We Value Your Thoughts: Holiness

Timothy Keller writes:

“Romance, sex, laughter, and plain fun are the by-products of this process of sanctification, refinement and glorification. Those things are important, but they can’t keep the marriage going through the years and years of ordinary life.  What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness. You’re committed to his or her beauty. You’re committed to his greatness and perfection. You’re committed to her honesty and passion for the things of God.  That’s your job as a spouse. Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you’re just playing at being married.” ~ The Meaning of Marriage

We recently received a question about how marriage and the pursuit of holiness work together.  While we compose some of our thoughts we wanted to open up discussion with you.  How do you respond to this quote and the idea that marriage is designed to be part of your path towards personal holiness?

8 thoughts on “We Value Your Thoughts: Holiness

  1. This is a true quote: “Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you’re just playing at being married.”

    When you are ‘playing’ at this game of being married – it will seem like a viable option to end the game when it goes south on you.

  2. I question the sustainability of this long-term. While I value the concept that you are proposing, it is so far off from how I think and live, even as a Christian, that it feels unattainable. If you are hoping to do a series, it would be best to start at the very beginning.

    • Hi hiddeninsight, Justin here.

      We’re not planning a new series. We recently received a question regarding “The Meaning of Marriage” study here on the blog. A group is going through it and is wrestling through Keller’s section on holiness in marriage. Just curious, what is it that feels unattainable regarding the quote above?

      • OH, OK. that makes sense. So I’m sort of interrupting a small group discussion that is coming out of a study that I’m not a part of? OK. I get it. I think, for the most part, that I understand what is meant by marriage is designed to perfect your holiness. However, the part that disturbs me is the fact that I may be responsible for someone else’s holiness.

        “What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness.”

        Since I will not answer for my husband in the afterlife, why would I be committed to their holiness?

        I guess the problem that the two of us have always struggled with is being spiritual together. We can do this apart, but he struggles with sharing this part of his life with me. He always has. I can’t force him to do it, I can only ask. I stop asking because I’m not a nag. I need it, but I cannot depend on it for my personal spirituality.

        In situations like mine, the thought that I might be responsible for someone else’s holiness causes me great distress and shame. If it were said about my children, I think I could handle that, though I realize I still do not control their choices ultimately. I can only call them out on the issues that arise. But my spouse?

        Sheesh. I can barely manage myself.

      • In reply to hiddinsight.
        So I’m a little taken back by this comment. i don’t know you and I’m always a bit hesitant to comment on this stuff. But I sense hurt here.

        You said, “Since I will not answer for my husband in the afterlife, why would I be committed to their holiness?”

        I wondered if this is really a question? Why should you care about your husband’s holiness if it doesn’t effect your afterlife? This looks like indifference. Indifference effects a lot more than you realize. You have to know what you want. To be a bit forward I would say… If you want a marriage that fizzles out and dies, by all means do not commit to helping your husband in his holiness. If you want to live separate lives and never experience the fullness God intended for marriage, than by all means do not commit to your husband’s holiness. I do not believe you will answer for your husband’s sins, he is responsible for his relationship with God. But you will be responsible for any roadblocks you might put in his path to holiness. Lack of prayer. Hurtful words. Betrayal and lies. The cynicism and judgment you might place on him. The slander of his character, the lack of care for God’s plans for his life. Those will be all your responsibility. Not to mention hurt your marriage. But if you choose prayer, kind words, to be faithful, trustworthy and honest. Choose to look for the best in him and accept him as he is. Find ways to build him up in his character, appreciate the good qualities and care about God’s plan for him, than you have a good start to a happy marriage. A marriage that looks more like God had planned. If you’re in a place where you can’t find good to say, ask the Lord to show you how He sees your husband. God can see the good in him, he’ll show you. You and your husband are on a holiness journey only made possible by Jesus Christ. You can either help or hinder one another towards the goals God has for you. Separate spiritual lives is not what God intended. God intends for wholeness in relationship with Him and your husband. I would fight for my hubby if I were you. With love and care and prayer. That is my humble opinion. Praying for you and your hubby. God desires to bless and heal you two, I believe that.

    • Hi hiddinsight (and solana)!

      I (Justin) thought I would chime in again regarding the dialog below. I wasn’t able to add another reply to that thread for some reason…so I’ll reply up here.

      I think it’s important to keep in mind that the quote posted above is one quote from one chapter from one book that we used in a study that also including 8 audio messages on the subject of marriage. It was a lot of material!

      With that said, I don’t believe T. Keller ever uses the terminology of being “responsible” for your spouse’s holiness. After reading through the book a few times, I understood him saying that the marriage relationship is close – so close in fact that that we ought to take joy in helping our spouse become more a more godly person. In my own life as a pastor, I have many friends who help keep me accountable and who help me mature in my relationship with God. But my marriage with Megan is different. She has seen my greatest ups and my deepest downs, and she does everything she can to help me grow in Christ. Not because she’s responsible to do so, but because it’s a joy for her to do so, as it is a joy for me to strengthen her.

      Since you’ve (hiddinsight) never had the opportunity to read through the book, I would highly recommend it. I would also recommend the book “Sacred Marriage” as well, as it speaks to Marriage as holiness, not happiness.

      I really, really appreciate the dialog(!) and look forward to your future comments. 🙂

  3. (Theresa) I agree completely. The closer my husband is to the Lord, the closer I feel to him. Bonding and intimacy opportunities arise when we both are growing and developing our walk with the Lord. I need his leadership and he needs my support. The ebb and flow of this is beautiful!

  4. Hi, this is my first time commenting here. I was compelled by the quote and the study I have been doing on my own. They collided in this post. Cool how God does that.

    I found this quote pretty spot on. Challenging, but definitely how marriage should be looked at. I have been studying holiness and recently picked up John Eldredge’s new book “The Utter Relief of Holiness”. It gave me some perspective on the thought of holiness. Holiness and Wholeness are what the Christian journey is about. Because of Christ we are made holy and because we are made holy we can be made whole and vice versa. If the purpose of following Christ is to be holy, Christ like, then it only makes sense God’s plan in marriage would be a part of fulfilling this.

    If I am committed to my husband’s holiness, or wholeness, than I am committed to what God is doing in his life. I am partnering with Christ to fulfill the purpose of my husband’s faith in God. For him to be made whole and holy. This viewpoint gives a divine purpose to our marriage. What an honor to be apart of what God is doing. I can look at it the other way also. If I am not committed to my husband’s holiness than I am not committed to God’s plans for my husband. Therefore, I am not partnered with Christ. That leaves only one other option, I would be partnered with the enemy and his plans for my husband. When I think of the possibilities of what that plan is, I can see the broken, failed or dying marriages of Christians around me. That is the consequence of joining forces, even naively, with the enemy of our souls.
    I don’t know about you but I want to partner with God in my marriage. I want His plans and purposes for my husband and myself.
    Also, this level of commitment or value for my husband places a higher calling on my actions each day. When you realize you are on someone’s team and God’s purposed partner to help your spouse be successful, it’s difficult to kick him in the shin with a put down or cold shoulder. It’s harder to disconnect and go your own way when you realize your journey depends on one another. I am an extension of God’s hand to my husband and the one He commissioned with refining my husband and my husband to me.
    That is amazingly beautiful and calls for submission and servitude to one another. It’s really the only way I can see it possibly working. Holiness removes the things in us that cause hurt and addictions. It removes the weeds and things that were not planted by God. That means that we as a spouse will reap the rewards of our spouse’s holiness, wholeness. To think we have a role in that is so empowering and a beautiful gift from God. Makes it so much more important to pick your partner wisely and then be all in.

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