|Gary Thomas, the author
of Sacred Marriage, introduces his subject : “…this isn't a book
that seeks to tell you how to have a happier marriage. “This is a book
that looks at how we can use the challenges, joys, struggles, and celebrations
of marriage to draw closer to God and to grow in Christian character.”
The apostle Paul, who was single, pointed out that a single person can serve God without the distraction of needing to please a mate. (I Corinthians 7:32-35) He also points out in his letter to the Ephesians that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. (Ephesians 6:25, 32-33)
Gary Thomas argues that whether single or married our Christian aim is to always please the Lord. He asks the reader to consider how facing the challenges of married life gives husbands and wives greater opportunity to grow in spiritual maturity and devotion to God: “…the young man in the monastery entered celibacy consciously as a path to holiness. Is it possible to enter marriage consciously as a path toward holiness? If so, how?”
He proposes several ways in which marriage stretches and forms our character when we actively choose to be obedient to God's call to be forgiving, repentant, and merciful. Every Christian's high calling is that of a servant. Where better can we learn the spiritual art and discipline of service than in marriage?
In the author's own case, he states, “What marriage has done for me is hold up a mirror to my sin. It forces me to face myself honestly and consider my character flaws, selfishness, and anti-Christian attitudes, encouraging me to be sanctified and cleansed and to grow in godliness.”
Gary Thomas has made many quotable statements in his book, such as: “If there is one thing young engaged couples need to hear, it's that a good marriage is not something you find, it's something you work for. It takes struggle. You must crucify your selfishness. You must at times confront, and at other times confess. The practice of forgiveness is essential.”
He does not insist that every marriage can be saved, because it does take both spouses to create a successful marriage. He does propose that even the toughest marriage has something to teach the people involved. When the couple actively faces problems and find solutions, no matter how difficult, both can grow in Christian maturity and character.
He even tackles the subject of sexuality in marriage with sensitivity from a scriptural point of view. He also touches lightly on the controversial issue of male leadership and female subordination: “One of the great (and often unexplored) challenges of marriage is maintaining a sense of individual mission while living in a cooperative relationship.” He goes on to say that even though couples do grow toward a “we” perspective: “This ‘we,’ however, is not achieved through the absorption of one mate into the other---either the wife into the husband or the husband into the wife. The Apostle Paul is clear that each of us is given our own gifts and our own role to play in the kingdom of God.”
Sacred Marriage is an excellent
perspective on how marriage can enable a Christian couple to grow more
like Christ in character. When a couple lives to please the Lord, and serve
one another, both have the potential of growing closer to God and closer
to one another.