This is a great little book for those who are married or wanting to be. Piper aims to show that ‘the main meaning of marriage is to display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church’.
He addresses various practical aspects of marriage, such as forgiveness, headship, submission, sex and parenting, but all with this over-arching, exalted view of marriage. The book is easy to read, with short chapters, each begun with a helpful quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and based on a portion of Scripture.
Piper includes a helpful and challenging chapter on what the husband’s headship looks like in concrete terms. Concerning his advice about daughters’ clothing, however, there may be some fathers who would rather delegate the task to wives!
His chapter on the wife’s submission is also good, but might prove disappointingly brief for some. His typically frank comments on sex will cause either wincing or laughter, but are helpful in our sex-saturated society. Both husbands and wives will certainly benefit from his advice on selflessness.
Generally, Piper seems solidly grounded in a faithful interpretation of Scripture. However, some of his comments on divorce and remarriage are questionable. His basis for these debatable assertions is the glorious and undeniable truth that Jesus never forsakes his bride: ‘He always loves her. He always takes her back when she wanders’.
Consequently, in spite of biblical evidence to the contrary, Piper appears to hold that there are no legitimate grounds for divorce, and that, if the other spouse is alive, remarriage is never permissible.
Piper’s comments will seem both unbiblical and unsettlingly harsh to many, especially those suffering an abusive marriage, or those who have been released from such by divorce and are looking forward to a fresh start with a godly partner.
Nonetheless, this is a vital message to us who live in an age where marriage is paradoxically both idolised and treated with triviality. Those inclined to jump ship during stormy waters need the reminder that marriage is not to be broken easily but is ‘a parable of permanence’ that displays the permanent relationship between Christ and the church.
Those who live for marriage need the reminder that it is only a momentary picture of something infinitely greater. We cannot have enough of that teaching.