As a licensed counselor, I have read more than my share of books on managing emotions and relationships. Unfortunately they are all the same. Sure they each have a slightly different take. Some even include their own unique Venn diagrams of emotional issues and how they relate to physical boundaries. Even the Christian books simply take what everyone else has already done and add a dash of Scripture, especially the latter part of Ephesians for flavor.
So when a friend told me that she had read a fantastic book on marriage, I have to admit I had a generous level of skepticism. I trust her judgment so thought to myself, “What’s the harm?” Perceiving my reservation, she sat me down and read a few pages from the first chapter. My curiosity sparked, I graciously borrowed her copy.
Marriage: Powered by Gospel
In his book When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage, Dave Harvey essentially redefines marriage for Christians. It has often been said that there is so much planning that goes into the wedding itself, that new couples often forget about everything after the honeymoon. Even the most diligent of Christian couples who want to follow every piece of advice do their premarital counseling, get to know each others’ parents, and may even ask their blessing.
Captivated by the vision they are starring at, it is easy for the bride and groom to completely miss when the minister says, “What God had joined together, let no man separate.”
Wait, what God had joined together? Did they not decide to get married?
The Bible is very clear, that the sanctity of marriage is the way that marriage draws us to Him. It is no accident that marriage is what Scripture uses as an image of Christ’s relationship with the Church. Ephesians 5 lays it out clearly that as Christ gave his life for the Church, husbands should love their wives with a self-sacrificing love. As the Church submits to the authority of Christ, so women are called to submit to the authority of their husbands. The Bible is obviously not politically correct in this position, but there is a beauty of the partnership.
A Powerful Reality
But let’s not stop there. In a bold and challenging sweep of language and biblical reference, Dave Harvey takes this image even further. He acknowledges something that we too often forget in marriage: both of us are sinners in need of grace. Sharing their first dance as a married couple, what wife wants to gaze into the eyes of this man of hers and think that he will never complete her like Renee Zellweger apparently does for Tom Cruise? Carrying her over the threshold, what man wants to really think that this woman is a wretched sinner?
Yet it is this very truth that, when neglected, can cause irreparable damage. The truth is that neither person can be everything to the other. Neither the bride nor the groom will ever be perfect. If it is God who has indeed joined these two people together, it is God and God alone who will be able to keep them together. It is the ugliness of their sin, that when acknowledged, can open the doors and windows to the awesome power of the Gospel that has already redeemed each individually, but which now has the power to sanctify the marriage itself.
Listen to Dave Harvey, himself, talk about why he wrote the book:
Embracing one another as sinners means that we can lovingly lavish grace and mercy on one another. Taking hold of our own depravity means that we can see the our spouse as someone in need of the Gospel, someone to whom we have the honor and privilege of preaching the good news. We have the pleasure of pointing our loved one to the One who does complete us. It is here that the imputed love of God becomes the love we share for our spouse that “no man [can] separate.”