Saturday, February 27, 2010

Prioritizing God

Yesterday I was looking at a famous evangelical pastor's Twitter page and he said something that got me thinking: "Before you marry you must look them in the eye and say you are #2. If that is not sweet joy to them then don't marry them says Dr. Piper." Since I am thinking about and anticipating my own betrothal in June, I have been reading anything that comes across my screen concerning marriage. Now, of course, this pastor was quoting another pastor, an even more famous pastor/reformed theologian named John Piper (you may have heard of him, the guy's brilliant). To put the quote in terms of my own interpretation thereof, Piper is saying that God is to be our #1 priority and spouse is to be #2, implying that prioritization and love are to be understood in terms of fixed numerical competing hierarchies.

As much as I respect Dr. Piper as a pastor and as a good reformed thinker, I was struck by the quote. Almost certainly thinking too hard about the small context-less sentence, I thought to myself, "there's something wrong with that and I can't quite put my finger on it." What a rigid way of reflecting on God. This quote starts with the presupposition that God is "out there" and must "fit" somewhere "in here," that God is an autonomous unit of prioritization, always in competition for our affections with all other units of the hierarchy. But is that really how it works?

What this suggests to me is that God is separate from the other priorities. For example, my choice is always between God and my wife and I must choose God and hope that my wife's best interests are somehow compatible therein, otherwise I'd be choosing my wife and thus leaving God in the dust. But I have a hard time fixing God into this kind of space. If God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17), then all of my priorities, wherever numerical values are to be assigned and standardized, are within God and His creative transcendence. God does not thereby become #1, leaving everything else to fight for #2,#3, and so forth. God fixes himself within our relationships among all experiences and priorities. God transcends and shapes our priorities so that family, work, wife, the poor, church, etc. become in themselves and expression of communion with God.

I do not plan on telling my wife, "hey you're #2, deal with that!" as though she's in competition with God for my heart. Even better, I plan on expressing to my wife that she, and my relationship with her, has become the very expression of my worship to God. We together are his bride. I plan on allowing all I do do be consumed and transcended, shaped and exceeded, by the God who shares with us in the Body of Christ.

3 comments:

Andrew said...

Spot-on my friend! Your Acts reference was the same thing that was rolling through my mind as I read your article. Piper's quote reminds me of much of my Christian upbringing. God is made out to be rather insecure under those lights. As you say, God is not in competition with my love for my wife. My love of both grows together and neither should be a threat to the other... if love is what we are really talking about.

WES ELLIS said...

Andrew,
Great thoughts! The phrase, "God is love" comes swiftly to mind.
-Wes

Anonymous said...

nailed it!