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The kind of marriage that doesn’t exist

I recently came across a thought provoking paragraph on marriage in Tim Keller’s new book, Preaching. Here’s what the New York pastor had to say on how many in our culture view marriage:

‘A late-modern person…wants a spouse who “accepts me as I am” and neither demands that you change nor requires you to sacrifice any of your own substantial desires, interests, and dreams. This kind of marriage is a fiction – it doesn’t exist.”

Keller argues that marriage does and should change you.

There’s a common maxim in Christian circles that goes something like ‘God loves you as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way’. To use the spiritual jargon for a moment: God wants to sanctify you. God wants to make you more like his Son, Jesus.

It has been said many times before that a good and healthy marriage can speed up the sanctification process. Marriage continually challenges both individuals to put the other’s ‘desires, interests, and dreams’ before their own.

Jesus said it’s better to give than to receive. I’ve always found this to be true. Many – regardless of their faith background – would agree there’s a buzz that comes when you give to others. By being in a relationship, you’re able to put this teaching of Jesus into practice. You’re challenged to put another individual’s needs and happiness before your own. It’s a tall order, and no one gets it right all of the time. But relationships and marriage provides us with a unique opportunity to live out selfless love.

When Jesus said it’s better to give than receive, he was hinting that in the process of giving, we are ourselves gaining something. Giving brings us immense happiness. We enjoy adding to another’s happiness. As Keller explains:

‘In marriage, we might say, we lose our independence in order to gain new freedom…’

By making a sacrifice and putting another person’s preferences before our own, we can find joy. When you spend money on buying someone a gift, you’re sacrificing your resources in order to bring both another person, and yourself, joy.

Keller then applies this to our relationship with God:

‘…so if we give ourselves to our God our True Love, we will become more free than we can imagine. We will be free from fears, insecurity, and shame.’

Part of being a Christian is having a regular realisation that following God’s laws actually benefits us. It may be painful or difficult in the short term, but ultimately, it’s for our good. In the same way, giving to others is not always easy. It’s not always easy to sacrifice my own preferences and put others first. But in the long run, this is always best for us.

A good relationship will change you for the better. Embrace this process of change. Your other half will thank you for it!

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