When I was newly engaged and then newly married, I read half a dozen books on marriage. Now that I am 12 years into marriage, I assumed I had a good handle on this marriage thing. Hmmm…
Recently, a single friend of mine gave me a book called This Momentary Marriage by John Piper. Odd title, I thought. When I read the book, I realized that I still have much to learn about marriage. This book is not a “how to have a happy marriage” guide but rather, how to be married as God intended. What is the difference? The priority in marriage is on demonstrating Christ’s permanent love for His church TO the church and TO the world. Piper writes, “I pray that we will all recognize the deepest and highest meaning of marriage---not sexual intimacy, as good as that is, not friendship, or mutual helpfulness, or childbearing, or child-rearing, but flesh-and-blood display in the world of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church” (175). The focus is not on our happiness, but the glory of Christ. Marriage is a “parable of permanence”---that is, a temporary illustration (“until death do us part”) of the real, lasting union between Christ and His church. In glory, there will be no marriage, no husbands and wives, only THE Husband and His wife, the church.
John Piper has a tendency to turn my thinking upside down on just about every topic he writes or speaks about. Piper has been married 40 years, and yet the heart of his marital wisdom is not from his experience with his wife Noël, but rather, the truth of the gospel. So, Piper focuses my attention---rightly---on Christ. My marriage is not for my benefit, but for God’s purpose. Granted, marriage IS beneficial to husbands and wives, children and society. But, that is not why we get married and stay married.
This is a book written to the church, not to married couples. So, this is a book newlyweds and seasoned marrieds should read. This is a book that singles should read. This is a book that widows and widowers should read. This is a book that divorced people should read. This is a book that parents, grandparents and non-parents should read.
The church has much to learn on this subject, especially in a day and age where four out of ten marriages end in divorce and many weddings have become a self-indulgent and hyped-up prom. Reviewer Wayne Grudem writes, “I have taught about marriage for over thirty years, and I still found much that I could learn.” This is one of the best books on marriage I have ever read.
Piper, John. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. Crossway: Wheaton, 2009.