to me when I actually hear it applied that way – it seems to me to be a passage first and foremost about Jesus, and only secondarily about how husbands and wives should relate to one another; yet it’s sadly rare to hear it given that emphasis.

So what does Ephesians 5 have to teach us about Jesus? Well, you don’t have to hunt very far to find some absolutely mind-blowing thoughts: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish”. Wowsers!

Think of the most beautiful bride you have ever seen, how radiant she appeared as she walked down the aisle, all that care and attention poured into getting her ready for that one glorious moment. Well that’s merely a pale imitation of how Christ has poured himself into getting his bride ready – he went so far as to give himself up for her, to die for her. On the last day, the church – all Christians from across the globe and throughout history, united together – well the church is going to be absolutely spotless, without blemish, gloriously beautiful beyond words. And all the credit for that is going to go to Jesus. On our own we are anything but beautiful – wretched sinners, spiritual adulterers who have spent our whole lives cheating on God (even after being betrothed to him!) But Jesus’ death covers our sin and shame – a wedding dress that people will be talking about for all eternity, when Kate Middleton’s will be long forgotten.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. He continues: “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” I find that so encouraging to think about. We are so intimately linked to Christ, united to him as we are by the Spirit, that for him to love and care for us is equivalent to him loving and caring for his own body. It’s in his own interests to look after us and make sure that we hold together and arrive safe and sound in the New Creation.

Just think for a minute about all the lengths you’re willing to go to for your own body. Perhaps you remember a time when you gave up chocolate or passed on the offer of a sticky toffee pudding for the sake of your body. Perhaps you’ve once got up early to go for a miserable jog in the pouring rain. Maybe you’ve missed out on all the fun in order to get to bed and have a good night’s sleep for the sake of your body. We spend our hard-earned cash to clothe our bodies. We buy endless beauty products, we wash regularly, we cut our fingernails – how many hours must all that add up to over the course of a lifetime?!

It’s amazing enough to think of a husband loving his wife to that extent – although it only makes sense, says Paul. She is, after all, like his own flesh. But as you watch a married couple who love and cherish one another, remember that that’s only a tiny glimpse of how Christ cares for us, the church.

Review: Redeeming Singleness

Redeeming Singleness

At Euston Church we recently had a provocative Sunday sermon series from 1 Corinthian 7 by Charlie Skrine listening to what God says about marriage and singleness. It’s one of those subjects that everybody has an interest in, and also one of those chapters of the Bible that everybody has a different opinion on how to interpret. Yet however ambiguous some aspects of Paul’s teaching may be, it’s hard not to agree that at the very least Paul sets forth a radically positive view of singleness. In a sex-obsessed culture which pretty much assumes it’s a fundamental human right to fall in love and pursue a fulfilling sexual relationship with that person, whoever they might be and whatever your situations, the idea of being content to accept a single lifestyle and refrain from marriage just seems bizarre.

On the back of that sermon series, I decided to read Redeeming Singleness by Barry Danylak. It’s a Biblical theology of singleness, tracing the theme through the Bible timeline and showing how the idea is developed over time, and how it’s affected by the coming of Christ. It consists of six chapters, each of which I managed to read in a single sitting, making it quite achievable to read the whole book in a week. Starting with the book of Genesis he shows how the promises of the Abrahamic covenant with their emphasis on offspring play out in the rest of the Old Testament. He does a tour of the prophets, then shows how things are changed by Jesus’ arrival, and what Jesus himself taught on the subject. He then ends up with a look at 1 Corinthians 7 itself.

I particularly enjoyed his overview of the theme of ‘offspring’ within Isaiah, and how with the coming of the Suffering Servant there’s going to be a fundamental shift in how people become part of God’s family: now the children of the barren woman will be more than the children of she who is married (Is 54:1), and to the eunuch who chooses the things that please God will be given a name that is better than sons and daughters (Is 56:5). It’s not just that their reproach is taken away, but their situation is in fact better than those who simply have large earthly families.

He also uses the example of Daniel (for whom he presents evidence that he was probably made a eunuch in Babylon) to paint a truly compelling picture of the eunuch as the king’s loyal servant – without any chance of a dynasty of his own he poses no threat to the king, and also without children to look after him in his old age he is entirely dependent upon the king’s ongoing support and hence his own welfare is wrapped up in the welfare of the king – and so he faithfully serves his king undistracted by family concerns. The only question in Daniel’s case is which king is he serving – when the rubber really hits the road it turns out that it’s not King Nebuchadnezzar after all but the King of Heaven.

You can tell that the book is written by an academic and at times you have to do a bit of the work yourself in figuring out why the things he’s teaching you are so encouraging for daily living as a single person, yet at the same time he writes from personal experience as a single person himself, and you can tell that these are truths that matter to him. All in all it was a very helpful read that has done me a lot of good, and I highly recommend it.