I am doing a series on the family during the month of September at my church. In preparation for it, I have been trying to do a lot of reading on the topic. I do not remember why, but I picked up several books by Douglas Wilson on the family. Reforming Marriage is the first of several I have read. And I was pleasantly surprised by what he had to say in this book.
Wilson takes a very strong stance on biblical headship in this book (which I will talk about more in another of his books). He says at the beginning that the key to a great family is a great marriage. And that hinges upon how the husband treats his wife.
What I took as one of the most important elements of this book is how he very pointedly makes the connection between the marriage relationship and Christ's relationship to the church. You have probably read it before, but during the middle of Paul's instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5, he says, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." Wilson's explanation of this has really helped me think through the ways in which marriage is connected to Christ and the church. For instance, he writes,
"Every marriage, everywhere in the world, is a picture of Christ and the church. Because of sin and rebellion, many of these pictures are slanderous lies concerning Christ. But a husband can never stop talking about Christ and church. If he is obedient to God, he is preaching truth; if he does not love his wife, he is speaking apostasy and lies--but he is always talking. If he deserts his wife, he is saying that this is the way Christ deserts His bride--a lie. If he is harsh with his wife and strikes her, he is saying that Christ is harsh with the church--another lie. If he sleeps with another woman, he is an adulterer, and a blasphemer as well. How could Christ love someone other than His own Bride? It is astonishing how, for a few moments of pleasure, faithless men can bring themselves to slander the faithfulness of Christ in such a way" (25).
Did you see that? How could a man bring himself to slander Christ in this way? By what way? By sleeping with another woman. We tend to say things like, "how could he slander his wife like that." But Wilson helps us see that the greatest offended party is Christ, whose name is slandered because the man's relationship to his wife is a picture of Christ's relationship to the church. That certainly raises the bar on marriage, don't you think?
Throughout the book, he offers great word pictures and illustrations to make his points. His writing style is easy to grasp and flows naturally from one point to the next. Another strength of this book are the applications that he offers. For instance, in chapter five, he recommends that the husband and wife keep short accounts of their sin with God and each other. He offers several rules that have helped shape their home.
- Never split up until things are resolved.
- Never let anyone into your home when there is no harmony there.
- Never go anywhere else when you are out of fellowship.
- Never wait until later to fix things, even when you are surrounded by others.
- Never have sexual relations when you are out of fellowship with one another.
This book was helpful enough to me that I decided to pick up some of his other books on family relationships. More of that to come later.