Friday, May 27, 2005

Fear of Commitment

Over the years, I've known many young men who would cringe at the suggestion of getting married. I am officiating at a wedding this weekend. Another young couple is starting life together. And the groom is fine with the whole "commitment" thing. He's ready to be married, and he's even looking forward to being a father someday. There are probably a lot more young men who are ready for a commitment than we think. The man in his 20's who will do anything to avoid the institution of marriage ("I ain't ready for no institution!") has become an accepted stereotype. But there is a lot of truth to it -- for man and even for women. And if you examine what's going on psychologically, commitment can be pretty scary.

What is there to fear from commitment? Well for the man who is avoiding matrimony, there is a fear of losing his freedom. A single man can come and go as he pleases most of the time, but a married man has someone who can restrict that freedom. Speaking as a happily married man, I know there are times when I can't just grab my clubs and run off to the golf course because I need to do something with my family or work around the house. When I was single, golf came before washing the dishes. Now I get to play golf only once or twice a year. But I get to do dishes whenever I want!

Commitment also means increased responsibility. If a guy loses his job, it's not just him who is affected but his wife also. He is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church -- that's a tall order. There are birthdays and an anniversary to remember, someone else to please, additional bills to pay, and countless other stresses which some guys are scared to death to take on.

Why is the the stress of responsibility so extreme? A fear of failure. What if he can't support a wife? What about kids? What if he can't keep her happy? What if he loses interest? It's not too difficult to fail at a commitment. Most everyone has failed in one way or another. But those failures weigh heavily on the mind of someone who sees an easier way of life if he just refuses to commit to a marriage.

As Christians, we make a commitment also. Our commitment is to our Savior. We live up to our commitment through prayer, reading and meditating on His Word, obedience, worship, service, loving others, and seeking Him. Just like in any human friendship, the ties between our Savior and ourselves are tightened by putting effort into the relationship. Yet too often, we don't put our time in. We know we should, but we have a fear of commitment -- in this case really committing our lives to Christ Jesus. Ron at Northern 'burbs wrote a wonderful post about Christians who are biblically illiterate. I maintain that such believers have a deep fear of commitment.

Think about it. You know people who know next to nothing about Christian doctrine. You know people who couldn't find 1 Samuel in their Bible if you gave them three clues and 20 minutes. And you know people who haven't prayed since their last family emergency. They know they should understand more about their faith, and read their Bible and pray and do what they're supposed to do, but they are too scared to take that step. Why? Fear of commitment.

Many people think that making a real commitment to Christ means losing their freedom to do what they want to do. Actually it means losing one's freedom to sin without getting an attack of conscience. Maybe June loves to get drunk every weekend and John sits at the computer every night watching pornography. Making a commitment would mean a complete change of lifestyle. Even in more subtle ways, a person's life changes when he commits himself to Jesus Christ. And change scares people. Especially people who are comfortable with their sinfulness.

A commitment to Christ also means increased responsibility. It means that a person has to set aside time for spiritual disciplines, for service and for sharing. She has the responsibility to learn more about her Savior and her faith. Others will begin to look to her in a different light, like one who can answer questions about Jesus. People will be watching closely for her to slip up so that they can shout "Hypocrite!" at the tops of their lungs. The responsibility of that true commitment can scare a person to death.

Then, like other commitments, there is also the fear of failing. It's bad enough to fail when it's just you on the line, and when there are other people counting on you failure is horrible. But imagine what it's like to disappoint God with your failures. It could be overwhelming. A commitment to Jesus can be so scary that too many so-called believers are more willing to live a lazy, careless Christian life than to actually follow the teachings of the Master.

Isn't it ridiculous? Prayer life get skipped. Bible study is ignored. Loving others becomes a joke. All because of a fear of commitment to the One who laid down His life for our sins. It's a struggle most of us face from time to time. But how valid are our fears? Do we lose our freedom with Christ? No. We are actually freed from the chains that those sinful behaviors wrap around us. And if we value sin more than Jesus, how can we in good conscience call ourselves "Christians?"

Is there more responsibility for a Christian? In a sense, yes. But we are called to be responsible in all facets of our lives. We must keep our car under control and on the right side of the road. We are to show up for work on time. We have to watch movies without scraming "FIRE!" at the top of our lungs. Responsibility is a normal part of our lives. Responsibility as a Christian focuses on honoring His name and expressing our appreciation for what He has given us.

And how odd it is to fear disappointing God. We disappoint God every day. Yet if we sincerely ask forgiveness, He forgives. Why would we fear failing as a committed Christian, when so many of us fail as a Christian in name only? If we call ourselves by His name, we have no need to fear commitment. For the One we offer ourselves to is the One who loves us as no other.

The bride and groom promise to honor their commitment to one another. For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Those commitments are made to someone who may not live up to his own promises. But God's promises never fail. His commitment to us is solid. We have no need to fear devoting ourselves to a deeper relationship with the One who is faithful and offers us hope for today and for tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, it has been helpful.

Jesus bless You