There must be integrity between body and life. You must not do with your body what you’re not willing to do with your whole life.
– Tim Keller
*Quote taken from the Timothy Keller Sermon Podcast, “Love and Lust”
If two spouses each say, ‘I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,’ you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.
– Tim Keller
You will crush your marriage with those expectations. Nobody can bear the weight of the expectations and the hopes of ultimate joy. The criticism of your spouse will crush you. The problems of your spouse will crush you. They will devastate you much more than they should, because you’re looking to your spouse and to marriage to save you, to make everything right in your life. Now there are a whole lot of ways this plays out. Let me just give you a couple.
When you’re married, the way it plays out is you just feel that your spouse isn’t perfect. ‘My marriage isn’t perfect, and I don’t like it.’ You cannot live with imperfection. You can’t ever settle for anything other than this incredible picture you have in your mind of absolute blissful love. You have to have it, because you’re looking to it to give you what only God can give you. So when you’re not able to actually handle mediocrity in marriage, and you get all bent out of shape about the imperfections of your spouse and your marriage and refuse to be content with the good things you have, it’s idolatry.
How do unmarried people do it? There are a lot of ways. One of the ways unmarried people make an idol out of marriage and think it’s going to save them and fix them is by being incredibly picky as they evaluate spousal prospects. You say, ‘Oh, I want a marriage, and it’s going to be like this, and it’s going to be like this. This person has to be so this and this.’ You’re looking for virtually perfect spousal prospects, but there aren’t any out there. And you’re not perfect spousal prospects. Hypocrite! You want something you’re not, and that’s idolatry.
Or maybe the most frequent form of idolatry I know is a single person who wants to be married and who so pines after being married that they cannot enjoy their present condition. What are we going to do? This is just plain common sense. There’s a tendency for us to say, ‘So are you trying to say I shouldn’t love my spouse too much, or hope to love my spouse too much?’
C.S. Lewis says it is probably impossible to love any human being too much. You may love him too much in proportion to your love for God, but it is the smallness of your love for God, not the greatness of your love for the person, that constitutes the inordinacy. Do you know what that means? Marriage will strangle us unless we have a really great, true, existential love relationship with God.
You must not try to demote your love for your spouse or the person you think you’re going to marry. You can’t at all. You have to promote your love for God. Otherwise, it’ll strangle you. Don’t you see that? So married people, you have to do that, or you are not going to be able to settle for the imperfections of your marriage and of your spouse, and single people, you have to remember Christianity is the only major religion that was started by a single person.
– Tim Keller
Words found in Tim Keller’s 2009 Sermon, “The First Wedding Day”
In sharp contrast with our culture, the Bible teaches that the essence of marriage is a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other. That means that love is more fundamentally action than emotion. But in talking this way, there is a danger of falling into the opposite error that characterized many ancient and traditional societies. It is possible to see marriage as merely a social transaction, a way of doing your duty to family, tribe and society. Traditional societies made the family the ultimate value in life, and so marriage was a mere transaction that helped your family’s interest. By contrast, contemporary Western societies make the individual’s happiness the ultimate value, and so marriage becomes primarily an experience of romantic fulfillment. But the Bible sees GOD as the supreme good – not the individual or the family – and that gives us a view of marriage that intimately unites feelings AND duty, passion AND promise. That is because at the heart of the Biblical idea of marriage is the covenant.
– Tim Keller
The Christian attitude toward sex is popularly thought to be the Platonist view, but most definitely it is not. It differs quite radically from each of these three prominent views.
Contrary to the Platonist view, the Bible teaches that sex is very good (Gen. 1:31). God would not create and command something to be done in marriage (1 Cor. 7:3–5) that was not good. The Song of Solomon is filled with barefaced rejoicing in sexual pleasure. In fact, the Bible can be very uncomfortable for the prudish.
Contrary to the realist ‘sex-as-appetite’ view, the Bible teaches that sexual desires are broken and usually idolatrous. All by themselves, sexual appetites are not a safe guide, and we are instructed to flee our lusts (1 Cor. 6:18). Our sexual appetite does not operate the same as our other appetites. To illustrate this point, C. S. Lewis asks us to imagine a planet where people pay money to watch someone eat a mutton chop, where people ogle magazine pictures of food. If we landed on such a planet, we would think that the appetite of these people was seriously deranged. Yet that is just how modern people approach sex.
Contrary to the romantic view, the Bible teaches that love and sex are not primary for individual happiness. What the Bible says about sex and marriage ‘has a singularly foreign sound for those of us brought up on romantic notions of marriage and sex. We are struck by the stark realism of the Pauline recommendations in 1 Corinthians 7 . . . but [most of all by] the early church’s legitimation of singleness as a form of life [which] symbolized the necessity of the church to grow through witness and conversion.’
The Bible views sex not primarily as self-fulfillment but as a way to know Christ and build his kingdom. That view undercuts both the traditional society’s idolatry of sex-for-social-standing and the secular society’s idolatry of sex-for-personal-fulfillment.
– Tim Keller
Acknowledge that often when this topic comes up the rhetoric gets heated – and those who represent the Christian position are not always respectful of those who disagree, nor do they have sound reasons for their position. Christians have no more or less of a right to tell other people how to live their lives than anyone else. But we all have ways we think the world should be; and we all have the right to try to contend for these views respectfully. The gospel – that we are saved only by sheer grace – should help Christians to do this without self-righteousness.
Homosexuality is not God’s original design for sexuality – sex is designed for marriage between a man and a woman. But that belief should have no impact on a church’s or a Christian’s desire to love and serve the needs and interests of all their neighbors, including gay people, people of other faiths, and so on.
Note that there is not widespread division over what the Bible says about homosexuality. All three branches of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) agree – on at least four things: one, that every mention of homosexual practice in the Bible says that it is wrong; two, that it is specifically prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments; three, that it did not just reflect the prejudices of the day – it cut against the views of ancient cultures; and four, that the whole arc of the Bible begins with a heterosexual marriage (Adam and Eve) and ends with the vision of one – the wedding feast in the book of Revelation.
– Tim Keller
Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love. Love between two people must not, in the end, be identified simply with emotion or merely with dutiful action. Married love is a symbiotic, complex mixture of both. Having said this, it is important to observe that of the two – emotion and action – it is the latter that we have the most control over. It is the action of love that we can promise to maintain every day.
– Tim Keller
Both men and women today see marriage not as a way of creating character and community but as a way to reach personal life goals. They are all looking for a marriage partner who will ‘fulfill their emotional, sexual, and spiritual desires.’ And that creates an extreme idealism that in turn leads to deep pessimism that you will ever find the right person to marry.
– Tim Keller