I’ve often wondered about what actually happens when you get married. Emotionally and mentally, you are just as committed the day before your wedding as the day after, and intellectually you probably know just as much about your partner before and after you tie the knot. Yet for all the similarities, something profound changes when the celebrant says “I pronounce you man and wife.” The existing commitment suddenly seems to be deeper and more profound, and the physical boundaries that were in place are suddenly removed. The weird thing, to me, is that the only thing that really changes is the relationship’s legal status, now there is a legal document to give evidence to a real and beautiful emotional connection. It has often struck me as odd why, in God’s eyes, such a legal action has such profound implications for the ‘rightness’ of something so mysterious and intangible as relationships.
In this book, John Piper takes aim at such fundamental questions of what marriage is, what its for and why its important. If you’re looking for a practical book with tips for improving your marriage this is not it. Piper’s stated goal is to “enlarge your vision of what marriage is,” and I think he actually does a pretty good job.
A lot of the ideas in this book stem from this word ‘covenant-keeping.’ “Staying married…is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant,” is how Piper bluntly puts it. This concept of covenant (being a form of legal agreement) isn’t new to me, but this book takes the idea and expands and explains it in a way that is compelling and thought provoking.
In this book, Piper seeks to unpack how the beauty of marriage is not in the lovey-dovey feelings, but in the way it is a living metaphor to a broken world of the ever greater covenant between Jesus Christ and the Church. “Ultimately, marriage is a flesh-and-blood drama of how Christ (dramatized by the husband) loves his church, and how the church (dramatized by the wife) is devoted to Christ.” One of the most intriguing ideas that stem from this is that “Marriage is a pointer toward the glory of Christ and the church. But in the resurrection the pointer vanishes into the perfection of that glory.” Piper goes on to unpack how living out this metaphor works itself out in the roles of husband and wife, with children and with society in general.
If I’m honest, I didn’t actually enjoy the process reading this book. It often seemed overly theoretical and, when it came to discussing the metaphor of Christ and the Church, I was too quick to think ‘oh yep I’ve heard this before.’ That said, the themes and ideas of this book have been playing on my mind a lot since I read it, and as I reflect on it I’m realising just how profound it all is. On reflection, then, I would recommend this book to people wanting to expand their understanding of marriage, and all that it encompasses. John Piper is thorough in unpacking the implications of what the Bible says about marriage, making this a worthy resource to have.