Friday, March 02, 2012

The Company of the Committed

What makes a person a "committed" Christian? In years past, "committed" was always synonymous with "faithful", and a faithful Christian was one who attended church three times a week - and never missed! If they were male, married (only once), and had faithful children, we made them elders - because you always picked your most committed/faithful people to be elders.

Then there is the "involved" category, which means that if someone is heavily involved in the work and activities of the church, they are seen as committed. It's hard to argue with that, when people commit time, money, and talents to the ministries of the church. This is closely associated with service, and anyone who serves is automatically a committed person. Service is what followers of Christ were called to do, so if the church organizes a service project or opportunity, and you show up, the church declares you committed. Of course, if you don't, well - let's just say that your commitment is suspect.

And the biggest identifier of all is evangelism. There is probably no religious activity that any Christian can participate in that will do more to confirm them before the rest of the church as "committed" like evangelism. It's the great source of constant guilt that even the most dedicated person has to cope with, because no matter how many people you convert, you should have done more. But even the ones who do a little bit, make the rest of us feel like we're lacking "the right stuff" to be truly called "committed".

I really don't mean for any of that to sound shallow or unimportant, but it does strike me as significant how much we determine real commitment based on externals - on works - on looking the part to gain the praise of men. These are all good things - good works - that should glorify our Father. I hope and pray that I - that all of us - can be thought of as committed because we do these things, but isn't it interesting that for Jesus, the most important identifying characteristic of commitment is love. In fact, all the above become empty-sad-self-serving activities without love. (Read 1 Cor.13:1-3 again)

One of the things that has always amazed me about Jesus' judgment scene in Matthew 25 is that the only quality he will be looking for in us is compassion, and the ones he commends didn't even know when they had done the things he was commending them for. For them, and for Jesus, it was a life style! Sure it includes attendance, involvement, service, and sharing your faith, but if these don't well up from a heart of love they become what Jesus warned about when he said, "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them." (Mt.6:1)
As it always is, it comes down to WHO we want to impress or please. Who do we want to see us a committed?

Our commitment is not defined by the church, but by our relationship with God.

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