If a "man on the street" interviewer put a microphone in your face and asked you to tell you what the meaning of marriage was, what would you answer? No time to think....what would you say?
If you don't have a good answer, then it is unlikely that you will live your married life with much purpose. You will probably expect your spouse to fulfill some unidentified and unverbalized expectation you have. And you will likely be disappointed...in your spouse and in your marriage.
In Chuck Colson's Breakpoint Commentary from October 27 of last year, Colson asked about the meaning of marriage and then gave a recommended resource that effectively answers the question. Here's an excerpt...
Here is a tiny sampling: People who have been continuously married have 75 percent more wealth at retirement than those who have divorced or were never married. Children in married, two-parent families experience two to three times more positive life outcomes than those who do not. Married people even enjoy better and more frequent sex!
Yet the statistics also show our culture heading in the opposite direction. In 1970, 89 percent of all births were to married parents. Today, unfortunately, it is only 60 percent. In 1960, 72 percent of adults in America were married. Care to guess the number in 2008? Fifty percent. How did we get here, when it makes no logical sense?
My friend Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York and his wife, Kathy, have written a brilliant new book that explains why marriage is in such dire straits, and how to rescue it. Their book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God is now available at our online book store at BreakPoint.org. You need to get a copy!
The Kellers diagnose this cultural disconnect. It’s the natural fruit of the West’s slow redefinition of marriage: from an institution where duty and mutual sacrifice are expected for the good of children and the larger society to one in which the marital partners primarily ask, “What’s in it for me?” “In short,” Keller writes, “the Enlightenment privatized marriage, taking it out of the public sphere, and redefined its purpose as individual gratification, not any ‘broader good’ such as reflecting God’s nature, producing character, or raising children.”
As a consequence, this new understanding, which is supposed to be so liberating, he says, “actually puts a crushing burden of expectation on marriage and on spouses that more traditional understandings never did.”
Because marriage is now all about me, no one is ever good enough, so we hang back, afraid to commit, waiting for the non-existent perfectly “compatible” person—meaning he or she is well-adjusted, beautiful, and can help us find sexual and emotional fulfillment. Or we drop the person we married when someone “better” comes along.
So how can we get out of this?
Well, their book, The Meaning of Marriage, lays out the solution in great and encouraging detail. It is written for singles, those in successful and stable marriages, and for those in the midst of marital crisis. The book is too rich to encapsulate in this brief commentary, but suffice it to say that the secret of marriage is grounded in the self-giving example of Jesus laying down His life for the Church.
Barrett here again. I have read the book and found it to be a solid look at God's design for marriage. It's a bit heady, but it has plenty of practical applications of how to live out a Biblical understanding of marriage. And that's where the joy, security, and meaning is found.
There is an excellent interview that Keller gave with Fox News when his book first came out. It happened to coincide with the breakup of Kim Kardashian's marriage, so the contrast of perspectives is striking. You can see the interview here.