Theology is not an abstract concept that makes no impact on the lives of believers every day. Theology, or what we believe about God should affect our thinking, our motivations, our behavior, and our relationships. Our beliefs govern how we live, period. This is the major thesis of Dave Harvey’s book, When Sinners Say “I Do”.
From the opening chapter, through the entire book, Harvey effectively shows how theology explains why we struggle to be as loving as we ought to be, why husbands and wives find themselves at war with each other, and how to use our theology to diagnose and correct some of the most common problems that plague marriage. One of the things that I appreciated most in this book is the fact that Harvey didn’t offer “needs based” solutions. This is not a book that handles marriage issues delicately. Instead, Harvey strips away all of the culturally acceptable diversions, and goes straight to the real issue, the heart of the individual. I especially liked the fact that he encouraged the reader to examine himself or herself and to deal with their own sin personally. In counseling over the years I have found what he wrote to be true, all too often husbands and wives know exactly what is wrong with his or her spouse, and they want those issues to be addressed and fixed, without first examining their own heart, and admitting his or her own culpability for the dysfunction in the marriage relationship. The teaching offered in chapters three and four alone make this book a must read for all couples entering pre-marital counseling.
Like the gospel itself, Harvey begins by communicating the problem, which is the fact that marriage consists of uniting two sinners in a covenant relationship. Then, starting in chapter five, and continuing through chapter six, he provides the hope every couple needs in order to begin taking the steps necessary to restore a broken marriage, or to establish a strong marriage in which mercy, forbearance, and forgiveness is found. In chapter four, Harvey provided a great definition of mercy: “God’s mercy means his kindness, patience, and forgiveness toward us. It is his compassionate willingness to suffer for and with sinners for their ultimate good.” When a husband or wife truly begin to realize that they are recipients of God’s mercy, they will begin to deal with each other with kindness, patience, and forgiveness, regardless of the difficulty.
Marriage is a theological reality, therefore theology must govern the lives of men and women as they live out this all important covenant. Harvey understands this, and teaches it well throughout his book. “When Sinners Say ‘I Do’” is a great book in which Harvey effectively and clearly makes his case; “What we believe about God determines the quality of our marriage.” (pg. 20)