Marriage Advice From Tim Keller

As Dave has mentioned previously, some of the staff had the opportunity to attend the Gospel Coalition Conference a few weeks ago. An altogether wonderful experience, but one of my favorite moments came within a panel discussion the night before the conference concluded.

What Tim Keller said is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard in regard to marriage (Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and has been influential on The Crossing in many ways, one of which is his penning of The Reason for God). If you’re married, listen to him. If you’re engaged, listen to him. If you think you’ll ever be married, listen to him. If you live life while having any type of relationship at all, listen to him.

This is a paraphrase, but here’s what he said:

“The key to a marriage is simply reenacting the gospel to each other. You can talk about communication skills or other stuff, and they’re all good, but basically knowing how to forgive and knowing how to repent…If you both can forgive and repent, it doesn’t matter how different you are, you’ll be okay. Two Christians who are married, no matter how incompatible…if you can repent and forgive.”

Repent and forgive. There are obviously a lot of other ingredients for a thriving and healthy marriage, but I’m not convinced that these aren’t the most important (by the way, I think this piece of advice would hold true for any relationship).

But how hard is it to repent? When it comes to repentance I unfortunately often go the way of Irwin M. Fletcher, aka Fletch, of the Chevy Chase comedies in the late 80’s. “It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong…I am not a big man.” No one likes to admit when we’ve botched it. I don’t like to admit when I’ve been selfish with my time, or inattentive, or harsh, or cold. Or when I’ve snapped at my wife for no good reason. What about you?

And how hard is it to forgive? Paul’s famous discussion on love in 1 Corinthians 13 provides some insight (or possibly infamous due to 90% of Christian weddings including it…but I digress). “(Love) keeps no record of wrongs.” (Verse 5, TNIV) Oops. But if that’s what love is, that means I can’t hold over my wife’s head that hurtful thing she said four years ago. It means I don’t keep a scorecard, whether on paper or in my head. Personally, I’m pretty good at math and pretty proficient at keeping all sorts of scores. What about you?

Repent and forgive. There’s not much marriage advice that anyone will ever give you that’s much better than that.

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