We believe that, don’t we? We’ve bought into it, we embrace it, and we live it out. Commitments and vows mean very little any more. If I’m not feeling it, it must not be. And if it isn’t, then I’m not going to continue trying to make it happen.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit over the last few weeks as I’ve been listening to Tim Keller’s nine-part sermon series on marriage. He preached these sermons – amazing sermons I might add – way back in 1991. They’re circulating once again thanks to his recent book based on those sermons, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment With the Wisdom of God. Keller blasts through the lies we’ve bought about marriage. . . that we come to it with a faulty consumer-mindset that leads us to believe that marriage is there to meet our needs. . . and when our needs are no longer being met. . . well. . . we just move on. Keller also talks quite a bit about the prevalence of feelings in today’s world. If we’re no longer feeling love, or feeling in love, or feeling like we want to love. . . well. . . move on! Do you know what this does to us? Keller answers, “Modern people make the painfulness of marriage even greater than it has to be, because they crush it under the weight of their almost cosmically impossible expectations.”
To all you married folks out there. . . raise your hand if there are times when you don’t feel love. Raise your hands if there are times when you bemoan the fact that your needs aren’t being met in your marriage. OK. . . I see those hands. You’ve all got both hands up. Welcome to reality.
Still, we enter into a covenant. . . a commitment. . . a binding agreement that not only holds us together in difficult times, but one that makes us better as we endeavor to image the Bride and Bridegroom we read about in the New Testament. I’m at 30 years this year. My hands have been up and down for thirty years. I’ve worn out my joints! But I’d also be the first to raise my hand to talk about just how amazingly life-giving it’s all been.
I was thinking this morning about how these marriage realities translate into our relationship with the Bride of Christ, His church. More and more we approach our local church commitments with a consumer mindset. And more and more we rely on our feelings as the final arbiter of whether we stay or go. And so when it comes to our local church involvement we marry, divorce, marry, divorce, marry, divorce. . . hopping from one place to another. . . hoping to be feel good, have our needs met, and be satisfied. Some of us get so tired of the institution that we stop marrying. Instead, we cohabitate with our local church body. We’re there. We’re living together. But we just won’t commit. We fail to remember that our local church is like a family. . . like a marriage. . . that it’s something that requires our commitment through thick and thin. That it’s a place where we give rather than expect to just get.
In just a few minutes I’ll be hopping onto a conference call with Bo Boshers and the crew at Lead 222 to talk to youth workers around the world about kids, culture, and the topic of “Our Youth Ministry Responsibilities.” Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about this today. I trust that we’ll keep thinking about it. . . not only in terms of our own relationships with the church, but in terms of what we’re teaching our kids.