One of the things that I love about John Piper is that he publishes his books online for free. So if you're interested in reading this one and okay with not holding it in your hand, click here for the PDF.
I love that this book both glorifies marriage by demonstrating that it is a holy calling and humbles it by showing that it's a fleeting shadow of things to come.
"The highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display. That is why marriage exists. If you are married, that is why you are married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream."
Marriage is wonderful, but it's not essential to following Christ faithfully. Piper writes an excellent chapter on God-glorifying singleness and constantly warns his married readers not to think of themselves as better than their single friends:
"Romance, sex, and childbearing are temporary gifts of God. They are not part of the next life. And they are not guaranteed even for this life. They are one possible path through the narrow way to Paradise."
Having experienced for myself and from others how beautiful it is to be part of a an unconditional marriage covenant it makes me sad that most people in our culture think of marriage as a conditional contract instead. While I've known all my life that God requires us to be faithful to our spouses, I don't think I quite understood the lavish grace that God intends us to extend to them until I read these words from Piper:
"As the Lord counts you righteous in Christ, though you are not righteous in actual behavior and attitude, so count your spouse righteous in Christ, though he or she is not righteous... Marriage is meant to be a unique matrix for this display of God's grace."
I've known for a long time that God intends marriage to make us holy through constant accountability and responsibility to someone else, among other things. But I think I had forgotten that most of that sanctification comes from extending extravagant, Christ-like, forgetful grace to the other over and over again.
"If we are to return good for evil in general, how much more in marriage."
To me, this is the quote that most completely summarizes the book:
"Keeping covenant with our spouse is as important as telling the truth about God's covenant with us in Jesus Christ. Marriage is not mainly about being or staying in love. It's mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It's about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people. It is about showing in real life the glory of the gospel."
And I also love this quote about parenting:
"The chief task of parenting is to know God for who He is in his many attributes - especially as he has revealed himself in the person of Jesus and his cross - and then to live in such a way with our children that we help them know this multifaceted God. And, of course, that will involve directing them always to the infallible portrait of God in the Bible... His design is that children grow up watching Christ love the church and watching the church delight in Christ."
If you want to watch a video with a beautiful, heartbreaking, God-glorifying application of the principles in this book, click here. Go ahead and get a box of Kleenex ready. And your sleeve.
I hope you'll read this book and be humbled, encouraged, and instructed as I was.