Christian Hedonism and Christian Marriage

The final post in my series interacting with John Piper is again on marriage. Seeking the happiness of yourself in the happiness of your wife is key to a joyful relationship. We look forward to hearing from John tomorrow, and in due time I will share notes and video of the sessions here. May all our marriages be informed by this quote:

A husband and wife should pursue their own joy in the joy of each other. There is scarcely a more hedonistic passage in the Bible than Ephesians 5:25–30. This text makes clear that the reason there is so much misery in marriages is not that husbands and wives are seeking their own pleasure but that they are not seeking it in the pleasure of their spouses. But this text commands us to do just that because Christ does.

First, notice the example of Christ in verses 25–27:

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [why did he?] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [why did he cleanse her?] so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Christ died for the church in order that He might present “to himself” a beautiful bride. He endured the cross for the joy of marriage that was set before Him. But what is the ultimate joy of the church? Is it not to be presented as a bride to the sovereign Christ? So Christ sought His own joy in the joy of the church. Therefore, the example Christ sets for husbands is to seek our joy in the joy of our wives.

Verses 28 and 29 make this application explicit. “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” Paul acknowledges one of the foundation stones of Christian hedonism: “No man ever hates his own flesh.” Even those who commit suicide do it to escape misery. By nature we love ourselves, that is, we do what, in the moment, we think will make us happy or reduce our misery.

Paul does not build a dam against the river of this hedonism; he builds a channel for it. He says, “Husbands and wives, recognize that in marriage you have to become one flesh; therefore, if you live for your private pleasure at the expense of your spouse, you are living against yourself and destroying your own highest joy. But if you devote yourself with all your heart to the holy joy of your spouse, you will also be living for your joy and making a marriage after the image of Christ and his church.”

John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals : A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 253-55.

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