Commitment is an interesting concept in this day and age. Everyone is commited to something, whether we are willing to admit it or not. Whether a cause, a sports team, an institution, a way of living or a way of fitting in, we’re all commited to something and we all have one overriding commitment–that one thing that takes top priority over all others. And when we choose this one thing over the next, sometimes our decision is simple and other times more difficult. No matter how hard we try to avoid it, we face decisions in which we are forced to place value on which object of our commitment is greater.
We have a word in Christian culture we use for the act of choosing our greatest commitment: worship. It almost hurts to think of our commitments in this way. It is never my intent to worship anything other than God, but there are so many other things competing for my time. Commitment is not easy because it always costs something. If I choose this over that then I miss out on everything fun and worthwhile that had to offer. And so over time this exhausting tug on individuals and families has led us to our current state of widespread noncommitment. In a sense, many of us in our attempt to cope with life’s tough decisions, have learned to operate under the following philosophy: If I never choose to order one thing off the menu, I’ll be able to pick and choose the best foods off everyone else’s plate. For example, kids now are busier than they have ever been with sports, clubs, school and church events. But instead of commiting to 100% involvement in any one activity (which might not leave any time for the others), kids now are faced with a decision of which events are worthy of their commitment and which are ‘expendable.’
Schools, clubs and sports teams are well aware of this constant struggle in families, and so they use the word “mandatory” when describing their meetings, practices and events. Kids are threatened that if they choose one of the other activities vying for their time, they will be removed from the team, group, etc. They are made well aware that they are replaceable.
I’ve never known of a church that labeled a weekly gathering as “mandatory.” As a church, we try to follow the example of our creator in hoping for 100% devotion, but giving people the freedom to choose where and how to spend their time. And yet we find it so hard to live with their decisions. We do analytical studies and flow charts to track and evaluate attendance. We theorize on what is causing the drop in participation and put together business proposals for revamping interest.
There is nothing we can or should do to sugarcoat following Christ. It is a commitment and it does cost something. As much as we wish they were, not everyone is in to that. We will never retract the invitation, but we can also never force someone to fully accept it. Joshua most accurately described our human nature to follow the shiniest, newest, most attractive object of our commitment in his now famous words to God’s people: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”