(more than a) Book Review: “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller

I suppose I should start by stating that I’m not married nor have I ever been married, so I’m probably  the least apt to talk on the subject. I may not be an expert, but I do pay attention to my world, details and all, and well, based on all of that, I can definitely form my own opinion and apply truth to my own life when it comes to this topic…albeit a touchy one at times.

Why this book? Why read it if it doesn’t pertain to me? Truth is, it does. Tim Keller even says so in his introduction: “[The primary goal of this book] is to give both married and unmarried people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible…and to help [singles] to stop destructively over-desiring marriage or dismissing it all together…a Bible-based marriage book will help each reader have a better idea of who he or she should consider as a prospective mate.”

I may not be married…

…and there’s a chance that I won’t be in this lifetime.

And that’s okay.

I am party of the Church, the Bride of Christ.

Put like that, I am a bride.

And this book?

It has forever changed the view I’ve had on marriage my entire life, as well as hitting home views I already knew, but didn’t fully understand – and all of this is more so due to the culture I’ve grown up in, the books I once chose to read, and (thank you to) Hollywood, through the shows and movies I chose to watch. Even Disney…no one talks about what happens after or how the damsel lived before meeting her prince. Marriage isn’t at all what I once believed.

Eight chapters of “heavy” information…

Chapter 1 opens the discussion of Paul’s insight on marriage and how it differs immensely from the marriage views of today’s culture.  Tim Keller constantly makes a points out the profound mystery marriage is and how it changes us and how marriage was intended to reflect the gospel and the relationship with the triune God. Tim also makes a statement on how “compatibility” doesn’t exist and after reading it, I would tend to agree.

Chapter 2 opens the door to how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of all, not just those who are married and discusses how each individual is responsible for their own actions; their own self-centeredness and how I need to take personal responsibility for myself.  I can’t change the other person. The only person I can control is me.

Chapter 3 talks about love and how it is not strictly limited to romantic love (which is more of a feeling that will fade over time). Love is also an action and a choice.

Chapter 4 proves the following statement: Marriage is for helping two individuals become who God created them to be, which sets the reader up for Chapter 5, where Tim elaborates on three basic skill sets that with enable you to help your spouse become the person God created them to be:  truth, love and grace.

Chapter 6 teaches the reader what it means to embrace the other gender as God created them to be. Rather than disregarding a person because their differences don’t match your list of necessary qualities or because they are just too different doesn’t mean they should be shoved aside and not even considered. Notice the differences, acknowledge them, embrace them and thank God for diversity….it’s what makes them who they are and God intended those differences to compliment (not complete) those he made in his Image.

Chapter 7 deals with living as a single in this beautiful, broken world. Tim and his wife, Kathy, discuss the history of dating and how different cultures view marriage, delving into how some Christian circles paint the picture that a person is somehow not complete if they don’t have a spouse or a family. Singles are not incomplete, nor are they missing anything. We can learn from our brothers and sisters through the Church. And because this chapter really hit it home for me, I’d like to share the following lies our culture tells us as well as a few quotes from the chapter:

  • Lie :: Truth
  • “As soon as you’re satisfied with God alone, he’ll bring someone special into your life” :: God’s blessings are never earned by the level of our commitment.
  • “You’re too picky” :: God is not frustrated by your fickle whims and does not need broader parameters win which to work.
  • “As a single, you can commit yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work” :: while that statement may be partly true, God doesn’t not require emotional martyrs to do his work…marriage plays a huge role in his work too.
  • “Before you can marry someone wonderful, the Lord has to make you someone wonderful” ::  God doesn’t grant marriage as a second blessing to the satisfactory sanctified.

He doesn’t work that way. The gospel doesn’t work that way. I, along with many of you, have heard those statements directed at me many times and well…I’m not single because I’m too picky. I’m not single because of my imperfection. I’m single because he is good:

“I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because he is so abundantly good to me; because this is his best for me.” – Paige Benton Brown

How true is that!

And finally, Chapter 8 deals with the topic of sex and why it is best saved for marriage…not basing it on a “rule” the Christian religion follows, but basing it on God’s ultimate desire for his children.

Overall, a great book and while the writing is easy to read, the context is heavy…

…a book I wouldn’t recommend breezing through. Take your time. Read one chapter a week…or per month. However long it takes for this applied to truth to sink in. Pair it with Epheisans 5. Camp in it. The Meaning of Marriage is a definite must read and should be added to your own personal collection, whether you’re married or not. Get your own copy as I won’t be lending mine out any time soon…it’s that good.

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