Another Middle Way that Doesn’t Exist -- By: Jason C. Meyer
JBMW 16:2 (Fall 2011) p. 51
Another Middle Way that Doesn’t Exist
A Review of Jim and Sarah Sumner, Just How Married Do You Want to Be?
Practicing Oneness in Marriage. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009.
Assistant Professor of New Testament
Bethlehem College and Seminary
The introduction to Just How Married Do You Want to Be? informs the reader that Jim and Sarah Sumner had been married “almost twelve years” at the time of publication. They do not hesitate to add, “these have been seven of the happiest years of our whole lives!” (11). In other words, they do not claim that marriage is easy or automatic (12). It is not a possession for people to have (13). It is hard work that happens by choice and covenantal commitment as people learn to practice oneness in their “one flesh” relationship (12-13). As the authors recall counseling a husband and wife who told them the love is gone and the marriage is over, they remind the couple and the reader that marriage is a covenant in which the focus is “not about being loved,” but “about learning to love” (13).
The Sumners are great models in this regard because they certainly have a unique story to tell concerning the triumph of God’s grace in their marriage. The first chapter is called “an unlikely couple” and the reader will not have to read far to discover why. Sarah was on her way to being the first woman to graduate from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with a Ph.D. in systematic theology, while Jim was a stripper (21). They met at Willow Creek Community Church. Jim had heard the gospel at Cook County Correctional Facility and was now a new believer (21). He had the reputation for being “the most on-fire new Christian at Willow Creek” (22), while Sarah had a previous ministry experience of nineteen years and was currently on paid staff at Willow Creek. The rest of the book chronicles some of the lessons they have learned in marriage, especially how to overcome their considerable differences in order to attain the goal of “oneness” in marriage.
Those who write books on marriage need to defend them. Why another book on marriage? What is unique about this one? The introduction claims that their book challenges people to ask “just how married they want to be” as a spouse to their partner and as a Christian to their Lord, the Groom of the church (14). As part of this challenge, “the uniqueness of this book is the theological paradigm it promotes” (14). They argue that too many Christians focus on the roles that husband and wife play in the marriage. They believe that this focus is misguided because the “headship” of the husband conveys the image ...
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