“Dating”, love, and commitment

The other day I met a man and we struck up a conversation about kids. He had some hard and fast thoughts on the dos and don’ts of childrearing. While he has some nephews and nieces, he didn’t yet have any kids of his own. (It always strikes me as interesting that people without children have such expertise and fixed ideas. That says something about our view of a lot of things we don’t have much experience with). I asked if he was married. “Not yet,” he said. He was engaged with a potential wedding date about 13 months away. I say “potential” because he and his fiancé are “giving it a trial run first” by living together. I didn’t push the conversation anymore because I had to leave. It goes to show how confused people in our culture are with regard to relationships. Marriage works not because we’re compatible, but because we commit. It is our commitment to each other “in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, etc.” that provides the safety net when we fail each other. It is commitment that allows us to be authentic and open up with each other. Commitment is at the heart of what it means to love someone if that love is expected to benefit the one you love.

We can see that in marriage, but the same thing holds true in other relationships too. Before Jesus’ death he told his disciples to love one another. This is how the world would know they were his followers. What did he mean by that? He works that out by explaining that we are to bear each other’s burdens and share each other’s joys. You can’t really do that without a commitment to each other. In the New Testament letters we find the authors detailing what a church looks like. It is governed by elders and served by deacons. In other words, it isn’t just a group peers, banded together by their common interests. It has specific structure so that the body of Christ, as a whole, can reach maturity. Christians are called to submit to their leaders “for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” You are to “let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Too often we look at our connection to church as loose. We want to be able to pull up the stakes and move on if we don’t find things amenable to us. But if that is our approach, how can we ever really be authentic with each other? If I know you have no real commitment to me, why would I ever open up to you? And if I can’t open up to you, how can you really ever share my burdens? We would rather “date” than join a church. We want the benefits of the relationship without being tied down. We want the “sex” without the “marriage”. We can certainly receive some benefits from this kind of relationship, but it will never do for us what it is meant to do.

Being “members one of another” (Romans 12:5) is hard work. It takes an investment in time. It takes sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews explains, “do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Being committed to each other will leave you feeling hurt and drained at times. But it will also allow you to be encouraged and filled up at other times. Will you be there for both?

Committed in Christ,

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