Piper, Carson, and Keller on Sustaining the Covenant of Marital Love

What sustains the marital bond and affections over the long haul? Three men with a combined 116 years of marriage reflect on what they’ve learned from God’s Word and others along with their experience.

Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper offer insight on falling in love again and again and the ground of covenant in which the flower of love grows. In marriage, man and woman change, but their promise does not, sustained by the God who enacted his covenant between Christ and the church.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to a young married couple, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

For further reading, check out the Lewis Smedes article Keller cites from Christianity Today and read the full Stanley Hauerwas quote in context. Then consider picking up these two powerful books on loving, lasting marriages:

  • http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com Women Living Well

    Great video – great thoughts!

    “Duty is the ground where the flower grows. Don’t pull the flower up!” – Piper

    Amen! Thanks!

  • Mike Francis

    Put their wives on next, please.

  • http://exceptionoted.blogspot.com/ Pastor David Pitman

    Curious. Did Adam and Eve have a literal marriage?

    • http://www.finallyhuman.com Ian

      One thing is certain: our marriages can never be as disasterous as theirs. At least our sins don’t curse the whole race ;)

  • http://www.redeemer.com tim keller

    Pastor David —


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  • Mike Warren

    Great to hear these guys saying these things.
    Two other superb books are by Christopher Ash, ‘Marriage: Sex in the Service of God’ and, ‘Married for God’. The first is probably more for pastors, the second for everyone.

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

    This is a nice practical contribution to a huge crisis. There is never a time in ministry when I am not directly or indirectly involved with five to ten marriages in crisis. With close to 50 percent divorce for first marriage and an increase by 10 percent for second, third and fourth, the Church must expect this to be a big part of pastoral ministry. I appeal for preventative measures. As an example, for almost two decades (each Fall semester) I’ve taught a class for the university students in our town and singles in our Church on how to make the marriage decision one of your best decisions. We’ve had hundreds go through this 8 evening course. I also encourage pastors to be intentional and deeply committed to premarital preparation.

    Perhaps the most untapped resource for addressing the marriage challenge in the Church is the good marriages in the Church. Mentor couples can be a huge help to newly marrieds. I still believe that the number of marriages in crisis in the Church will be the one thing that many new pastors feel inadequately equipped to handle.

    If interested, check out: A closer look at marriage http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/a-closer-look-at-marriage/

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  • http://triablogue.blogspot.com Patrick Chan

    Thank you for sharing this video interview with these three wise gentlemen and faithful shepherds!

    I wonder what they would say about two otherwise biblically sound as well as mature Christians in their mid-to-late twenties with adequate financial means and the blessing of their equally biblically sound and mature Christian families and friends marrying not out of romantic love (neither loves the other in “that” way) but out of friendship-love (both have always thought of each other as good friends)? Of course, there’s no external pressure from others nor internal pressure from themselves (e.g. misplaced guilt or somesuch) for them to commit to each other in marriage.

    There doesn’t seem to be anything explicitly unbiblical about the possibility, at least as far as I can tell? If what John Piper, D.A. Carson, and Tim Keller are saying is true, which I don’t at all doubt is the case, particularly when they said the covenant is the soil in which the flower can grow, then why couldn’t a marriage take place between friends who as far as we can tell would be suitable for each other in all ways except for the element which many of us Westerners would (presumably wrongly) assume is so crucial, namely, romantic love?

    I realize this is counter-cultural. In fact, this is perhaps more in line with a good arranged marriage of yesteryear or in the culture of a developing nation than in line with our Western ideal of marriage.

    Also, I’m not at all suggesting the couple shouldn’t strive for romantic love in their marriage. To the contrary, I’d strongly encourage they do if they are husband and wife! But I know they would strive to do so regardless.

    So I’m wondering could a marriage which begins as “no more” than friendship-love blossom into romantic love in the context of the biblical covenant of marriage where, for example, divorce is wholly understood as never an option by the couple and their supportive friends and family? Could Christian friends become lovers (if not before then) after marriage? Would it be biblically wise to encourage such a union?

    By the way, I’m not asking this purely as a hypothetical. I know a couple who faces such a prospect. This likewise might be helpful to other Christians including those moving in the circles of other cultures or subcultures.

    Kind thanks.

  • Sally

    This is so lovely and so sweet……

    Thank you.

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  • Dan

    I had never heard this take on marriage about being married to multiple spouses that are the same person. My wife and I are in that time of change after 28 years of marriage and now 10 months apart. As we both enter a new stage of marriage I hope we are both willing to accept change as a part of God’s plan. John, Don and Tim you have been an inspiration through this video and my recent attendance at the TGC conference. To God be the glory

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  • Al Hiebert

    For my high school sweetheart and me it`s now almost 49 years of faithful loving behavior, though we have not always felt `in love.` I agree with the perspectives of Piper, Carson, Keller & Bonhoeffer, here and so did my students in India, some of whom were in `love marriages`, some in arranged marriages. Our media & culture`s Cinderella myth has destroyed too many marriages in the church and out.

  • balintdavid

    Great video! Thank you so much!
    All these ideas are real foundations for our marriages. I just spoke at my friends wedding and I couldn’t say anything more useful than the truths presented by the three of them from the Bible.
    I am experiencing the strength of these truths in my own marriage!
    To God be the glory!

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  • Mary

    “…Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them wil be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment….”

    Men who have wanted to murder their wives HAVE broken covenant with them whether or not they have divorced them. What allows Christians to diminish wives and covenant so that we would laugh at the idea of a man, with his wife by his side, telling an audience that while he had never considered divorcing her he had often contemplated murder?

    • maggs

      I think the point here was that the covenant is before God and no matter what sin area you incounter with your spouse divorce is not your first option. We must recognize that there is a battle to destroy marriages and families but we must also recognize the covenant and see this as precious.

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