Love Always Forgives
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with pastor Dave Harvey, author of the book When Sinners Say "I Do", about the reality of conflict in marriage and the gift of forgiveness we can offer our mate when disagreements occur.
Dave Harvey (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as the president of Great Commission Collective, a church planting ministry in the US, Canada, and abroad. Dave founded AmICalled.com, pastored for thirty-three years, serves on the board of CCEF, and travels widely across networks and denominations...more
Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with pastor Dave Harvey, author of the book When Sinners Say “I Do”, about the reality of conflict in marriage and the gift of forgiveness we can offer our mate when disagreements occur.
Love Always Forgives
Dave: One of the reasons why God allows us to experience conflict is to recognize what is in our heart, and so part of God's design in us coming together is to understand who we really are. So conflict is understandable, it's to be expected, and yet it's also an opportunity to go to school on who we really are and to apply the gospel.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you've always assumed that conflict in your marriage was negative and you haven't seen the good in it well stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. I just have today and tomorrow to remind our FamilyLife Today listeners about the buy-one-get-one free offer that we are making available this week for the Weekend to Remember marriage conference. We really want to see as many listeners as we can encourage to come out and spend a weekend with us at one of these conferences.
Our team said let’s offer this for one week and encourage FamilyLife Today listeners to come join us. If you register today, tomorrow or through the weekend for one of the Weekend to Remember conferences when you buy a registration at the regular rate we’ll give you a second registration absolutely free.
It’s good this week only and you have to register by Sunday so today or tomorrow go online and find out when the conference is coming near a city where you live and get registered for the conference. If you register online type my name “BOB” in the key code box on the online donation form and you’ll be eligible for this buy-one-get-one free offer.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today or tell them that Bob sent me. Again, you are eligible for the buy-one-get-one free offer that is good this week only. We really hope we hear from you and that you will come out and join us at one of our Weekend to Remember marriage conferences when it comes to a city near where you live. We have a bunch of these coming up in the next several weeks so go online and get registered for a weekend to remember.
We are going to talk about the subject of marriage today. In fact if you were to get a copy of the book our guest has written and you picked up the book and when you read this title, you thought think, "My spouse really needs this book" …
If that's your first thought, then you really need that book, don't you think?
Dennis: Yes, you need it. You're pointing one finger at your spouse and three fingers are pointing back at you.
Bob: The book we're talking about is called When Sinners Say I Do, and the author is Dave Harvey. Dave, welcome back to our broadcast.
Dave: Thank you.
Dennis: Dave is a pastor for more than 20 years. He and his wife, Kim, along with their four children live in Westchester, Pennsylvania, along with their stray cat. Now, what's the story on the stray cat, and what's the beef about this? Because today we are going to talk about conflict.
Dave: Well, I don't like cats, and my family is aware that I don't like cats, and this cat was actually a rescue. It's a little odd for me to have been involved in that, but it was living in a dumpster up the street, and my daughter found it and decided that it would be a wonderful thing to bring it home to daddy and to ask him whether the cat can live with us in our home. And I don't like cats, but I love my daughter, and I love my wife, and they both like cats, so here we are with a cat.
Dennis: You just need to read Dr. Seuss's book, "The Cat in the Hat Fights Back."
Dave: There are a lot of books I need to read.
Bob: You had a situation one evening with your wife, Kim, where you had a special evening all planned, and there was more to your plan than just a date night, and it kind of all backfired for you, right?
Dave: Not one of my shining moments, yes, that's true. We were celebrating, I think it was anniversary, and decided to go downtown Philadelphia to a very nice restaurant and to enjoy the evening together. So this was one of those places that had real nice art on the wall and the waiters were dressed in tuxes, and so we're enjoying a dinner together, and I just had a thought that, well, in thinking back, it must have been demonic. I thought – I have been wanting an opportunity to offer this observation. Maybe this would be a good time.
Bob: This is something that you wanted to point out that would be an area for correction.
Dave: An area where I thought we could improve…
Dennis: Instruction, exhortation.
Dave: Sadly, it drifted from there, though, into correction.
Dave: And so I offered my "observation" and things began to deteriorate, and I didn't display the character to divert or bring it back.
Dennis: Wait a second – what do you mean "things began to deteriorate?"
Dave: Well, I think that, understandably, Kim didn't appreciate that it was being brought up at that time, and …
Dennis: What did she do?
Dave: Well, she reacted …
Bob: Her feelings were hurt, right?
Dave: Yes she was hurt that I would be thinking down that road on a night that was supposed to be dedicated to romance, and I don't blame her. If she had done that to me, I would have responded the same way, but this is the idiot she married.
Bob: So it's not what you said that was a problem, or even how you said it that was a problem, it was when you said it that was the problem?
Dave: It was the timing, yes.
Bob: Which is something that I think – I'm making notes here, all right? So it's what and when and where …
Dennis: I was listening to your list. I mean, no wonder we have conflict. Because any one of those three …
Bob: I could mess up on any of them.
Dennis: Will kill romance and a relationship.
Dave: That's very true.
Bob: And you knew right away that you had hurt her feelings, right?
Dave: I knew right away, yes.
Bob: And so how did you seek to rescue the situation?
Dave: I was very unwise. I didn't rescue it at all. I actually exacerbated it.
Dennis: You did, really?
Dave: I did.
Bob: You escalated?
Dave: I escalated, yes.
Bob: Oh, buddy.
Dave: I added an additional observation, and then threw in a pattern, and then pretty soon we had had one of the most expensive conflicts that we had ever had in our relationship.
Dennis: You know I wish I could say that never has happened to me.
Dave: Well, I have a feeling that a lot of your listeners wish it never had happened to them, either.
Dennis: Man, you know, it's just inherent in the relationship, though, that you're going to disappoint one another, and that's why, in your book, you talk so much about conflict is inevitable, and we have to know how to deal with it and forgive one another.
Bob: I just wish there was some way to get Kim's perspective on that whole evening. You know, to get her side of that story.
Dave: And she would love to give it.
Dennis: Do you have her cell phone number?
Dave: Not for you men, no.
Dennis: Let's go. This would be great, though. This really would add …
Bob: Don't you think we ought to bring her into this?
Bob: Hello, Kim?
Bob: Kim, this is Bob Lepine from FamilyLife Today.
Dave: I'm sorry, dear.
Dennis: Do you hear your husband there, Kim? This is Dennis Rainey.
Kim: I do, I do, hi.
Dave: First I want to apologize, dear.
Dennis: Kim, we just visited a restaurant here with our listeners that I understand you went to as well.
Bob: We heard about going to Ruth's Chris and just – it was a fabulous evening.
Dave: T he conflict we had that night.
Kim: [laughing] My face is red.
Dennis: Did you forgive him?
Kim: I absolutely forgave him, but I might not this time.
Dennis: This was not his idea.
Dave: I told you.
Dennis: This was not his idea.
Bob: You're going to have forgive us. Your husband is in the clear.
Dave: Thank you for exonerating me.
Bob: We held him down, we took his cell phone, and we got your number off of it, and he was protesting the whole time.
Bob: He's just told us about bringing up this issue, whatever it was, and we've been very nonspecific about the issue to protect everything in your relationship, but he said as soon as he brought it up that night at Ruth's Chris, it kind of hurt your feelings, is that right?
Kim: Well, at the time, yes, yes.
Bob: Yeah and why did it hurt your feelings at the time?
Kim: Well, to be totally honest, I'm not completely sure, because I don't remember all that much. I don't remember a lot about it that night. I remember he had said something that affected me very negatively.
Bob: And there is still bitterness and searing anger that is blocking this memory from your mind.
Dave: Complete forgiveness, I would think.
Dennis: That's where I'm going.
Bob: It's total, it's gone. It's as far as the East is from the West.
Kim: It completely is, wow.
Dave: Dear, hang up before they get into something else.
Dennis: Kim, this is Dennis, and I honestly believe the fact that you can't remember the specifics is a great illustration …
Dennis: … that it was dealt with appropriately, and you did forgive him, and it hasn't …
Kim: I did.
Dennis: And it didn't stick in your soul, you're not filled with bitterness and resentment, and you look back on that as this big, gigantic, negative deal.
Dave: My wife is a great and very experienced forgiver.
Kim: Well, I do recognize myself, at times, as the greatest of sinners that I know, and I certainly don't want to be remembered for my sins and my weaknesses and dealt with out of that, so I do try to treat my husband like that.
Bob: Here is my question – have you been back to Ruth's Chris since that whole thing happened?
Kim: Oh, yes, we have. We have some wonderful times there, yes.
Dave: Yes, we have.
Bob: So it's not like every time you go in the haunting memory of the terrible night is still there in the walls?
Kim: Oh, no. Oh, no, not at all, not at all.
Bob: Well, if you'd said no we were going to buy you dinner at Ruth's Chris as our way of saying thanks, but since you've been back …
Dave: Quick, say no, dear.
Kim: Wait a minute, wait a minute, I seem to remember suddenly.
Dennis: Kim, I just want to ask you because your husband has said that you two are a little different, and …
Dennis: I identify with that. Barbara and I are different. In fact, I married Barbara because she's different than me, and different isn't wrong, it's just different.
Bob: You liked it at the time, didn't you?
Dennis: I still like it. I really do, but there are times when it rubs me the wrong way. How would you describe your differences and how you've worked those out over your 25 years of marriage?
Kim: Well, I am married to a wonderful leader who understands grace, and leads in grace, and so he's led us through our differences well, and I attribute a lot of that to him. Oh, you know what? I'm in a grocery store, I'm so sorry, I'm getting bumped around here.
Bob: I think this is …
Kim: I'm sorry. I'm trying to …
Bob: In fact, I'd like you to speak up on the subject of grace there in the store, and God could bring revival.
Kim: Well, not some of the people around me.
Bob: We should let you get back to your shopping.
Kim: I am so sorry.
Bob: No, you know what? We just wanted to make sure that when you're getting one eyewitness account to a conflict, you just want to have some collaborating evidence, and you provided that for us.
Dennis: You have authenticated his life and ministry, Kim, thank you.
Kim: Oh, thank you. Thanks.
Dave: I'm so sorry, dear, I love you.
Bob: He's going to come back. He'll see you tonight.
Dennis: He'll have a gift certificate for Ruth's Chris.
Dave: And please don't take this out on him, it's all our fault.
Kim: Well, thank you very much. Thank you.
Bob: Good talking to you.
Kim: Okay, you, too. Bye-bye.
Dave: You guys are far more mischievous than you appear to be.
Bob: Well, yes, that's actually true, isn't it?
Dennis: You know, but what we're looking for there is, honestly, the other half of the story, because as three men sitting in a studio, we're speaking to probably 60-70 percent women, and they really wanted to know her side of the story, and we got it.
Bob: I have to tell you, I know there are a lot of folks who have heard us this week talking about issues of conflict in marriage, and they hear about things like somebody who doesn't keep the house clean enough or somebody who messes up at the restaurant, and they think, "Look, if that was as bad as it got in my marriage, I would be able to live like a saint. I wouldn't need your book, either, but the issues I've got going on in my marriage are not that the sock drawer is messed up or that somebody spoke out of turn at a nice restaurant."
And you tackle that. In fact, you tell a story in the book about a couple that experienced some real trauma in their marriage.
Dave: Well, can I just comment to those ladies first that you are referring to?
Dave: One of the reasons why we've been brought together in this union, one of the reasons why God allows us to experience conflict is to recognize what is in our heart, and so part of God's design in us coming together is to understand who we really are. So conflict is understandable. It's to be expected and yet it's also an opportunity to go to school on who we really are and to apply the gospel and to see God glorified.
So for the ladies and the men that are listening, and you're in the middle of conflict, or you've just gotten through one, and maybe you're unsettled, or maybe you're newlyweds, and you're thinking, "Oh, my, is this going to be what the future is all about?" Conflict is part of what happens when people come together and part of what happens in marriage. And it's not as important that it happens, as much as it is what you're doing with it and what you're learning from it. It's what happens when sinners say, "I do."
Bob: Well, in fact, the message of the gospel is about conflict and reconciliation. It's about God taking the initiative in the midst of broken relationship with humanity that occurs in Genesis, chapter 3. We are the ones who shook our fist in the face of God as humans and said, "We'll run it our way. We are tired of your interference. We are rebels to your purpose." And God pursues us and reconciles us.
So when couples are in conflict, you talk about applying the gospel, it really is the mandate of Scripture that we must seek a reconciled relationship. That's the heart of God toward us, and that needs to be our heart toward one another.
Dave: And we have a Savior that meets us in those moments, and the goal is not simply that we see that we're sinners; it's that we move beyond that to see what an extraordinary Savior has been provided for us. So those conflicts, yeah, they may remind us of what sinners we are, but the goal is not to terminate there, it's to look up and beyond and see and be reminded of what we've been forgiven of and how great and glorious Jesus really is.
Bob: How did you fix the mess you made at Ruth's Chris?
Dave: Well, we had to talk through it over the next couple of days, and it began with me shutting up long enough to formulate some questions that I could ask her about what she was really experiencing through what I had done. And so drawing her out and beginning to understand how unwise I was.
Bob: Well, okay, but let me take you back to the big issues. You said conflict is going to be common in all marriage, and we need to pursue reconciliation, but there has been some profound hurt happen in some marriages.
You talk about Jeremy and Cindy, a couple that you mention in your book. They experienced not just little minor infractions but a major blow to their marriage.
Dave: They did, yes, Jeremy and Cindy got married and had a storybook life in the first few years. They were both upwardly mobile, ambitious, and committed to their careers, and yet still they were Christians, and they wanted to build a life together. But, sadly, they weren't aware of how their ambitions for themselves and their careers were driving them apart.
And soon after they were married, Jeremy, sadly, committed adultery, and both of them came to a place where they never thought they would be. I mean, here they were Christians, and they had dedicated their lives to Christ, they had dedicated their lives to one another in marriage, and yet they were sitting there asking questions about whether this marriage was going to work. Could they go on?
Bob: The foundation of trust in a marriage has been attacked when adultery has occurred, and there are a lot of people who think, "I can't go on living in a marriage with somebody if I don't know that I can trust that that person is going to be faithful to me. What can I trust?" I feel like the whole foundation of my marriage has been rocked. How can I remain safe and secure in this relationship given what's happened? What do you say to a couple in that environment?
Dave: Well, I say that our answer can't begin with people, our answer must go to God and must go to the Savior, and we have to be reminded of what happened when Jesus Christ died for our sins, and the terrible and tremendous offenses that we were forgiven of. It's only the cross that puts the sins of other people into perspective. It's only as we look and as we perceive what actually we've been forgiven of that we can turn to somebody else who has sinned grievously against us and forgive them.
I mean, that's the whole point of the parable of the unforgiving servant. He has forgiven a great debt, and yet he turns to somebody who owes him just a smaller amount and he begins to choke him saying, "Pay what you owe," and that person, that's so often us.
We've been forgiven a great debt by Jesus Christ. We've been forgiven a debt of sin that we've committed and so often we turn to one another, and we choke each other, and we say "Pay what you owe," and don't understand how the gospel is supposed to apply in the realities of things like this.
Bob: I have a friend of mine who was going through your book with a group of other guys, and when he got to this chapter on forgiveness, he said, "That's our story." He and his wife had been on the mission field. She had sinned against him in that context. They'd had to come home from the mission field, and – well, let me just play for you some of his reflections as he read through this chapter on forgiveness in your book.
Bob’s friend: [from audiotape.] Three years ago, our family returned from the mission field because of a sin that occurred in the life of my wife, and I was the one who was the one who felt sinned against. But in the first six months after we returned from the mission field, my wife experienced repentance. It was in July of that year, two and a half years ago.
But I was the one who felt like I had been sinned against, lost my ministry, lost all that I had studied and prepared for, and I wasn't willing to absorb that cost. It was a huge cost, and it says here, "You endured a blow to your trust because of what he's done – or she, in this case – over a period of time. Will your heart attempt to force him to pay what he owes?"
I thought, you know, that is me. I was the one that was saying "Pay what you owe." God has forgiven me of such a great debt, and yet I've got my wife by the throat, so to speak, asking her to pay me what she owes.
Dennis: As I was listening to him, I was thinking, "How many married couples live right in the midst of what he was describing. Two people who are hurting each other in a cycle, back and forth, back and forth, but neither is willing to absorb the cost and forgive one another, and I just want to summarize what we've talked about here in three points.
Number one, we get married to become one. We get married for intimacy. The problem with intimacy is when you get close, you're going to see stuff that you didn't bargain for, and you’re going to get hurt.
Number two, sin separates. Selfishness divides. And you've got to decide at that point what are you going to do with your hurt? What are you going to do with your anger? And that's where what Dave is talking about here in his book, Bob, really is key.
Number three, forgiveness unites – forgiveness unites because as, Dave, you pointed out, and I thought this was really good, Dave, because I've never thought about it from this standpoint – forgiveness does absorb the cost. It doesn't make light of the other person's betrayal, the hurt that they've caused you. It does contemplate what it means to have been hurt, betrayed, and disappointed. But then it goes beyond that to give up the right to punish the other person, and it decides not to live, as you said, Dave, and I thought this was excellent – not to live in bondage of resentment but to get busy rebuilding the oneness that you got married for.
Bob: You know, I think, for many people, who as they think about forgiveness they think the hurt is so profound that there is a fear of forgiving for fear that you are just going to live in that hurt forever. But the reality is to not forgive is going to be more hurtful, more harmful, and more deadly for your marriage and for your relationship with God then to as an act of the will forgive the other person. You may have to do it over and over again as the emotions resurface you have to forgive again and again. Really it is that act of giving up the right to punish.
This is something we spend a lot of time talking about at the Weekend to Remember marriage conference. I want to make sure our listeners know that today and tomorrow are the last two days we have an opportunity to remind you about the special offer we are making for FamilyLife Today listeners this week.
You and your spouse can attend a Weekend to Remember conference when it comes to a city near you this spring. You can attend when you buy a registration at the regular price the second registration is free. That offer is good this week only for FamilyLife Today listeners. If you want to take advantage of it we need to hear from you either today or tomorrow. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information. We have a list of locations and dates on our website FamilyLifeToday.com.
To register and take advantage of this buy-one-get-one free offer just type my name “BOB” on the key code box on the online registration form. That way we know you are a FamilyLife Today listener and you’re eligible for the buy-one-get-one free special offer we are making or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Tell them you listen to FamilyLife Today and you want to take advantage of this special offer.
We hope you’ll come join us at these weekend conferences. Learn more about how to deal with conflict in your marriage, communication, about intimacy and how we can draw closer in our sexual relationship, about our roles and responsibilities as husbands and wives. It’s a great weekend. It’s a rich weekend and it’s a lot of fun.
When you go online get more information about Dave’s book. It’s a great book that’s called When Sinners Say I Do. It’s a good book for husbands and wives to read together or do like I did go through it with a group of guys and go through it a chapter at a time. It’ll challenge you and call you up to something deeper and more noble in your marriage relationship. Again find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, tomorrow we want to invite you back. Dave Harvey is going to be here again and we are going to talk about what mercy ought to look like in a marriage relationship. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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