Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage


“Friendship is a deep oneness that develops when two people, speaking the truth in love to one another, journey together to the same horizon.”

Timothy Keller

"Marriage is a lot of work."

I've always found this statement discouraging. I have a job and plenty of responsibilities. Why would I want a relationship to be work?

However, with a little more thought, it's clear ANY relationship is work; it's just not W-2, plow-the-fields, polish-the-silver kind of work.  Relationship work doesn't have to be drudgery.  Relationship work, particularly in marriage is easier when you understand the "why" behind the "what."

This is part of the reason we spend so much time with newlyweds. We love helping people discover the fun in the work. In our current group we've been discussing the book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, by Timothy Keller.  In this book, Keller gives a clinic on writing timeless wisdom and sets the stakes for why having a strong marriage matters.

“Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole. If your marriage is strong, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won't matter. You will be able to move out into the world in strength.”

Keller doesn't blink when it comes to talking about the challenges of marriage and uses language which may feel a little in  your face...

“While your character flaws may have created mild problems for other people, they will create major problems for your spouse and your marriage.”

True. True.

But Keller doesn't aim to be provocative as much as he's encouraging us to be vulnerable with each other and with God.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Keller is the senior pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, so he pulls the marriage conversation through a lens of the gospel.

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. 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. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.”

The eight chapters of the book are perfect material for any married small group, and we will undoubtedly be discussing Keller's insights for years to come!