Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
This past year Karen and I celebrated 33 years of marriage. I am grateful for my dear wife, and grow more grateful with each passing year. In the good providence of God he not only pronounced us “husband and wife” he has, indeed, made us one such that our prayer and the bend of our lives is that we “may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6).
When Karen and I were first married, we read a book on marriage annually. We did for a number of years. But then we began having children and, well, it changed. In the past few years we have picked this up again. I am always on the lookout for good books on marriage. More so, I am eager to grow in godliness as a husband so that our marriage can be strengthened, and truly reflect Christ’s relationship to his Bride, the church. Both become a “picture,” a manifestation of the gospel (Eph. 5:22-33).
In preparation for leading a seminar on marriage, Jean Williams read a number of books with this question in mind: “What, ultimately, is marriage for?” Williams writes about three books she found especially helpful (“Three books and some thoughts,” The Briefing 403): John Piper, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence; Timothy and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God; and Christopher Ash, Married for God: Making Your Marriage the Best It Can Be.
Williams began by looking for one major point or goal of marriage. But she concludes that due to the wonderful complexity and mystery of marriage, there are a number of ultimate reasons for marriage. The main points of these books on marriage, in the order they were listed above, Williams concludes (emphasis mine):
Marriage looks upward – its purpose is to display God’s glory by presenting a picture of the covenant between Christ and the church.
Marriage looks inward – its purpose is spiritual friendship leading to holiness, as husband and wife partner [with] each other on the journey to glory.
Marriage looks outward – its purpose is to serve God in partnership as we rule and care for his world and make Jesus known.
Marriage looks upward, inward, and outward. Like a three-legged stool, if it lacks a leg it will stumble and fall. Yet ultimately marriage looks forward, to the day when our small marriages will be swallowed up by a greater one. For marriage is a temporary permanence, a life-long bond that draws its final breath only when we do. As we step into eternity, all the purposes of marriage find their end in Christ.
I find this not only a helpful summary of these three books, I find these four ultimate aspects of marriage to be a helpful and important reminder as I ponder my own marriage.
As you consider these various ultimate goals of marriage – upward, inward, outward and forward – where do you need to grow? What God-ordained means will you use to foster and nourish that growth?