I recently listened to a podcast entitled “Love and Lust” – a sermon by Tim Keller. Tim Keller is a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC and I’ve been listening to many of his sermons lately. This one, I listened to three times. I read his book on marriage this past year and enjoyed that as well.
I have been married for 32 + years and have been quite blessed with a great husband and relationship. With my last unmarried child about to exchange vows and marry, two others marrying in the past year and a half – marriage and its challenges are on my mind. I hope and pray that my children will have strong marriages that will be lifetime relationships – but there are times when it will take work and commitment. Serious commitment. My husband said very early on in our marriage that he would NEVER divorce me – even if he no longer loved me. It sounds kind of strange – but that is his level of commitment to marriage – to us. Thankfully, I don’t think he’s ever been put to that test.
I will review the points of the sermon that spoke to me – but it’s well worth the download on ITunes, even for those long and successfully married!
Pastor Keller discussed what changes (or should) with the exchange of the vows of marriage. When a couple are dating or even living together, it is more of a consumer relationship. When we are in a consumer relationship, we are “always looking or wondering about an upgrade”. “What can you do FOR me?” In our consumer culture, we are looking for a better price, a better person, a person who can meet our needs more or better and if he/she does not, we are on the lookout for someone / something better.
Once marriage vows are exchanged as vows before God, the relationship changes to a covenantal one. A covenantal relationship provides a zone of safety in which we can relax and be ourselves with our partner. Ideally, there is freedom to be oneself because the promise has been made. A covenant provides the opportunity to learn to give to each other rather than to solely take.
Another example of a covenantal relationship he uses as an illustration is that of parent and child. There is long term investment for very little return for a very long time – and the child never truly catches up. But the emotional reward for our investment is still very great. The greater the investment, the greater the return.
Marriage provides an opportunity to trust, to give, to simply rest in covenantal relationship with one another.
He talks of sex as a renewal of this covenant. Sex is an external sign of the invisible reality of covenant. We are naked before one another physically; this represents that our whole lives are now vulnerable and open before one another. Outside of marriage, sex tends to be marketing or simply meeting of physical needs – a product to exchange with often selfish motivation. Additionally, he also talks about the impact of porn (the ultimate selfish consumerism), the marketing of sex, the integrity of sexuality in the Bible, the challenge of lust, and the future of love.
Our culture tends to quickly throw away the broken or damaged – whether stuff or people or marriages. My prayer for my children’s marriages is that there will be effort and patience and love and commitment leading to the richness of a life shared with a best friend.