The landscape of marriage in our country has experienced seismic shifts in recent decades.
In the 1970s, 89 percent of babies were born to a married couple. Today, that number is around 60 percent. And in 1960, about 72 percent of adults were married. That has now dropped to about 50 percent.
Culture has changed, and views about marriage reflect those changes. It should come as no surprise, then, that marriage is largely seen through a consumer-driven mindset.
That mindset is based on relationships being about what someone has to offer you, instead of what you can offer him or her. The goal, frankly, is fun, good sex, and getting along reasonably well. It’s a pragmatic view that focuses on what you can get instead of what you can give. It’s the very definition of a consumer relationship. As long as one person is happy with the other’s “product,” they’ll stick around.
But that type of relationship severely limits a couple’s ability to develop genuine intimacy that can endure for decades. If the foundation for your life together is an open door where either of you can walk out at any time, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever be truly vulnerable with one another. Only in a committed, covenantal relationship can you take a risk and experience authentic intimacy.
That word “risk” is what sends a lot of people fleeing for the relational exits. Committing your life to someone always carries a certain amount of risk, which is why so many people choose to keep their options open.
And why commit in the first place? Conventional wisdom says that if you find the right person, everything in the relationship will fall into place without either of you having to change a thing about yourselves.
But God has designed marriage specifically to be a vehicle for change. Spouses are supposed to help one another mature toward the person God intended them to be.
Besides, why would we want to stay “just as we are,” anyway? We all have flaws and need to grow and change. And marriage is a key institution God uses in the process of sanctification to transform individuals and, therefore, the culture. From God’s perspective, to be married is to grow and to be transformed.
That’s why believing you shouldn’t have to change is a very idealistic view of relationships. It forces you to search for someone who you think is perfectly complete. In fact, it’s so idealistic, it’s untenable.
But pastor and author Dr. Tim Keller and his wife, Kathy, believe that same idealism is creating something of a revival in a Christian understanding of marriage. From their experience, even secular people who are against traditional values are starting to admit that the very fabric of our culture depends on healthy marriages.
Still, there’s that element of risk to confront.
Without God as the center of a relationship, one spouse will look to the other for security that the relationship will be safe and meet their needs. But, as we know, we can’t ever fully trust another human being to never let us down. We’re all inherently sinful and have flaws.
As Dr. and Mrs. Keller say, every concern about marriage people have finds its answer in the Lord and His design for marriage. Without trust in God, you’ll minimize risk by avoiding commitment and keeping your options open. That mindset will most likely lead you into a consumer relationship, which will almost guarantee you’ll never achieve the sort of intimacy a marriage needs to thrive for decades.
Dr. and Mrs. Keller were our guests on yesterday’s program, and our conversation with them continues on today’s and tomorrow’s broadcast. Dr. Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He and Kathy have served there since 1989.
Through their own story and sound biblical teaching, they’ll reconnect us with God’s blueprint for marriage and help us understand how longevity and happiness are the fruit of a marriage grounded in Christ.
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