There is no relationship between human beings that is greater or more important than marriage, say Tim and Kathy Keller of Redeemer Church in New York City. Yet there are lots of trends working against marriage.
Today, only about 50 percent of adults are married, the couple noted, and part of the reason is because the "whole cultural flow is keeping your options open."
The Kellers made their comments Monday on the Focus on the Family radio program in a three-part series titled "Blueprint for a Healthy Marriage." The series is exploring a biblically-rooted understanding of God's design for marriage in light of Valentine's Day and the Kellers' new book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment With the Wisdom of God.
They spoke candidly about the difficulties and cultural problems associated with marriage. Both aware that there are a lot of misconceptions on the subject.
Kathy Keller lamented that people don't want to commit to marriage and feel trapped if they do.
Another major cultural trend is the notion of finding the right person. This idea leads many to try and keep their options open and thus find fault in everyone.
"The perfect person doesn't exist," Pastor Tim Keller stressed. And because people don't always realize this, many couples tend toward cohabitation, to try things out.
The problem, his wife said, is that in today's culture marriage or being in a relationship is viewed more as "finding someone that is fun to be with, can have really good sex, and they don't bug you too much; it's a consumer relationship."
For both Kellers, this idea has to change. They emphasized that marriage can't be a consumer-vendor relationship.
The Redeemer pastor compared this view of marriage to shopping around at grocery stores. If the celery is fresher at one, he said there is no loyalty to the other. People are going to go where they can get a better deal. "It's like a relationship with your grocer, not a covenant relationship."
Elaborating further, Kathy Keller noted that this type of relationship makes things too easy to just cut and run. "You don't learn to know the other person if you still have an out. In marriage there is no getting out of it, so you have to find a solution. Marriage is supposed to be a vehicle for change. It's about making people become who God wants you to become."
Even with all the negative views of marriage, Tim Keller said he still had hope for it. He believes "we are going to come up against reality." He cited research that shows people who are married are happier, healthier, and make and save more money.
"There is [a] thrill that comes after years of standing by each other and serving each other," he said. The previous generation said that marriage was optional, but now people are "starting to see that there is no better social arrangement for health of society."
Tim and Kathy Keller have been married 36 years. They emphasize in their book that the Bible is the foundation for a good marriage.
"Marriage is God's idea," they wrote in the book. "[T]he concept and roots of human marriage are in God's own action, and therefore what the Bible says about God's design for marriage is crucial."
The influential couple made clear, "Like knowing God Himself, coming to know and love your spouse is difficult and painful, yet rewarding and wondrous."