Marriage Sustains Love

Last week, my son and his wife celebrated their first wedding anniversary. I gave them a copy of John Piper’s, “This Momentary Marriage” as a gift. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to his redeemed people, the church. And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display. That is why marriage exists. If you are married, that is why you are married . . . Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. —John Piper

Our culture would have us believe that marriage is all about staying in love. If the love ends, then the marriage can justifiably end (and, we are told, it is preferable to end the marriage than to stay in a loveless one). But if marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to the church, and its most ultimate purpose is to put THAT relationship on display, then staying married is not primarily about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. The aim is markedly different.

Focusing on covenant rather than love is what sustains a marriage through the tough times. I love my husband, not because I feel particularly loving, nor because he is particularly loveable, but because I made a covenant to love. My promise to love is what compels me to love. My commitment to my husband, and my commitment to display the glory of Christ’s covenant to the church means that I choose to love, even when I don’t feel like it. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

I have been married for almost 27 years, and I can tell you that Bonhoeffer’s statement is true and profound. The feeling of love does not sustain the commitment of marriage. The commitment of marriage sustains the feeling of love. 

Do you agree? Have you ever sustained your marriage by commitment alone? In what way does “your marriage sustain your love"?

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About the Author

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian is an award-winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and a distinguished professor at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She has published several books, Bible studies, and videos. At home in Alberta, Canada, Mary watches lots of sports! Her sons play ice hockey and her husband, Brent, is chaplain for the local professional football team. The Kassians enjoy biking, hiking, snorkeling, music, board games, mountains, campfires, and their family’s black lab, General Beau.

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