We had this wedding at our church last weekend. Three hundred friends and family members sat in the pews watching eight groomsmen and and equal number of bridesmaids fill the front of the sanctuary. As the organ shook the rafters, the bride entered on the arm of her father and took her place beside the groom in front of me. Then it happened.
“Harry,” I began. “Do you take Bess to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to be faithful to her in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, so long as you both shall live?”
Harry took a deep breath, looked at Bess and then at me. “Preacher,” he said, “I sure do. Mostly. Bess is a wonderful woman. Any man would be lucky to have her. I will be proud to be her husband. And I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to be true to her. Much of the time. And lots of evenings, after work, I’m coming home to her and I’ll actually spend the night there. Of course, I’ll have my other girl friends, but that’s to be expected. I’m just human, you know. But Bess will be number one with me. Yes sir. And from time to time, I plan to give some money to pay her rent and help with the other expenses. Yes sir, preacher, I do. Sort of.”
We all stood there in shock. I had never heard such a mixed up response from a groom before. I turned to the bride to see how she was taking this. Bess was staring a hole through Harry, like he was the lowest thing on earth. Then she threw down the bouquet, hiked up her massive bridal gown, and strode out of the church, right up the aisle she had just walked down.
The bride’s parents rushed out the door behind her, and the congregation sat there stunned. Harry stood there silently for a long moment, then leaned over to the nearest bridesmaid and said, “Doing anything tonight, Honey?”
Okay, it didn’t happen. I made it up. But I see something like this going on all the time.
“Lord, I love you. And I’m glad to become a Christian and wear your name. And I want you to know I’m going to be faithful to you. Much of the time.”
“I plan to pray to you, Father. Occasionally. Whenever anything is going on I can’t handle and I’m feeling religious. Yes sir, look for my prayers.”
“And Lord, I plan to come to your house. Once in a while. I’m part of the family now and it’s the least I can do. So, don’t be surprised to look up some Sunday morning and find me in the pews. Oh, I won’t be coming on Sunday night or to any of those mid-week things they are always doing. There’s no point in being fanatical about this. But I’m going to be faithful to you. Sort of. Yes sir.”
“And Lord, I may even give an offering. You know, from time to time. Nothing sacrificial, you understand, like a tithe or anything like that. A fellow has to live, you know, and I’m sure you want me to be able to pay my bills. That’s an important part of being a Christian, isn’t it? So, look for me to drop in an offering occasionally. Because I’m going to be faithful. In my own way.”
“I’ve given this some thought, Lord, and decided I’m going to read my Bible too. Surprised you, didn’t I? You didn’t think I would be that serious about this, did you? But that’s just to show you how much this means to me. So, from time to time, I plan to open the Bible at random and read a few verses.”
“No need to thank me, Lord. It’s the least I could do after all you are doing for me. I mean, you are forgiving my sins and writing my name down in the Book of Life, and you’ve promised to take me to Heaven when I die. That’s quite an order, and I want you to know that I appreciate it.”
“So, I’m going to be faithful to you, Lord. In a way. Sort of. Kinda. From time to time.”
People have a strange idea about God. They think he welcomes the kind of half-hearted commitment no husband or wife would ever condone.
Jesus had some things to say on this subject. Try these for starters.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
“No one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” (Luke 14:33)
A great many people who call themselves followers of Jesus give no evidence of their discipleship. What relationship with the Lord they have is primarily a backup plan for the afterlife in case their own maneuverings don’t work out. The church building and the ministers are there for their support and convenience in times of weddings, births, sickness, and death. But the idea of their commitment to Jesus Christ actually costing them something is a new idea to them, one which they quickly reject.
After all, isn’t God a God of love? Aren’t we entitled to the best God has to offer? Doesn’t the government and the church owe us?
A recent movie on the life of song-writer Cole Porter is said to have presented an accurate picture of his split life. Porter was married but maintained a life of promiscuous homosexuality. That explains one of his most popular songs which I have hummed over the years without a clue as to its real meaning. “I’m Always Faithful to You Dear in My Fashion,” it turns out, was what he said to his wife in justification of his behavior. Those who knew her testify that his wife’s devotion to Porter kept her in the marriage in spite of such divided loyalty. No one claims the Porters had much of a marriage.
We are not left in the dark as to how the Heavenly Father feels about such partial commitments.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Matthew 22:37)
Psalm 119:113 “I hate men who are half and half, but I love thy law.”
James 1:8 “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let not that man think he shall receive anything from the Lord.”
The Old Testament prophet called to the fence-straddlers of his day. “Choose you this day whom you shall serve.”