After reading, reviewing, and responding to the review of Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, it rejoices my heart that I was able to duct tape my head back together and dive into another book on marriage. This one is totally unlike Love and Respect in that is provocative, yet encouraging. It is simple, yet profound. It is radically Christ-centered which makes it relevant to rebels like me.
When Sinners Say "I Do" by Dave Harvey is an excellent book on marriage. The sub-title says it all - Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage. That's what I want to see in a Christian book about marriage. If I want pop-psychology, I'll watch Dr. Phil and Oprah. I want the Gospel. I desperately need the Gospel. I don't need to be told I'm good-willed, and misunderstood. I need to be told the truth. I need to be told I'm hopeless and helpless. I need to be told of the good news that lies outside of myself. That's what When Sinners Say "I Do" does well.
Harvey begins his marriage book where any logical person should - with God. He immediately attaches the significance of marriage to God's purposes for it. He compares starting with God as properly lining up the buttons on your shirt. If you get the first one right, the rest fall into place. It you mis-line to first button, you look like a dork when you're done. Harvey argues that the foundation of marriage is the Bible, the fountain of marriage is the Gospel, and the focus of marriage is the glory of God.
Harvey's second chapter takes on the topic of sin. Consider this quote: "So here is my conclusion: I am a better husband and father, and a happier man, when I recognize myself as the worst of sinners." He continues this line of thought into chapter three where he considers the subtleties of sin more closely. He examines the deceitfulness of sin, and advises every spouse to point the finger at themselves first in every marital struggle. His view of sin is realistic and serious, as it should be. "In the twenty-first century, marriage is offered as nature's answer to our emotional deficits." Harvey warns us against an unchecked chasing of our desires - even the legitimate ones.
About halfway through the book, Harvey shifts gears from sin to response. He looks at mercy worked out in various ways in marriage, as well as forgiveness. Rather than painting over problems, and faking peace, Harvey's theology demands sin be acknowledged, but also properly dealt with. In his chapter on forgiveness, he reminds us that "forgiveness is costly." Much of this portion of the book seems to based on principles found in The Peacemaker by Ken Sande.
Harvey's chapter entitled, "Stubborn Grace" is refreshing as it shows the need for couples to persevere together in their race of faith in the Gospel. From this chapter, I took away the notion that husbands and wives are partners in the race. They must not only stay in the race themselves, they must also ensure their partner stays in the race.
It seems every marriage book has a sex chapter. This one is no exception. The author doesn't point out any new techniques. In fact, the author's "hope in this chapter is to bring the sensitive issue of sex under the hope of the gospel, where it belongs." Wow. I've heard of the purpose driven church, and the purpose driven life. Now I've read about the gospel driven sex life. Harvey even points out how sins like sloth, unbelief, and bitterness "can rob sweetness from the sexual relationship in marriage."
Harvey ends his book on a sad, yet heavenly note. He writes about when a spouse dies. That's the first time I've read a chapter devoted to the topic in a book about marriage. He takes the reader through bereavement to hope because of God's promise of a great weight of glory that is coming someday. Heaven's promise is the power to say goodbye to the fellow sinner we've devoted our earthly life to.
I really appreciate this book, and it is my pleasure to highly recommend it. It's not for everyone. It is written on an elementary, conversational level by an experienced pastor, and counselor. Though just about anyone could read this book, some may find it difficult to stomach. If you have a hard time being told you're a sinner, don't read this book. If you have a hard time placing all the blame in your marriage squarely on your sinful desires, don't read this book. If you have a hard time being humbled before a righteous, yet loving God, don't read this book. If you want to stay the way you are because it's more comfortable than change, don't read this book. If you don't think the Gospel has anything to do with marriage, don't read this book. On second thought, if the above descriptions point to you, you should read this book. Devour it. Soak in it. Thank God for it. Thank God for the sinner who has devoted his or her life to a fellow sinner. And thank God for the mighty Gospel that makes it all right in the end.