What does commitment mean? I think for many people, commitment means that I'll remain as long as my needs are met and I'm happy. If we are not happy with a job, we leave. If we are not happy in a marriage because our needs are not being met, we leave. There was a time in our history where we were loyal to a company for life. There was a time in our history when we were married for life even though you faced hard times. You went through hard times together. You stayed with the other even if you no longer felt loved or felt happy. My grandmothers were married to drunks. They were afraid, abused and often not happy, but they were committed.
When we realized that companies were not loyal to us, we realized we no longer needed to remain committed to the company. When we realized we could leave abusive situations, we did. At some point in our history, our own needs and our own happiness become more important than our commitment. Commitment became conditional.
It is not good to stay committed in an abusive situation. While I admire my grandmothers' courage, I'm sad that they endured abuse. I think in our past, we fell into a trap of legalism. We remained committed because it was morally right to do so. We endured abuse, neglect and not being loved because it was wrong to break our commitments. Society and religion told us it was wrong. We felt pride in keeping commitments and too afraid to break them. We would feel ashamed of ourselves if we divorced. People who did divorce were looked down upon by society and the church.
Now we've swung the opposite direction. Commitments are conditional. Society and sometimes even the church encourages us to leave when things get tough or we are not happy. Sometimes the church fights against the messages of society but in a legalistic way still promoting pride or shame as the motive to stay committed.
To leave a situation because we are not happy or our needs are not being met is selfish. Marriage is not an institution which is designed to have our needs met and to make us happy. Marriage is a covenant relationship between two people and God. It is a means for growth to become more like Jesus, to become less selfish, more giving, more loving and a better person who truly is an image of the Creator.
We must learn that God's love for us is unconditional. He is committed to us and our well being. We are not capable of keeping our commitments. We are not capable of loving unconditionally. We are not capable of obeying God's law of love. Jesus kept his commitment to us. He loves us unconditionally. He kept God's law of love perfectly because we cannot. He died for us because we deserved death yet God did not desire that we perish. He redeemed us and reconciled us to him even though we abandoned him to seek our own pleasure and happiness apart from him. We sought our own pleasure and happiness but failed to achieve it because we had abandoned the very source of love, pleasure and happiness. God asks us to recommit ourselves to him knowing we can't keep it on our own. Even though we will continue to break our commitment to God, he will not break his to us. We can be assured that nothing will ever separate us from God's love ever again.
Our commitments to each other must flow from God's commitment to us. Our love for each other must depend on God's love for us. Apart from him, we cannot keep our commitments. Apart from him, we cannot love unconditionally.
If we are motivated by fear or shame, we will not love and keep our commitments. We may be coerced into keeping our commitments out of fear or shame. We may remain loyal because we are enslaved by fear, but we will not grow in love. Commitment itself does not enslave us. Commitment frees us when we depend on God to keep the commitment. Fear, shame, regret, selfishness, and pride enslave us.
My wife and I signed a covenant when we were married. In doing so, we committed ourselves to God and each other regardless of circumstances. When we signed it, we knew we were NOT capable of keeping the covenant and our commitment. We signed it knowing God IS capable of keeping out covenant and commitment. We signed it in faith trusting God to keep it. We believe our love came from God who is love. We believe God grows our love. I love my wife more now than when I signed our covenant. Our love is strong because our God is strong. We have no fear of divorce because we trust our God. We feel very secure and very free. We are not chained by commitment. We are free. We are bound by love and by God who loves us. That bond cannot be broken because God is faithful.
What is commitment? In our marriage, commitment is a faithful covenant with God and each other bound by the love God has given us. For us, commitment is for life. We are not bound by a legalistic determination to stay together. We do not live in fear of shame. We are not afraid of breaking our commitment. We are not enslaved by a promise. We are bound by love forever.