Love, marriage, and sex the way God designed were topics discussed by pastor and bestselling author Tim Keller and his wife, Kathy, during a seminar hosted by a marriage advocacy campaign and streamed live over the Internet Tuesday.
Let’s Strengthen Marriage, a national campaign also gave the Kellers a chance to discuss their new book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment With the Wisdom of God. The book was released on Tuesday as well.
Keller and his wife, who have been married 37 years, stressed the importance of establishing and maintaining a friendship throughout all phases of a relationship, including when dating as singles.
The determining factor when deciding whether to marry someone should be whether both people in the relationship want to help each other become what God has planned for them individually and together, said the couple.
“To fall in love truly is to fall in love not only with the person as they are, but also with the person you know that God is making, that God is turning them into,” Keller said. “In other words, you get glimpses of future greatness [even though] you know the person is very flawed. Yet, you get excited about their future self as well as who they are now and you say ‘I want to be a part of getting you there.’”
Keller, who leads Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, said the desire to see the other person succeed in Christ should be mutual.
“You want the person doing the same for you, in which case you are not really looking for a person primarily that gives you great sexual chemistry, or romantic chemistry for you,” he said. “You are looking for a person who understands you, that can be your best friend, and your best counselor, and is going on a journey with you to help you become all that God wants you to be.”
“Two people coming into a Christian marriage should actually say, ‘We are here to help change each other,’” he explained.
Kathy Keller said that relationships are guaranteed their difficulties and that a couple needs to realize the importance of working together to get back on track.
“The advice that we’ve always given is that you find someone that you want to solve problems with and know that this relationship is worth so much to you that you actually want to go through the mess,” she said. “If you establish ‘what’s your mission,’ that can rejuvenate any marriage.”
Contrary to a popular belief that marriage restricts a person’s freedom, the Kellers said they believe marriage allows one to become what God really wants him or her to become and therefore is unrestricted by self-will.
“A lot of people are afraid that a vow limits your freedom. That’s not true. You are really more free by making a vow and sticking with it than in a sense being the victim of your own desires, and impulses, and feelings,” Keller stated. “The marriage vow makes it possible for you to be intimate because you can be yourself. You know the other person isn’t going to walk, promising not to walk when things get tough.”
Asked about same-sex relationships and unions, Keller said that God created marriage for the benefit of a man and woman to become full in a “project” that changes and disciples them in a way that cannot happen in the same way for two people of the same sex.
“This book is talking about what the Bible says about marriage. The Bible describes marriage as a man and a woman being brought to a whole life, enduring union through a permanent exclusive covenant,” he explained. “We’re here to tell you what the Christian view of marriage is as seen in the Bible.”
As Keller stresses in his new book, many view marriage through distorted lenses but “unless you’re able to look at marriage through the lens of Scripture instead of through your own fears or romanticism, through your particular experience, or through your culture’s narrow perspectives, you won’t be able to make intelligent decisions about your own marital future.”
Let’s Strengthen Marriage officials say that they seek to build cooperation with churches, businesses, education, the media, government and with parents. The group states that social science has shown that it is clear that “children are best served when they grow up with both a mother and father. It is critical to strengthen the bonds of marriage to best support children so that they can thrive and flourish.”
Campaign officials, who also sponsor National Marriage Week USA in February, are scheduled to hold a 30-minute conference call on the subject of marriage for pastors, church leaders, and marriage advocates on Nov. 7.