We are discussing marriage by examining the recent book of John Piper’s called This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.
In the first chp Piper examines marriage in two respects:
* It is from God.
* It is for God’s glory.
Anyone who has read Piper knows he reads everything through the lens of the “glory of God,” which is (for me) theologically true yet somehow Piper manages to emphasize a theme far more often than does the Bible. We’ll see that a bit later in this post.
First, marriage is from God. He examines Genesis 1-2 and finds four ways in which marriage itself is an act of God:
1. Marriage is God’s doing in creating male and female.
2. Marriage is God’s doing in that God gives away the first bride (Gen 2:22).
3. Marriage is God’s doing because God spoke marriage into existence: become one flesh.
4. Marriage is God’s doing because the one-flesh union is established in each marriage.
Second, then Piper goes to Ephesians 5:31-32 to establish marriage as for God’s glory. Here are the words from Eph 5:
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Marriage, he says, “is designed by God to display his glory in a way that no other event or institution does” (24). Thus, it is “patterned after Christ’s covenant commitment to his church” (24). And the “ultimate thing we can say about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory” (25). It puts the covenant of Christ and the church on display.
Well, you can read these verses in Eph 5 and not see the word “glory” brought up. Two things: Yes, of course, indeed, by all means and all that sort of thing … everything redounds to God’s glory but the Bible doesn’t say this in this passage. What it does say, second, is something else: it says that marriage is a profound mystery and this is what is found in the context for what that might mean: ” just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” And “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.”
Maybe I’m being picky because I have for years thought Piper overemphasizes God’s glory (some will say that can’t be done; I say, let’s say it the way the Bible does). But what I observe is that marriage is intended to depict the sacrificial love of Christ for the church. There’s a difference here: love as sacrificial giving and glory are not the same thing.
And one more point because what he says makes me a little skittish: “Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant” (25). Divorce is bad because it breaks covenant and breaks the display of God’s covenant. And, marriage “puts the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display” (25). Well, yes, I agree. Marriage is about keeping covenant.
But what is love? I sense that Piper lets his meaning of love absorb the inferior use of the word “love” in our culture, where it means very little because it is used for too many relations and ideas. (Maybe that is the basis for his contrast between “love” and “keeping covenant.”) But, my view of love just happens to be “covenant keeping,” and that is what love means in the Bible.
So, staying married for me is about love because love is covenant-keeping and marriage is given by God to depict God’s love. How so? God is Love. God’s creation and marriage partners in particular are invited to participate in God’s love and, in loving, they display God’s love (or covenant keeping).
Am I being too picky?