The following are my notes from Tim Keller’s portion of the sermon given by him and his wife at The Gospel Coalition’s 2012 National Women’s Conference. A video of the entire message can be found HERE
1. The Unreal and Distorted Relationship of Our Culture to Marriage
Here are three statistics about marriage in our culture:
1. The divorce rate today is about 50%, but it was only 25% in 1960.
2. In 1960 75% of all US adults were married, but today it is less than 50%.
3. In 1960 the percent of those who cohabited was not even on the map, but today 25% of all unmarried women ages 25-40 are living with a man. Over half of all women in their 20s, 30s, & 40s will at one time cohabit.
These statistics are striking and show a huge change in our culture but they also communicate a set of assumptions:
– Most marriages are unhappy.
– Living together before marriage is a great way to test things out, especially if you have great sexual and romantic chemistry.
– The key to a satisfying marriage is to find that perfectly compatible soul mate.
These assumptions show a great fear and insecurity about marriage, but we need to also hear another set of facts:
1. Those who live together before marriage are more likely to get divorced than those who do not.
2. In general, the earlier sex is introduced into a relationship the more likely that relationship will break up.
3. Yes, the divorce rate is 50%, but the greatest numbers of divorces are happening to people who are under the age of 18 and have not completed high school. If someone is married in the their 20s or 30s after finishing their schooling the likelihood for divorce goes way down.
4. Two-thirds of all marriages that say they are unhappy will say they are happy just 5 years later if they stay together.
5. Over the last 40 years 62% of all people who were married said they were not just happy, but very happy with their marriage.
6. There are piles and piles of data that show married people have a much better physical health, mental health, and financial health at every age.
7. Additionally, children who grow up with two married parents all their lives have a 200-300% more likely chance of positive life outcomes.
My first point is that even though our culture has tremendous fears about marriage and lack of faith in marriage the reality is that marriage is still the best thing for you if you can get it. So, why is their this unreal and distorted view of marriage?
2. The Underlying Attitudes & Beliefs That Are Causing This Distortion
There has been a fundamental change in our culture about the purpose of marriage. The biblical idea of marriage is that marriage is something that creates a framework that creates life-long devotion of love between a man and a woman.
Marriage is a framework to do three things:
1. It is designed to help each party subordinate their individual impulses and interests in favor of family, their relationship and their own personal character. The framework makes it really hard to get out and that when we are unhappy during some moments the marriage is more important than that happiness.
2. Men and women are so deeply different and these differences make them clash and mesh. Marriage is a way of bridging that gap and bringing male and female together into a whole.
3. It is designed to create a long-term, secure and stable place for raising children.
Marriage has shifted today it used to be about US, but now it is about ME! Personal, individual, self-fulfillment.
The irony is that this shift has put tremendous pressure on marriage to provide things that the bible or even any traditional culture has ever said it should provide. No marriage partner can ever provide all the self-fulfillment that they are looking for.
What are doing today is Christians buying into this idea of me-centered marriages, but they are just adding to the list that they have to be a Christian.
You are never going to find somebody like this and if you do you are going to see that marriage is incredibly hard and your only conclusion will be that you married the wrong person.
3. How the Bible and the Gospel Can Resolve This Distortion
Marriage is a covenantal thing. In Genesis 2:24-25 marriage is defined in covenantal language.
But what is a covenant?
We do not use this word anymore so how are we going to understand what marriage is? Here is simple definition: A covenant is an incredible, unbelievable, and for our society counterintuitive merger of love and law together.
A covenantal relationship is more intense, personal, and intimate than a merely contractual relationship, but at the same time so much more binding and solid than a merely emotional relationship. A marriage is more intense and more personal because it is legal.
In conclusion, we must understand that even though all that I have just said is true of almost any traditional culture’s understanding of marriage we Christians have one more thing that they do not have. We have a gospel. We have a God who loved us in Christ even when we have been an unfaithful spouse. This gospel gives us the power to stay together and be the spouses God is calling us to be.