Committed to Marriage, Committed to the Church
Wedding season is here. Are you committed to your church? That may seem like a rather abrupt shift in topics, but they are actually closely related, especially if we consider a certain popular wedding text?the passage where Ruth verbalizes her commitment to Naomi (Ruth 1:16).
"For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." I've heard that verse repeated in numerous weddings and even used it my own 19 years ago. But have you ever thought carefully about how these sentences apply to the couple professing their love to one another?
Where you go, I will go. At times, life takes a married couple to places they never dreamed. The commitment of marriage means that both people travel the same road, even if that road is unfamiliar, difficult, and far away. It also means sometimes we sacrifice our dream place to be with the one we covenanted with. A few years ago, I sat down with a man who was on his second marriage. He explained how he had wanted to move to a new location, and his first wife was adamantly against it. He moved anyway, claimed his wife was an unbeliever who abandoned him, and then divorced her. "Where you go, I will go" sometimes means "where you stay, I will stay." The husband, in this case, was abusing his authority and misunderstanding commitment.
Where you lodge, I will lodge. This is the hard part of commitment: the daily interaction, the closeness, the inability to find solititude. Proximity necessarily brings conflict, but commitment says, "I'm more who God wants me to be when I'm with you than apart from you." This part of commitment is more than just living in the same house. This is sharing that house and joys and hurts and being God's instrument of grace when sin enters the picture.
Your people shall be my people. Even if in-laws are different, boring, cruel, or distant, they are now family. They are to be loved.
Your God shall be my God. Only this united front in following God makes the rest of the promises possible. Worshiping God together helps to keep us from worshiping ourselves alone. Following after God together gives us the foundation of sacrifice necessary to thrive in commitment. It is imperative that couples share a relationship with one another that is buoyed by a shared faithfulness to God.
While each of these aspects certainly applies to the marriage relationship, I believe they are also vital to a thriving church family.
Where you go, I will go. At times, we may become frustrated at the pace or direction we think the church is headed. Commitment says that I will continue to use my gifts and talents to build up the body of Christ even if things are not going my way. Commitment means I will submit to the leadership of the church even if I think I could do things better. Commitment means I will continue to maintain fellowship with the local church even if the church down the street is doing some really exciting things.
Where you lodge, I will lodge. While proximity necessarily brings conflict in marriage, it does the same things in the church. Despite this danger, we should strive as a church family to spend time with one another. It will get messy. But that is what commitment is about. Is the Sunday morning gathering an integral part of your life or just something that happens when it happens? What would we think of the husband or wife who said, "I'll be home if it's convenient or if I'm not busy or if I don't have any other plans"? We cannot practice the many relational commands in Scripture if we do not spend regular time with one another. This also means that I seek out my brothers and sisters in Christ apart from the times we gather for worship. It means we spend time in one another's homes. It means we share their messes and love them in the process.
Your people shall be my people. We are called to be family to one another. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Our children need the input of one another. We need the sharpening of older brothers and sisters, and we need to sharpen younger brothers and sisters, showing them the way of faith. Those redeemed in the local church are family; it is not just a nice metaphor. Therefore, we should be committed to one another.
YourGod shall be my God. We are called to unity in our faith toward God and our understanding of him. So we search the Scriptures together and disciple one another "until we all attain to?the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph. 4:13).
When a local community sees a local church living out this kind of commitment and dedication to one another, it will at the very least become intrigued. That curiosity may turn to slander or misunderstanding, but it also may open doors for us to share why we love one another the way we do. Then we have the opportunity to talk about the bridegroom, his sacrifice for his church, and the greatest wedding reception ever planned.