A person does not have to be married for long to realize that marriage is a lot more difficult than it may seem. Certainly it is a lot more difficult than God intended for it to be. With the fall into sin came the rise of the self, with the loss of perfection came the dominance of sin. Even the best marriages are now tainted by sin, by selfishness, by a distinct lack of love. Every marriage represents the joining of two sinners. Though they love each other, they fight constantly to love each other as much as they know they should.
While the shelves at bookstores, both Christian and mainstream, are groaning under the weight of books dealing with marriage, few of these books offer assistance with the root of all of the problems we encounter in our relationships. Few of them get to the heart of the matter, looking deep into the human heart and prescribing the biblical cure. Into this void steps Dave Harvey with his book When Sinners Say “I Do,”, a book that is justly garnering much positive attention. C.J. Mahaney says it “provides clarity in conflict, hope in despair, and points the way to a joy-filled, God glorifying marriage.” Jerry Bridges says it “will be helpful for any married couple whether they’ve been married five weeks or fifty years.” And Randy Alcorn calls it “a wonderful book” that is “honest, refreshing, practical, and above all biblical.” What has inspired these glowing endorsements is the book’s focus on the harsh reality of sin and the beautiful reality of grace.
When Sinners Say “I Do” is a book that focuses a lot of attention on sin. In fact, the first half of the book focuses predominantly on this topic. This may seem unnecessary to some and even depressing to others, but to ignore sin is to ignore one of the greatest human realities. “My friends,” writes Harvey, “when sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet.” And so he writes about sin and grace in order to promote enjoyable, God-glorifying marriages. This is not a how-to book or a step-by-step to a happy marriage. It does not offer ancient secrets or knowledge that has until now been hidden. Rather, it simply offers the Bible’s realistic take on the reality of human sin and the power of the gospel to build and sustain healthy, happy, marriages that honor and glorify God.
I can’t say it better than Paul David Tripp. In the book’s foreword he writes, “This book grasps at the core drama of every married couple. This drama is no respecter of race, ethnic origin, location, or period of history. It is the one thing that explains the doom and hope of every human relationship. It is the theme that is on every page of this book in some way. What is this drama? It is the drama of sin and grace.” Harvey deals frankly, honestly and unrelentingly with sin and on the basis of that foundation allows grace to shine in all its beauty. Though every marriage for all time will be the union of two sinners, God is good to grant grace that we can have relationships that are strong, vibrant and that bring glory to God.
Piercing in its description of sin and unrelenting in pursuing sin to the deepest recesses of our hearts (and thus, of our relationships), When Sinners Say “I Do” is a most welcome contribution in a busy marketplace. I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to any couple and, indeed, to any single person as well. It is one of the best books on marriage and relationships that I have had the privilege of reading. We all need to see our sinner as bitter so that grace can be sweet. This book’s biblical focus will bring both sin and the Savior into clear focus, helping us to build strong relationships centered upon Christ for His glory.