Hedonize Your Marriage
I have tried to offer commentary on John Piper’s book, Desiring God, that will make it more palatable to the lay reader. In making that statement I know that I am also saying that I do not believe the book is palatable to the lay reader. I will affirm; I believe this to be true. Case in point is chapter 8 on Marriage, the Matrix for Christian Hedonism.
On this chapter I do not believe commentary is as needed as editing. If I were going to print this chapter I would begin on page 210. The pages preceding this are what I feel makes the book less palatable for the lay reader. In every chapter Piper spends some awkward moments waxing philosophically on Hedonism. What makes this even more awkward for me is that I am still uncomfortable with trying to merge the ugly word “Hedonism” with the sacred word “Christian.” I know Piper argued for this merger way back in the beginning of the book. I am just not there yet, and I am not sure I will ever be. At the same time, I agree with Piper’s opening premises. God does command us to be happy in Him. Everyone seeks pleasure. Yet I believe trying to make the case for every chapter and principle to be “hedonish” makes the book difficult. As a pastor I have found that the laymen of our church are often so frustrated by the opening statements of each chapter that they never really get to the good stuff. So, if I were writing this chapter I would say less about why you seek pleasure in what and whom and whom seeks pleasure in what and whom and why we seek pleasure in what and whom and why our seeking of pleasure in what and whom is not selfish but hedonistic and Biblical and say something like, “God wants you to be happy in marriage, here is why.” I think that would make the book more easy to read and in the end save a few more trees – environmental hedonism. Ironically, in this chapter I think Piper even admits this to some extent. “It is not enough to say that each spouse should pursue his or her own joy in the joy of the other. It is also important to say that husbands and wives should consciously copy the relationship God intended for Christ and the church (213).” From here the chapter is superb.
Piper can be as confusing as he can be profound. Such is the nature of brilliant people. When I read a Piper book I wade through the confusing knowing that at any moment he will hit you with profound. Here are some of the profound points. God planned human marriage to be patterned after Christ and the church. If we practice marriage as designed, we will be happy (213). Marriage is a journey toward oneness (212). Joining your life to another is not only our greatest pleasure, but it can also be our greatest challenge. It is an exercise that is redemptive and transforming. In marriage God gives you a person that is like you, in that they are human, but they are nothing like you in that it is a person of the opposite gender (211). It is this unlikeness and likeness that helps us find joy in union. All of these are wonderful teachings on Christian marriage.
If I were editor of this book, I would have marked in bold the 3rd and 4th full paragraphs on page 216 and the first full paragraph on 218. This is great teaching on the relationship of headship. Piper’s descriptions of the principles and responsibilities of headship from pages 214 – 117 are well stated here, easily understood, and noteworthy. Recognizing and practicing these principles of responsible headship (for men) and relating rightly to headship (for women) in marriage will lead to greater joy. The result is a man who finds joy in watching his wife grow in beauty and purity, and a woman who finds joy in watching her husband mature in Christ likeness and moral strength.
Wade through the confusing. Look for the profound. This chapter is full of "good stuff."