From the start, just let me clarify that this rant is not about a specific person or church. When my wife and I first got married an older man who was wiser than I told me how long he and his wife had been married. The number was 50 or 60 years. I didn’t ask for this information, but I appreciated it. He asked me how I thought they could stay married so long in this world. I was caught a little off guard and just kind of looked at him. After a few seconds, he answered his own question. He did not say the secret to a lasting and joyful marriage was fidelity or communication or trustworthiness or servanthood or selflessness. No, he said the one secret to a long and healthy marriage was commitment, plain and simple. Of course this kind of relationship is only possible with Christ.
I think of how often people rebel against a good and holy God. We are liars, cheaters, murderers, slanderers, gossipers, sell-outs, and we enjoy wealth and power a little too much. We let our emotions control us, and if we don’t then we are usually controlled by our own reason. We mock God in our music and movies and we take it upon ourselves to judge the whole world just so we can feel better about our own choices or our own religion. Yet, God still sent His Son, the Messiah, to pay the price for us so we could be united once again with Him. God’s commitment to us is awe-inspiring.
Then I think about the members of our western churches and what they have become. Or perhaps it has always been this way with us because of our infidelity toward God. Here we join a church because we like it. Once being a member becomes difficult for us, for whatever reason, we leave and begin looking for another church based on our own preferences. Commitment is lost on us, and it shows not only in our local churches but also in our marriages. The thought is actually making me queasy as I type this.
Here is what we have implied about the Gospel and about the God we serve: that He is not worth our commitment. The stark reality is if we operate based on our preferences, we have not committed ourselves to a God whose plan is for our good. If we are to leave one church, the only valid reason there is must be that God has moved us. Any other excuse is pitiful and self-seeking. That being said, the church should love us and forgive us anyway because we are sinful people and many times we are all pitiful and self-seeking. Our resolution when we become church members should be that it will take an act of God to move us and the same goes for our marriage relationships. Commitment. If we are committed, I think God just might lead us to do something amazing.
If the commitment of the church member actually reveals something true of God’s character, then there is a great reality for the local church: trying to be like other local churches (either in style, polity or presentation) confuses the message about Christ that scripture gives us and actually encourages members not to be committed. If we change to be like another church because what they are doing works for them, we prove that we are not committed to God’s direction for our local church. Members pick up on that and see that commitment is not that important to a particular body of believers. We must remember that God has a good plan for each church and if changes are to be made, the only valid reason to make them is because God has given us a change to make. Consequently, the only reason to avoid change is also that God does not desire change. Any other reason, again, places the preferences of people on at a higher priority than commitment to God. Again, queasy. God has not given a cookie-cutter approach to church structure. Only books written by people try to accomplish such a feat. One of my pet peeves is the tendency people have to follow personal preferences or culture before following God’s plan. Not that these things are always evil, but we must be committed to God: being where He desires and operating in a manner that He desires. Commitment is key and a lack thereof is an illness that will consume us and kill us (and our churches with us). By the way, this means we also ought to be utterly committed to the other people in our churches and in our lives.
I end my rant with God’s very words to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7 HCSB).
Just like Cain, if we give in to our own preferences sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for us. The only way to rule over it is to follow God before preference, period. This is true for individuals, churches, communities, states and nations. Our preferences are actually of little importance. After all, what would any relationship look like if we were always concerned about our own preferences? It would fail.
Love you guys and thanks for reading. No matter which church you belong to, if you are committed, thank you for representing Christ in that way and for trusting in His plan. It truly is always for our good.