Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Commitment: Part of the Problem?

To commit to something means to devote oneself or pledge oneself to the doing of a certain thing. When that term is used it often expresses a desire on the part of the one making the commitment to stand firm for that commitment.

How often Christians use that term to express their relationship to God; "I am a committed Christian." However, in our culture of laxity and drive-thru lifestyles, commitments are often too easily abandoned. If something that is more attractive presents itself, we readily turn our backs on that prior commitment and then commit ourselves to the doing of that other thing.

Commitments are typically made with a few caveats. I commit as long as it does not interfere with soccer practice on Tuesday evenings; I commit as long as it does not cause me to do serious introspection; I commit as long as I can be arbiter of how long the commitment lasts; I commit as long as situations and circumstances do not change; I commit as long as this thing to which I commit brings accolades and lauds of praise; I commit insofar as it does not put me out; I commit as long as it is convenient.

I am persuaded that the Bible really does not teach commitment, at least not our American idealistic understanding of it. Consider:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let Him deny Himself, take up His cross, and follow Me." Matthew 16:24
Christ was not calling for commitments. He was calling for absolute surrender. Surrender is purely antithetical in our rugged individualistic lifestyles, our DIY mentalities; yet surrender is exactly what Christ calls for. A commitment presupposes that you can question the thing to which you have made the commitment. Christ demands unflinching obedience.

When Christ said to His disciples that they must take up their crosses, they were not woefully ignorant of what He was asking of them. They had witnessed too many crucifixions for that. They understood that He was calling them to a life of unwavering obedience and absolute surrender to His will for their lives. If He called them to die, then so be it. And they were to find joy in it.

How easily we check out when the going gets tough. We commit to give God our all but when something less than appealing jumps in the way, we head for the hills, checking out on that commitment. Church not going the way you like it, the way you think it ought to? There is another one down the street. That relationship struggling? Go elsewhere. Mentoring that baby Christian not as easy as you thought? The fledgling ministry floundering? Obedience to those commands just too tough? Pastor, do you have your resume in your inside coat pocket?

Perhaps part of the problem is commitment and perhaps it is derived from the fact that commitments are not typically kept. Perhaps it is that one commitment leads to another commitment which leads to over-commitment and then the weary, overzealous Christian flames out underneath the burden of keeping all these commitments. These things are not a sign that one's life is surrendered to the lordship and authority of Christ.

Here is an idea: tell them "no" and then see what happens.

Christ did not commit Himself to the cross. He was surrendered to it. His Father's will is what held sway over Him; not some mealy-mouthed commitment. That is why He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Lord, not My will, but Your will be done." As long as Christians remain committed and not surrendered, their lives will bear little or no spiritual fruit. Surrender is what produces the fruit that remains.

Commitments do not carry you through the tough times. Commitments weigh you down even further, like a millstone around the neck. But to be surrendered to the Lordship of Christ even the difficult times bring joy because you then completely understand that this thing (you fill in the blank) can be worked out for your good. Surrender also gives you the faith to stand firm even if that thing does not work out for your good.

Consider that Sunday School favorite, the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They refused to bow down to an image of gold. They answered and said to King Nebuchadnezzar,
"We have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us form the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up." Daniel 3:17-18
Commitment just says "but." Surrender says "but if not."


Cameron Cloud said...

How true! Our culture has a commitment of convenience. Qualified commitment is not true commitment and certainly not surrender. The verse from Daniel challenges me every time I read it.

Good thoughts.

Geoff Baggett said...

Great post. It reminds me of the old story of the involvement of the chicken and the pig in breakfast. The chicken was going to make a convenient contribution (the egg), but the pig was going have to be completely committed! :)

Les Puryear said...

Amen and Amen!


Tony said...

Thanks guys, for the words of encouragement.

Les, always glad to have you in the amen corner!