From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, the Scriptures describe our God as one who makes and keeps commitments. God declares promises and then fulfills them. God is committed to the goodness of his creation and the flourishing of man and woman created in his image. God is committed to overturning the brokenness of the fall by crushing the serpent’s head. And God is committed to establishing the new creation:
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever (Rev. 22: 3-5).
The Lord’s commitment to his creation and his people is expressed hundreds of times, often in richly moving and tender ways:
But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isa, 43:1-3a).
Both personally and communally, we are shaped by our Lord’s committedness: God’s faithfulness holds the universe in place, confers a new identity upon us, shapes us into the body of Christ, invites us into his work of reconciling all things to himself, and guides us day by day on the road of faithful following. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1b-2).
But even though we’re shaped by God’s committedness to us, we’re also shaped by our culture’s attitude toward commitment.
A missionary friend told me this story: One day, while he and his family were on home leave in North America, his wife went grocery shopping. She turned her cart into a long aisle that contained nothing but breakfast cereals—dozens and dozens of varieties. She stopped, paralyzed, and began to weep right there in the aisle. The extravagance of choice broke her down.
Exercising limitless personal choice that allows us maximum personal autonomy and freedom is one of the chief spiritual disciplines of our age. It especially works its power on teens and young adults, because their identities are more amorphous as they live into their adult selves.
Sociologists tell us that many in this age range live by FOMO (fear of missing out). To make a commitment is to say yes to one path and no to all other paths. But what if something wonderful is waiting for me on a path I just said no to? In this way FOMO advises me to avoid all commitments and keep my options open—or, more accurately, to commit to being uncommitted. (If this sounds like picking on one age group, I should note that many church leaders observe weakened commitment to congregational life in all age groups.)
This spirit has also complicated the place of baptism, marriage, public profession of faith, and other significant milestones in the life of the church. Because this spirit continually whispers in our heart that we must live by limitless personal choice, it’s easy for us to forget that we are a body whose very being is embedded in commitments.
Strengthening our commitment practices, including the practice of profession of faith, calls us to name the idolatries that tempt us and intentionally embody a different way of being.
In Faith Formation Ministries’ new Professing Our Faith toolkit you’ll find dozens of ideas for creating a culture of commitment in your church, encouraging and preparing people to profess their faith, and celebrating profession of faith in worship. You can access this resource collection online at crcna.org/faithformation/toolkits.
What resources or practices strengthen the culture of commitment in your congregation? Share your ideas by emailing [email protected].