Title: This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
Author: John Piper
When Jesus wished to convey an important truth, He often did so using parables. A parable is a simple, understandable story that illustrates deeper, more important principles.
Marriage is like that.
In This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, John Piper reflects on his decades of marriage and reminds us of the big picture spiritual realities of the husband-wife relationship.
Piper’s book has so many brilliant points that I found myself whipping out my highlighter pen again and again as I read it — and I’m not even married!
First off, Piper proposes that the #1 goal of marriage is not to stay in love, nor to thrive economically, nor to enjoy great sex lives, but rather to show “in real life the glory of the gospel” (p. 26) — to display “the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church” (p. 178).
As Paul elegantly describes in Ephesians 5, when Christ completely gave Himself to the church, and the church joyously accepted that love, that gave us the best possible ideal for a healthy marriage. As Piper puts it: “Marriage is a temporary institution, but what it stands for lasts forever” (p. 111).
Marriage is a temporary institution, but what it stands for lasts forever
Then, in chapters 6 and 7, Piper observes that Jesus is both the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God, so husbands should likewise strive to live out both sides of that coin. Leading their homes courageously, but also tenderly and at times brokenheartedly. He urges men to consider Ephesians 5:29: “[the husband] nourishes and cherishes [his body, his wife], just as Christ does the church.”
Chapter 8 of This Momentary Marriage describes the wife’s all-important role of similarly living out the gospel in marriage. Submission, Piper points out, is very easy to misunderstand. It does not mean you go along with everything your husband says, put your husband’s will above Christ’s, or derive your spiritual strength primarily from your husband. Instead, we can think of submission as “the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts” (pp. 99-101).
For all of us who are single, chapters 9 and 10 are especially beautiful perspective-changers. Piper argues there that there are certain truths that actually shine brighter in singleness — and that we all must flee idolatry and exalt Christ, no matter what season of life we find ourselves in.
He also cautions us, saying marriage and celibacy can both be idolatrous.
If you’re married, are you worshipping your children or your sex life or your double-income buying power?
If you’re single, are your worshipping your autonomy and independence?
Whether married or single, do you inwardly look down on people in the other life season (p. 120).?
“Marriage and singleness both present us with unique trials and unique opportunities for our sanctification—our preparation for heaven,” Piper says. “There will be unique rewards for each. Which is greater will not depend on whether you were married or single, but on how you responded to each” (p. 113).
Marriage and singleness both present us with unique trials and unique opportunities for our sanctification
I’ll close with my two favourite paragraphs from the book. In these closing paragraphs, Piper beautifully describes what the parable of marriage is ultimately pointing to:
“Very soon the shadow will give way to Reality. The partial will pass into the Perfect. The foretaste will lead to the Banquet. The troubled path will end in Paradise. A hundred candle-lit evenings will come to their consummation in the marriage supper of the Lamb. And this momentary marriage will be swallowed up by Life. Christ will be all and in all. And the purpose of marriage will be complete.
“To that end, may God give us eyes to see what matters most in this life. May the Holy Spirit, whom he sends, make his crucified and risen Son the supreme Treasure of our lives. And may that Treasure so satisfy our souls that the root of every marriage-destroying impulse is severed. And may the marriage-watching world be captivated by the covenant-keeping love of Christ” (p. 178).
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