Tim and Kathy Keller - Cultivating a healthy marriage. 



Marriage is like a garden not an instant flower delivery – needs hard work, tending, pruning, cultivation and will then grow in beauty
Marriage is based on the model of the Gospel: both husband and wife to act out the role of Jesus in different ways
Purpose of marriage: to help your husband/wife achieve their future glory status through sacrificial service
Not: I’ll be the spouse I ought to be if they are being the spouse they ought to be but…even if they are not…unconditional love
But…not all one way – it is not selfless to always let your partner get their own way because it is not good for their character – it is not helping them achieve their future glory status.
The more you act loving when you don’t feel loving, the more you feel loving..
Read: Genesis 1 – complete equality – both man and woman created in God’s image
Read: Genesis 2 –  is that equality lost?? Woman is called man’s helper. BUT Hebrew word helper as used for woman is often used for God – ie a helper from a position of strength
Read: Ephesians 5 v21 onwards
Both husband and wife required to take role of Jesus
Husband as head of woman like Jesus head of church – ie headship involves self sacrificing love
Wife voluntary submission to husband like Jesus’ voluntary submission to will of Father Jesus (see Philippians 2) - this voluntary submission to the Father’s will did not detract from Jesus’ divinity, dignity or authority but actually enhanced it – the same is true for wives’ submission
But wives are being asked to submit to imperfect husbands not a perfect Father God (they might argue this is harder!) which is why husbands are required to love their wives like Jesus loves us ie in sacrificial giving.
Headship given by one person to another voluntarily and does confer authority which is only used for the good of the giver and the family, not for the selfish benefit of the receiver.
Headship involves tie-breaking authority if there is genuine and sincere disagreement (should be rarely)
Jesus models: both willing submission and servant leadership
Note Ephesians 5v21 which introduces the headship passage: ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’  – mutual 2 way submission
What if husband not showing servant leadership? Then wife serves him best by opposing him though in a selfless motivation with his interests at heart.

Communication in marriage

4 tips from the Kellers

  1. If about to make a critical statement stop and ask yourself – what is my motive? Why am I saying this? Are your motives selfless or selfish
  2. Take the log out of your own eye before addressing the speck in your spouses – your speck should look like a log to you ie if only 10% fault lies with you and 90% with your partner (in your view!) then start by confessing that.
  3. Attack the problem not the person:
Rather than verbally attacking you spouse for something they are doing which hurts you try this approach:
As I see it, you’re doing this
It’s affecting me like this
I think it would be better if you did that
Is my understanding correct?
  1. Create a safe environment for criticism / stating a problem
More important to communicate love than content: never answer a feeling with a fact but with a feeling – winning the argument is not the most important thing.
Love Language
Behaviour which makes the other person feel loved
Examples: giving your partner one to one time, helping round house, extravagant presents. Balance advice/criticism with encouragement
Your love language may be inherited from your parents/families
  1. Sex within marriage is good and should be frequent. Proverbs chap 5, 1 Cor 7
  2. The biggest and only lasting pleasure is giving pleasure 
  3. Don’t get hung up on performance – the awe of intimacy and unique closeness and vulnerability is enough 
  4. Context more important for wives than husbands generally
  5. Sex may be a sensitive indicator of problems in the relationship – may need to see a counsellor if problems persist after talking them through
  6. Pornography/fantasy a threat because doesn’t need the work of relationship and context – so if tired or some tension in the marriage, pornography can be an easy opt out


Conflict resolution:

Truth and love – need both
Need repentance and forgiveness – sometimes need to grant forgiveness before you feel it: remember what Jesus has done for us
Forgiveness before confronting spouse about a problem (not instead of confrontation – otherwise no growth)
Repentance: deal with the log in your own eye first (even if you think the problem is 90% on the part of your partner, start by repenting for your 10%), no excuses, cause of your wrong behaviour is your own sinful nature not your spouse’ action though that may have been the occasion for it.

Spiritual life together:

First 26 years of their marriage, the Kellers did no regular prayer together
For the last  4 years – last thing at night they hold hands and pray for 3-4 minutes before sleep
Start something, however small!


Gospel roles, both husband and wife called to emulate Jesus’ example
If your spouse is ultimate source of happiness and security, then you will have unrealistic demands and reactions to their failures – need spousal love of Christ at the centre of a strong marriage.
Only to the degree that we know Jesus’ love for us can we be good spouses – if we feel our partner is at fault and failing us, well that’s what we were like and what did Jesus do for us?