When Sinners Say "I Do"

a review by Adam Pohlman

When Sinners Say 'I Do'

I have read many books on marriage and none has been quite like Dave Harvey's When Sinners Say “I Do”. The popular topic of writing marriage books today is to identify what each spouse “needs” and give practical steps to meeting those needs. Harvey, however, notes that because of sin in our hearts we will never be able to properly serve or accept love in a marriage anyway. Too often we try to find someone or something to blame for the problems in our marriages. “How easy it is to use the phrase, 'We're having marriage problems,' as if the marriage created them ... The cause of our marriage battles, friends, is neither our marriage nor our spouse. It's the sin in our hearts - entirely, totally, exclusively, without exception.” (pg. 51)

As sinners we have become experts at finding faults in others and downplaying the sin in our own hearts. When we begin to see that the problem lies mostly within ourselves, we realize that we can only depend on God to change us; which is the heart of the gospel. As Christians, we should recognize that we are still in a body of sin and it's only because of the cross of Christ that we are no longer in bondage to it. Despite our sinful hearts God loved us anyway and still poured out blessings on us. “When I grasp the mercy of God expressed to me, it opens my eyes to the bankruptcy of my own righteousness and sends me to the cross for the righteousness of Christ. I can then sympathize with my spouse's weaknesses and rejoice in my own, for they reveal God's strength.” (pg. 93)

In recognizing that the gospel must be central to our marriages, we also realize that God designed marriage for His glory. We are to model the love between Christ and His church, forbearing our right for justice when sinned against, forgiving offenses to pursue holiness, and encouraging each other to grow in Christ. Many problems occur when we feel we have been sinned against and then we respond to it in sin. “[W]hen it comes to [confronting our spouse's sin] the first step is self-examination and self-suspicion, taking the log out of our own eye. But of course, that's just the beginning (Matthew 7:3-5) ... This passage does not stop at log-removal. Clearing the timber is an essential means to a greater end.” (pg. 119) The ultimate goal in confronting the sin of our spouse is not to point out our superiority, seek justice or “to achieve a hassle-free marriage but to inspire repentance unto godliness.” (pg. 127)

When Sinners Say “I Do” is mostly a practical theology book on marriage (isn't all good theology practical?). Many marriage books are highly practical but lacking in Christ-centeredness. They stress the importance serving each other but ultimately miss the entire reason we do it; to bring honor to the name of Christ. Stressing our sin and the centrality of the gospel sets this book apart from all the rest. Dave Harvey not only focuses on theology but explains its practical implications in marriage communication, physical intimacy, and even the death of a soul mate. This convicting summary of what a Christ-centered marriage should look like is one of the most important books I could recommend to a married couple of 5 days or 50 years.

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