The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller – Chp 1 – The Secret of Marriage

Opening Prayer

Ice Breaker

Small Group Guidelines

Resting in the Text:  Ephesians 5:18-33 (p. 19 of The Meaning of Marriage)

Discussion Questions:

  1. When you were (or since you are) single, what were your expectations of marriage?
  2. On pages 22-23, author Timothy Keller reviews statistics that indicate that marriage, as an institution, in on the decline in western culture.  How does this concur (or not) with what you see in the world?
  3. What are some of the good qualities about marriage? (Use an example from your own life or from the book, pp. 23-24.)
  4. Timothy Keller writes that there was a profound change in western cultures understanding of marriage in the 18th and 19th century.  He writes, “Instead of finding meaning through self-denial, through giving up one’s freedoms, and binding oneself to the duties of marriage and family, marriage was redefined as finding emotional and sexual fulfillment and self-actualization (28).”  How would you describe this shift in your own words?
  5. Can you give an example of an attitude that illustrates how “Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me (29)?
  6. Looking for a marriage relationship with the perfect soul-mate who will meet our needs and not require us to change leads to what Keller calls “idealistic pessimism.”  He writes, “Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for” (33).  In your life before marriage are there examples of idealistic pessimism? Feel free to describe one.
  7. Keller quotes Stanley Hauerwas who writes the following critique of current understandings of marriage, “Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person.  The moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage.  It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person….  The primary problem is … learning to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married” (38).  What do you think of what Hauerwas wrote?
  8. What is the profound mystery about marriage that Paul is referring to in Ephesians 5:32?
  9. What difference does Jesus Christ make in a marriage?
  10. Have someone read aloud, perhaps by taking turns, pp. 48-49 starting with, “There, then is the message of this book…”

Closing Prayer Time


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