Altared is written in a rather interesting style. It intersperses the story of the relationship of Claire, an aspiring writer, and Eli, a JD student at the University of Chicago Law School, together with some profound reflections on love and marriage and the place that they have come to occupy in present-day Christian circles.
The authors in this book wonder if we have made too little of love – by making too much of marriage. They are not at all against the institution of marriage, but based on their experiences – and it seems a fair description of far too many places in Evangelical circles – marriage is held up as the highest aim for the post-University Christian.
They reflect on whether or not perhaps we are missing something important that should be even more fundamental to whether or not marriage is the next step in life.
The goal here isn’t a simplistic yes or no to marriage overall, which would be both unhelpful and a bad idea. The goal is to ask if we missed something in our evangelical assumptions about marriage. What did marriage mean for discipleship? What did discipleship mean for marriage? If Christ’s love was the way others would know we are His (see John 13:35), what kind of love was it? (Loc. 77)
What role does discipleship have in relationships? What role do relationships have in our discipleship?
These are helpful questions – they go back to the where is the core of our identity. Are we primarily defined by our relationship status – single or married or its complicated – or by our relationship status – redeemed child of God, heir, Christ-follower, disciple?
The book pushes towards a closer look at what Jesus said is the Great Commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Do we do a good job at that?
His love will radically change both whom we choose to love, and how we choose to love them. (Loc. 383)
It is about abiding in Christ, locating His cross-shaped mold and living there. Obedience is abiding in His love. (Loc. 405)
These thoughts apply to relationships and pursuing marriage – but they go much deeper. They start to inform what it means to love our neighbors, what it means to live in community, what it means to be a church member, and the list could continue.
So – think about it – if you are single: Are you loving God and loving your Neighbor? Before you get caught up in the pursuit of the one, pursue the One.
If you are married: Are you Loving God and Loving your Neighbor? How does your life continue to model discipleship? In your use of time and resources are you continuing to obey Jesus? Are you living out his Love? If you have kids, is this being modeled in front of them? Do they see you intentionally loving God and loving neighbor?
It was a fundamental re-ordering and re-centering of all parts of our lives (Loc. 1201)
This is what we need to have happen for all of us. We need to be living in obedience – abiding in His love. This starts first internally and then moves externally.
For the love of God to truly take root, our transformation must be inward first, then outward. God must pervade our interior lives before He can be truthfully present in our exterior actions. (Loc. 2157)
So – if you are searching for the one, if you are in a relationship, if you are married, the question should be – where is your love? Have you made the right relationship ultimate? If not, then all relationships will be out of whack.
Altared raises a number of helpful questions – confronts a number of false conceptions – and tells a rather interesting story along the way.
DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.