Book Reviews: This Momentary Marriage
This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence By: John Piper, Crossway Books, 2012. 192 pp. $14.99
Marriage is momentary; not the idea taught by the world (divorce), but the idea taught by the Bible. Scripture teaches that those who are married here on earth will not be married after they die; no one will be married in heaven. John Piper, in a short, yet brilliant book displays the best use of marriage while it lasts here on Earth.
With a large number of books located in the marriage section of your local bookstore, it can be difficult choosing the one you wish will leave an impact on you and your marriage. There are self-help books, books on techniques and disciplines, books on sexual intimacy, etc. which all seem to focus on an individual aspect of marriage as if dealing with that will be the cure. So which one will it be?
There is one reason this book should be your first choice. It is not because this is the greatest or most attractive book (it’s quite small and plain), but because it sticks to one grand message: marriage is about displaying the gospel.
What I Appreciated About The Book
Beginning each chapter, Piper uses an excerpt from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to set the tone for the chapter. Why Bonhoeffer? Well, if you are familiar with the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, you will remember that he was engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer, but was executed before he was able to marry her. Although Bonhoeffer never married, he wrote of marriage, and these writings have become some of the most influential on the subject of marriage in the 20th and 21st centuries. While you may not have read them, you have more than likely been influenced by them.
Although Bonhoeffer wrote on marriage, his writings on marriage seem not to be the primary reason why Piper would include him in this book. The second paragraph in the introduction gives it away. “So [Bonhoeffer] never married. He skipped the shadow on the way to the Reality. Some are called to one display of the worth of Christ, and some to another. Martyrdom, not marriage was his calling.”
Marriage is not about marriage; it is about displaying Christ. This is the message of the book delivered from a different perspective each chapter. It is a holistic kind of book. There is no primary focus on a certain thing you must do or try but on the one and only reason for marriage. This book, then, is not only for the married but the single and dating. Not only are there chapters specifically for the unmarried, but the gospel focus is beneficial to every believer. To be reminded of the big picture is a necessary thing for all believers.
John Piper never strays far from scripture which is a breath of fresh air among a plethora of opinions and ideas regarding marriage. With brilliant simplicity, he brings to us in one short volume what most others need multiple volumes to accomplish. There is no need for Piper to spend his time answering the ‘how to’ questions. The gospel-centered, Bible-centered teaching of this book gives us the answer to the ‘why to’ question in such a way that the majority of the ‘how to’ questions disappear.
One thing that stands out the most from this book is that John Piper lives what he teaches. While many teach on how they live, Piper teaches the Bible and lives accordingly. After 40 years of marriage, he attests to the glory of marriage influenced by the gospel. He understands that weddings are forgotten, but marriages are remembered. The glory of a gospel marriage far outshines the grandest of weddings.
During an Ask Pastor John podcast, he tells of his wedding. It was a plain wedding; their only decorations were a cross and an open Bible. Not much was spent on the ceremony, and they are still just as married today as they were then. The reason it was plain was that they saw the big picture. That is not to say extravagance is wrong, but they saw extravagance to be in the way. Their focus was on Christ, and glorifying Him through both their wedding and their marriage. This they have done, even to this day, and continue to display and help others display the glory of marriage the way God designed it to be.
With the centrality of the gospel in marriage, one can rise above the briefness of it. Your marriage can count, but as John Piper so plainly explains, this is found solely in having the gospel at the center of it. The grand picture of marriage, which is displayed in such a short book, has made this one a classic and a must read for every Christian.
If you want to hear the author describe the purpose of the book, or download the free pdf version of this book, visit http://www.desiringgod.org/books/this-momentary-marriage