In This Momentary Marriage, Piper begins by demonstrating from Scripture how marriage is foundationally the doing of God and ultimately the display of God. Every marriage exists to display Christ’s covenant with the church – even marriages between people who do not know or acknowledge Jesus Christ. Since marriage exists to display God’s glory, “staying married is not mainly about staying in love. It’s about covenant-keeping” (p. 31). In Genesis 2, the picture emerges of a relationship unashamed because of covenant love. When sin is present, shame unavoidably results from the broken covenant. God provides what Adam and Eve inadequately tried to provide for themselves: clothing, to signify mankind is not what God intends him to be. God’s glory is seen in the design of marriage and the implied redemption of marriage as God provides perfectly for man’s inadequacy.
Piper shows Jesus Himself and Paul the apostle echoing this principle. In Ephesians 5, husbands and wives are encouraged to take “God’s vertical forgiving, justifying grace [and bend it] out horizontally to each other and … to the world” (p. 44). The fullness of God’s grace is to be the measure of grace extended to one’s spouse. Both forgiveness and forbearance are needed. Because God calls His children “holy,” “set apart,” and “loved” spouses are to treat one another with mercy, humility, and long-suffering attitudes that lead to kind, meek, and forgiving actions. One is not to ignore problems in a relationship, but is to choose to not dwell on the problems. This attitude leads to treating one’s spouse better than they deserve.
Piper does not hold the position that change is unnecessary. Change is mandatory. He points to Paul’s explanation of Ephesians 5 as the example. Jesus Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Husbands are to lovingly give themselves for their wives in a way that makes them feel served and not humiliated for their shortcomings. Wives are to seek change in the lives of their spouse through loving self-sacrifice. Together, the marriage partners are to pursue conformity to Christ’s ideals, not their own.
The next three chapters are devoted to the definition and application of headship and submission. Headship is accepting the divine responsibility for servant leadership and provision that mirrors Christ’s love for the church. Submission is the accepting of divine responsibility for honoring and accepting leadership that mirrors the church’s response to Christ.
The subject of singleness is also addressed. If the primary purpose is bringing God glory, this purpose can be achieved even when the person is unmarried. The fact of the matter is that marriage and family are temporary, while the church exists forever. Christ is to be magnified in the way that married and single people interact with one another. Mutual hospitality is necessary because of the time in which we live – the time which, at any moment, could find Christ returning.
Piper then turns to a discussion of sexuality and procreation in marriage. Far from being the sinful actions of hedonists, sex for the believer is an expression and prediction of the full enjoyment of all that God has provided the one in relationship to Christ. The way one satisfies their desires is totally different because of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. In the arena of procreation, the main point is to increase the number of Jesus followers on the planet. Each child reared in a Christian home must be taught to know, love, and serve Christ as their Lord and Savior. Even those couples who cannot procreate can make children into disciples of Christ through their service to Him. In their parenting roles (whether they have biological children or children to whom they are ‘spiritual parents’), the atmosphere of Christ-sustained, Christ-centered, covenant-keeping love must be present and nurtured.
The book ends with a discussion on the implications of divorce and remarriage. A call is given to the church to respond caringly to those affected by divorce by coming alongside those affected as they grieve and repent of sinfulness on their part, and by articulating a hatred of divorce so that all is done to keep it from occurring. Because marriage exists to represent the covenant-keeping love between Christ and His church, it is Piper’s position that “if Christ ever abandons and discards his church, then a man may divorce his wife.” Piper traces Jesus’ words in Mark 10 to show that in Jesus’ mind, marriage was a profound union performed by God and not within man’s rights to destroy. As followers of Christ, we are to keep marriage vows as a testament to the unbreakable love of Christ.
A person may agree with Piper’s position or not, but one cannot argue that he does not lay out a careful reasoning behind his position. This Momentary Marriage is invaluable for those married, those contemplating marriage, those counseling prior to marriage, and those who think marriage will never come into their lives. I commend it to you whole-heartedly. – Charles L. Eldred, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Even in the days when people commonly stayed married “’til death do us part,” there has never been a generation whose view of marriage was high enough, says Pastor John Piper. That is all the more true in our casual times.
Though personal selfishness and cultural bondage obstruct the wonder of God’s purpose, it is found in God’s Word, where his design can awaken a glorious vision capable of freeing every person from small, Christ-ignoring, romance-intoxicated views. As Piper explains in reflecting on forty years of matrimony: “Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. Marriage, therefore, is not mainly about being in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. And staying married is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant and putting the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.”
This Momentary Marriage unpacks the biblical vision, its unexpected contours, and its weighty implications for married, single, divorced, and remarried alike.