Book Review: When Sinners Say “I Do”

Book by Dave Harvey

Review by Tim Sohn

I should preface this column by saying that I am not married. Lord willing, I hope to be someday. Until then, I will have to read books to live vicariously through more experienced authors. Like many single people, I’ve read a lot of relationship books (if you’re single and you say you haven’t, stop lying). Out of all the relationship books I have read (more than my fingers and toes), this book has been the most eye-opening, encouraging, and convicting. I admit, I was a little embarrassed to have it on my desk or read it on the plane since I keep getting asked, “When’s your wedding?”. Despite these comments, I couldn’t resist since many people in the blogosphere have been saying this is the best marriage book ever. I wholeheartedly agree.

For many years I thought that marriage would be an unusual bliss, almost like heaven on earth. If you had relationship problems, the solution was get married. If you can’t cook, get married. If your car won’t start, get married. Dave Harvey pummels through these ridiculous ideas by laying out the most fundamental fact about all of us, our sinfulness. Every marriage involves two sinners saying, “I do” to a lifetime of love, yet as the wheels start to turn the selfish and unloving attitudes come out. All of our efforts and best works are shot through with sin, making the wedding of two sinners that much more earth shattering.

Sound bleak? When Sinners Say “I Do” is a book that is about marriage, but focuses a lot on sin. Harvey begins by focusing on sin, but leads us to the green pastures where we find grace in the Gospel of Jesus. The first half of the book is spent breaking the reader to see that we are more sinful that we know. Harvey writes, “My friends, when sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet.” This isn’t a book that will give the 7 steps to a better marriage, or secrets found by observing 50 successful couples. This book will show you that the biggest obstacle in marriage is often your own sin, and the only way to deal with it is by looking to the Gospel.

I couldn’t say it any better than Paul David Tripp in the book’s foreword. “This book grasps 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. What do all of us do in our marriages in some way? We all tend to deny our sin (while pointing out the sin of the other). By denying our sin, we devalue grace. What is important about this book is that at the level of the hallways and family rooms of everyday life, it is very honest about sin and very hopeful about the amazing resources of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.”

Whether you’re married or not, this book is a must read. It will change the way you view yourself, your marriage, and even relationship with others. However, the way that will happen will be through the cross, and allowing the Gospel to go deeper to cause radical change.

Editor’s Note (2009): Tim is happily married to a lovely Christian woman named Candy now, and they continue to minister faithfully in the Silicon Valley area. Congrats Tim!

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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