From the altar to the marriage bed, author Dave Harvey points married Christians to Jesus and the Word of God, encouraging us to battle individual sin.
If it’s possible to hate something in a good way, then I really hated Dave Harvey’s book When Sinners Say ‘I Do’. What Harvey discusses provides a very helpful mix of challenges and reminders that I need as a Christian husband. While practical tips, to-do lists, and not-do-lists are helpful for Christian marriages, Harvey goes right for the jugular (as far as identifying the root problem for all marriage issues) in every chapter. Sin profoundly impacts marriage in many unfortunate ways, and Harvey covers what truly seems to be all areas of importance. Yet instead of focusing on the discouraging inevitability that every spouse will sin, he teaches how the gospel will change everything for God’s glory, and each spouse’s good.
You also know you’ve come to a great book about marriage when you encounter a comment such as, and I quote…
If I could choose my own superpower, it would be the ability to suck back stupid statements the instant they escape my lips.
This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of challenges that married Christians deal with, but that statement in Chapter 7 struck a big chord with me. Who wouldn’t love a superpower to prevent sin?
Harvey starts on a serious note though, calling attention to two provocative truths. The first is that what married Christians believe about God will determine the quality of their marriage. The other is that God has already given us the perfect “operating manual” for marriage, yet it’s a shame how it (the Bible) often takes a back seat favor of self-help books and a myriad of other tools. That isn’t to say our brothers and sisters can’t be extremely helpful, but our first inclination should always be to draw from marriage’s divine Inventor.
So, two Bs are the keys: belief and the Bible. Got that?
Harvey wastes no time pointing out another crucial lesson. Ready?
We each individually must identify ourselves as the worst possible sinner in the world.
If that truth offends you or goes in one ear and out the other, then you’re failing to grasp the craftiness of sin…and how it allures, but ultimately betrays.
Instead of leaving us with such discouraging truth however, When Sinners Say ‘I Do’ is full of difficult-to-practice, but necessary-to-learn encouragements. Every Christian spouse must, on an individual basis, be suspicious of themselves before ever being so of their spouses…or other Christians for the matter. It’s always important to be reminded to do things, and have attitudes, that we don’t naturally practice and have. Harvey also reminds us that marriage will never fulfill our needs or desires. Only God can do that, period. Instead, just as God shows us grace in everything, we are to do the same for the man or woman with whom we’ve exchanged vows.
And…when our spouses inevitably sin, in general or against us, mercy is always the answer, never judgment. Is that your typical response? It isn’t mine!
The chapter entitled “Forgiveness, Full and Free” tugged at my heartstrings and tear ducts thanks to the true story that Harvey shares about a wife who married a pastor that openly admitted that he didn’t actually love her, but believed marriage would boost his career! This got my blood boiling, and I quickly experienced rebuke when Harvey tactfully taught that even in such a situation, which spanned over four decades (good grief!), forgiveness is still the only biblical option. And according to Harvey, that’s exactly what the wife chose, which again rebukes me to the ends of the earth. I’m confident I would be at a total loss after forty minutes (maybe even seconds?) if ever told anything similar by my wife, let alone 40 years! Clearly I don’t know what God’s grace is capable of!
The chapter labeled “The Surgeon, The Scalpel, And The Spouse In Sin” spoke to me the most, because it is at least my most significant temptation to try to be my wife’s Holy Spirit. Harvey uses each page to teach the better, biblical approach to addressing sin in the life of one’s spouse, which is where you encounter the “superpower” comment I pointed out earlier. I know I’ll battle this desire my whole life. Regardless, my sole job is to point my Christine to Christ all day, every day. Marriage isn’t about competing for “gotcha” moments, or apologies…not even attempting to persuade from one’s own wisdom, but simply to serve as a minister of reconciliation. You can stamp a giant “FAIL” on my forehead in this area!
In all I’ve said so far, don’t forget that at the center of When Sinners Say ‘I Do’ is grace, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as God is relentless with it in His dealings with us, we must again be the same as we interact with our spouses. The challenge lies in the fact that it can take a really, really…REALLY long time for someone to change! Yet if we truly believe Who God is and what He says, we’ll trust Him fully and ultimately to do exactly what He intends in the life and heart of our spouses. We will only get in the way of that. It’s all about the gospel…meditating upon it, resting in it, etc.
At this point, it actually surprised me that a chapter is devoted to marital intimacy. After all, why would a book that highlights sin’s impact on marriage and what to do about it (or really, what not to do!) discuss sex? The reason is that the marriage bed can and should be a wonderful aid for a Christian couple in their individual and collective battle against sin. And since sex is designed to be wholly given, never taken, it provides a beautiful picture of…yes, you guessed it, the gospel! Cherish this truth in your heart and marriage.
I have great respect for Dave Harvey provocatively titling this book. No Christian enjoys acknowledging their sinfulness, yet it’s so necessary, especially if marriage is to bear fruit and glorify God. I’m thankful that the material drives this home from cover to cover. Just remember that the Word of God is your go-to resource. When Sinners Say ‘I Do’ comes second. And of course, praise God for His abundant grace and everlasting mercy, demonstrated perfectly and clearly at Calvary. The message is simple. When sinners say “I do”, they would do well to remember always what Jesus has done, and do accordingly.