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The Real Meaning of Marriage

Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | Updated: Oct 27, 2011

The Real Meaning of Marriage

It should be an open-and-shut case. Study after study shows the beneficial effects of marriage and the self-inflicted harm that people experience when they ignore this evidence. Marriage is good for us in so many ways.

Here is a tiny sampling: People who have been continuously married have 75 percent more wealth at retirement than those who have divorced or were never married. Children in married, two-parent families experience two to three times more positive life outcomes than those who do not. Married people even enjoy better and more frequent sex!

Yet the statistics also show our culture heading in the opposite direction. In 1970, 89 percent of all births were to married parents. Today, unfortunately, it is only 60 percent. In 1960, 72 percent of adults in America were married. Care to guess the number in 2008? Fifty percent. How did we get here, when it makes no logical sense?

My friend Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York and his wife, Kathy, have written a brilliant new book that explains why marriage is in such dire straits, and how to rescue it. Their book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God is now available at our online book store at You need to get a copy!

The Kellers diagnose this cultural disconnect. It’s the natural fruit of the West’s slow redefinition of marriage: From an institution where duty and mutual sacrifice are expected for the good of children and the larger society to one in which the marital partners primarily ask, “What’s in it for me?”

“In short,” Keller writes, “the Enlightenment privatized marriage, taking it out of the public sphere, and redefined its purpose as individual gratification, not any ‘broader good’ such as reflecting God’s nature, producing character, or raising children.”

As a consequence, this new understanding, which is supposed to be so liberating, he says, “actually puts a crushing burden of expectation on marriage and on spouses that more traditional understandings never did.”

Because marriage is now all about me, no one is ever good enough, so we hang back, afraid to commit, waiting for the non-existent perfectly “compatible” person — meaning he or she is well-adjusted, beautiful, and can help us find sexual and emotional fulfillment. Or we drop the person we married when someone “better” comes along.

So how can we get out of this?

Well, their book, The Meaning of Marriage, lays out the solution in great and encouraging detail. It is written for singles, those in successful and stable marriages, and for those in the midst of marital crisis. The book is too rich to encapsulate in this brief commentary, but suffice it to say that the secret of marriage is grounded in the self-giving example of Jesus laying down His life for the church.

If more of us in the church understood this and lived it out in our marriages, perhaps we could stop the decline and rebuild a culture of marriage in our country.

This is a book Christians need to read. It’s a great resource to equip you to speak with your secular friends; to show them why the Christian understanding of marriage is not only a tremendous blessing, it’s the only one that works. We have Tim Keller’s wonderful book Meaning of Marriage available at

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media and print.

Publication date: October 27, 2011

The Real Meaning of Marriage