Married for God (Book Review)

This is one of the very best books on marriage I have ever read — and I’ve read a lot of them

First published in the U.K. in 2007, Married for God has only just made its way across the Atlantic thanks to Crossway. Ash, who serves as Writer in Residence at Tyndale House in Cambridge, describes his book simply: It’s “a straightforward account of what the Bible teaches about marriage.”

 

It’s not like we’re hurting for books on marriage. In fact, there may be more Christian books on marriage than on any topic besides prayer. This means that any new book has to be awfully good to stand out from an already-crowded field. It was pure joy, then, to read Christopher Ash’s Married for God: Making Your Marriage the Best It Can Be and see it do exactly that. It is one of the very best books on marriage I have ever read—and I’ve read a lot of them.

First published in the U.K. in 2007, Married for God has only just made its way across the Atlantic thanks to Crossway. Ash, who serves as Writer in Residence at Tyndale House in Cambridge, describes his book simply: It’s “a straightforward account of what the Bible teaches about marriage.” He offers it for consideration in a variety of contexts: for individuals who wish to use it for private study, for engaged couples preparing for marriage, for married couples interested in an informal marriage refresher, or for churches to use as the foundation for a brief course on marriage.

Many marriage books focus on the how questions. How can we have better communication? How can we grow in our ability to resolve conflict? How can we have better sex? Others focus on the what questions. What is marriage? What are its boundaries? What kind of people may participate in it? Ash, though, chooses to focus first and primarily on the why questions, for “If we get our aims clear, then we shall see why marriage has to be what it is, and we will be well placed to see how to build a strong marriage.” He grounds his book on this foundational statement: “We ought to want what God wants in marriage. Or, to put it another way, God’s why matters more than my why.” If this is the case, “You and I need to ask God what he wants and then line up our goals behind his, rather than expecting him to line up his goals behind ours.” Marriage at its best is marriage that is aligned with God’s purposes.

The first chapter is dedicated to baggage and grace. None of us comes into marriage without some kind of background, some kind of baggage. We each have our unique histories “of sexual experience or inexperience; of hopes realized or deferred; of longings or aversions; of fulfillment or frustration; of fears, anxieties, delights, regrets. What we have done or not done, how we have been treated or mistreated by others: all these things shape what we believe.” Those who carry baggage need grace to deal with it, for “Unless we understand grace, we will misunderstand all the Bible’s teaching about sex and marriage.” Thankfully the Bible speaks to those whose pasts are spoiled or ruined, and it speaks equally to those convinced they enter marriage utterly pure and undefiled. “Never forget that [the Bible] speaks to those with spoiled and damaged histories, to whom Jesus Christ offers forgiveness and restoration, and never forget that by his grace God can turn a spoiled life into a life of growing purity, which will be perfected when he gives us resurrection bodies at the end.”

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