Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Are We Committed To?

Evangelical Christians put a strong stress on commitment. But the question arises: committed to what? We can say, committed to God, to our church, to our families. But what does this involve? In looking at this, there are two dangers.

We can define commitment too broadly, as a vague feeling without much substance. This can often stem from a particular experience or event, like walking down to pray at an altar. Now I am far from despising such experiences; many can be key events in our path to growth with God. The Bible mentions monuments built in remembrance of certain significant deeds God had done (Joshua 4:19-24; 1 Samuel 7:12-14; Numbers 17:8-11). But it is possible to rest on the events of the past and feel that this makes us committed. This may be accompanied by a few obvious specifics, such as, go to church, put money in the offering plate, do not commit any blatant sin, and similar basic rules. But it mainly consists in a fairly generalized feeling of loyalty. Is this all commitment is?

But we can also define commitment as holding to and successfully accomplishing certain well-defined practices. While these practices are generally based on Biblical principles, they involve strict adherence to the methodology of a particular program or organization. This leads to a one-size-fits-all approach, which often requires things not specifically commanded by Scripture. It defines commitment as successfully following the leader's program and dismisses all those who do not live up to its standards. Now it is hard to accomplish anything without making choices on methods and procedures. The danger comes when we start raising our approach to the level of a commandment of God and condemning everyone who does not follow it. Once we get beyond the clear commandments of Scripture, we need to realize that not every method works well for every individual. Now there is a place for supporting the programs of the leaders God has put over us to the extent we can. But we should not confuse them with commitment to God.

Scripture speaks of growing in Christ as a process (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1,2; Ephesians 4:15,16), which involves deliberate practice (1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:13,14; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). This process is based on the Holy Spirit working in us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29). Now our goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ, and we should not settle for something less, though we will not attain that in this life (Romans 8:29,30; 1 John 3:2; Matthew 5:48).  Therefore, commitment is commitment to be involved in this process (Romans 12:1,2; Galatians 5:16; Titus 2:11-14). This may require other commitments along the way. These will be similar, because the commandments of God are the same for everyone, but they will be different, as everyone has different gifts and is at a different point in the process. But we should not fool ourselves into thinking we have arrived.

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