The Meaning Of Marriage By Timothy Keller – Loving The Stranger


Chapter Five – Loving The Stranger

Do we all marry strangers?

I believe love for another is the main motivator in people willing to commit a life long union in marriage.  However, marriage has its way of revealing more about a person in depth.

The question “Did I marry a total stranger?” may cross one’s mind as they are rudely awakened by shortcomings or failures in their spouse, things which could only have been seen after the vows.

“We begin to feel that we did not really know the person after all.  And this presents us with the challenge of loving a person who, at the moment, seems in large part a stranger, not the person you remember marrying.” (Keller, 135)

Although marriage has its ways of bringing one to doubts about their spouse, it is also a God-given opportunity for a husband and wife to encourage growth in each other.  If we can exercise the power of truth, love, and grace, forgiving our spouse of their shortcomings and having faith in the future person they have the potential to become, then we will experience a purpose driven marriage.  

We must see marriage as a huge investment of time, and we must be willing to give that time if we expect it to work!

The Power of Truth

Facing the truth about sin in our lives is devastating.  The realization that we are not perfect can be a huge blow for most people.  Marriage gives us the opportunity to be confronted with our real self, and although the process of transformation from sin to righteous can be difficult and at times downright painful, the end result is worth it.

“In marriage you can’t hide.  You are exposed.” (Keller 137)

“Marriage brings out the worst in you.  It doesn’t create your weaknesses (though you may blame your spouse for your blow-ups) – it reveals them.” (Keller 139)


Unfortunately some people cannot face the truth of sin in their lives, they flee only to marry again and be confronted yet again. Others find it challenging to enjoy marriage when they see their spouse’s flaws and resort to spending time day-dreaming about someone better – something I am guilty of doing in the past myself.  But I love what Keller says about “the someone better” being your spouse, as long as you view them as the person they are to become, in time.   Keller adds,

“The only way you’re going to actually begin to see another person’s glory-self is to stick with him or her.”

The power of truth in marriage is that it shows you who you really are and it shows you who your spouse really is.  To harness this power to benefit your marriage you must be willing to give your spouse the right to keep you accountable to getting rid of the sin in your life, and you must be willing to keep your spouse accountable to their sin.  This will enhance growth towards a renewed self!

“Exhort one another daily, lest you become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13

The Power of Love

The power of love in marriage can affirm you and heal you of your deepest wounds.  No matter what self-image a person has stitched together based off of other’s approvals or disapprovals, love from a spouse can radically redeem those thoughts.  On the other hand, the lack of love in marriage has the power to destroy a person.

“The power of healing love in marriage is a miniature version of the same power that Jesus has with us.” (Keller, 149)

When we love we need to express it in a way that is valuable to our spouse.  Spend time discovering the different ways loving your spouse affirms them the most.

“All forms of love are necessary, and none are to be ignored, but all of us find some forms of love to be more emotionally valuable to us.” (Keller, 153)

Know that love is a choice.  And one of the greatest ways of loving is having the willingness to change, to become the person God desires you to be.

Love in marriage is powerful, capable of completely changing the way a person views themselves.  However,  Keller points out that when we feel that our spouse hurt us, we tend to “use the power of truth without love.”  This is dangerous in marriage, capable of tearing a person to rubble.

The Power of Grace

“Truth without love ruins oneness, and love without truth gives the illusion of unity but actually stops the journey and the growth.  The solution is grace.” (Keller, 163)

Using the power of truth and love can only happen if it is done in the power of grace.  Otherwise there will be a tug of war between powers.  Experiencing the grace of God and acknowledging that Jesus died for your sins will help you to have grace in marriage.  We will be able to forgive and repent, two important keys to marriage.

In order to know the power of grace, we must know humility.  God’s grace enables us to forgive our spouses when they sin against us.  As the process of reconciliation takes place in marriage we commit to partnering with God to see our spouses become glorified as a new creation.

In all humility with truth, love, and grace we should be able say to our spouse,

“I see your sin, but I can cover it with forgiveness, because Jesus saw my sin and covered it.” (Keller, 168)

GET The Meaning Of Marriage: Facing The Complexities Of Commitment With The Wisdom Of God HERE

Check out each Chapter Review below!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8


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