Excerpt from What God Requires, Christ Provides by John Piper and Justin Taylor
I have a family to care for. My marriage must survive and thrive for the good of our children and the glory of Christ. God designed marriage to display the holy mercy of Christ and the happy submission of his church (see Eph. 5:21-25). Here the doctrine of justification by faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ can be a great marriage saver and sweetener.
Marriage seems almost impossible at times because both partners feel so self-justified in their expectations that are not being fulfilled. There is a horrible emotional dead end in the words, “But it’s just plain wrong for you to act that way,” followed by “That’s your perfectionistic perspective” or “Do you think you do everything right?” or by hopeless, resigned silence. The cycle of self-justified self-pity and anger can seem unbreakable.
But what if one or both partners becomes overwhelmed with the truth of justification by faith alone—and especially with the truth that in Christ Jesus God credits me, for Christ’s sake, as fulfilling all of his expectations? What happens if this doctrine so masters our souls that we begin to bend it from the vertical to the horizontal and apply it to our marriages? In our own imperfect efforts in this regard, there have been breakthroughs that seemed at times impossible. It is possible, for Christ’s sake, simply to say, “I will no longer think merely in terms of whether my expectations are met in practice. I will, for Christ’s sake, regard you the way God regards me—complete and accepted in Christ— and thus to be helped and blessed and nurtured and cherished, even if, in practice, you fail.” I know my wife treats me this way. And surely this is part of what Paul calls for when he says that we should forgive “one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). There is more healing for marriage in the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness than many of us have begun to discover.