This is part one in our eight week series in reading through Timothy and Kathy Keller’s Book, “The Meaning of Marriage”. Some of you may be going through this study on your own with your spouse, and others may be joining in with a small group of their own. However you may going through the material, it’s our hope that you find the material very meaningful within your marriage relationship. (If you’re reading this and you have no idea what we’re talking about, read this post. Perhaps you’ll decide to join us and read along!)
At this time, you should have completed the reading of Chapter 1, “The Secret of Marriage”, listened to Mark Driscoll’s message titled, “Taking Out The Trash” and completed questions for Week #1 from the Participant’s Guide. Remember, if you haven’t yet looked at the Participant’s Guide or listened to the audio message, those are available for free right here.
With that brief introduction out of way, here are some of our thoughts from the Introduction and Chapter 1: The Secret of Marriage.
The Keller’s note very early on that this book is rooted heavily in scripture, specifically in Ephesians 5:21-33. It is here that marriage is seen as a picture of Christ’s relationship with His church, and how this is “a profound mystery”. Surely, everyone who has been married for any length of time realizes how mysterious this truly is.
To set the tone for the book, the Keller’s provide a great deal of statistics for how our culture currently views marriage. Sadly, what these statistics offer is that most people have a very negative view of marriage. People note that “compatibility” in a relationship means “finding someone who doesn’t try to change me.” Yet, despite this negative view of marriage, there is a great deal of data showing that those who are married live more satisfying lives than those who aren’t.
Chapter 1 also emphasizes the impact of the Enlightenment on the institute of marriage. The Keller’s note that it was only after the Enlightenment that marriage was seen as a way for one to fulfill their personal desires, whereas before the Enlightenment, people viewed marriage as a way to give themselves to something greater than themselves. It may be counter-cultural today, but once upon a time an individual gave up his/her own desires for the best of their marriage and family. To make their point, the Keller’s quote a NY Times Article which we’ll quote here as well:
“The notion that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be about putting the relationship first?
Not anymore. For centuries, marriage was viewed as an economic and social institution, and the emotional and intellectual needs of the spouses were secondary to the survival of the marriage itself. But in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting…[who] help each of them attain valued goals.”
Outside of these marriage statistics, a case is made that a “soul mate” does not and cannot exist. This part of the book has been adapted to an article published in RELEVANT magazine as well, and a great deal of discussion is sure to happen between you and your spouse and perhaps your small group on this subject.
It is only toward the end of Chapter 1 that a biblical case for the marriage relationship begins to take shape. The Keller’s show that the problem isn’t that marriage has a bad reputation in our culture; instead, the problem is a spiritual one. This is the heart of Christianity – outside of the faith, one wants to fulfill their own desires and only their own desires. But within the Christian faith, the marriage relationship shows that mutual fulfillment is made through mutual sacrifice (p.39).
To get the heart of the issue, the Keller’s conclude chapter one ensuring that the reader understands the heart of the gospel: “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope (p.40).” Understanding this message is absolutely crucial to understanding marriage, as the marriage relationship truly is a picture of the same relationship Jesus desires to have with each of us.
With all of that said, what did you enjoy most from Chapter 1? What did you enjoy the least?
A few people we’ve interacted with have mentioned that they weren’t disappointed, but surprised by the book. As with most marriage books, they were looking for it to be a “how to” book on the subject of marriage. But “The Meaning of Marriage” is not a “how to” book. Not in the least. Perhaps the best way to describe it is as a “This is how marriage ought to be” book.
Therefore, as you continue reading, you’ll discover that the Keller’s main goal is to simply offer a philosophy/theology on the marriage relationship. And each couple will think differently about how those principles “ought to be” applied in their marriage. So, if Chapter 1 surprised you, keep reading. As you and your spouse dive deeper into the book you’ll discover that having conversations about how your marriage “ought to be” are well worth it for the longevity of your relationship.
We’ll dive into Chapter 2 next week, but until then…
What did you enjoy most from Chapter 1?
What did you enjoy the least?
Which of the discussion questions did you find most challenging? Most helpful?