By David Hegg
I have recently watched the systematic dissolution of several married couples. All of them were good people, and there was no infidelity on either side. The reason they failed to keep their marriages together was not some cataclysmic event or circumstance. Rather, it was their failure to live up to the commitments they made to one another as they entered into the covenant of marriage. It boiled down to a gross misunderstanding of what commitment is, and what it entails.
First, commitment is a promise to persevere past the point of convenience, comfort, and even common sense. Yes, that’s right. Commitment means staying the course even when it appears that all is lost. It is refusing to give up in the face of daunting circumstances simply because what is about to be lost is irreplaceable.
Think about the commitment of soldiers at war. Those we honor the most are the ones who remained radically committed to their comrades and the mission, even to the point of death. Commitment isn’t wishful thinking. It is a promise sealed with the life of the one who makes it, or at least it is supposed to be.
Someone has said that, when it comes to a breakfast of ham and eggs, the chicken made a contribution, but the pig made a commitment. So, with that in mind, here are three principles that define commitment in marriage:
First, be committed to recognizing, admitting, apologizing for, and being willing to clean up after, your own shortcomings. Too many times we believe that all the damage done in marriage lies at the feet of someone else. But if marriage is valuable, humility is worth it.
Second, be committed to forgiving and forgetting the shortcomings of your spouse. Too often we store up the mistakes of others for use as ammunition in the next marital skirmish. But this only erodes marital unity, while demonstrating that we’re actually more driven by our pride than commitment when it comes to making things work.
Lastly, be committed to persevere though tough times for the sake of the mission of your marriage. Every expert on marriage I have read agrees that homes where a husband and wife honor, respect, and support one another provide the best environment for their own health, prosperity and success, as well as the health, character and social maturity of their children. As marriages erode, so do children, and as children are damaged, society devolves into less than America has always been.
These three principles can be summed up as humility, forgiveness and perseverance. Taken together they have great benefit in every human endeavor, and specifically, marriage. These vital commitments grow out of a heart that recognizes the value of character, and that refuses to believe the myth that we are here only for our own good, our own happiness, our own growth, and not that of the world around us.
In a day when personal accountability is fast being considered an evil, freedom-restricting concept, and integrity an impediment to fame and fortune, we need a re-commitment to what is right, good and true. The best things in life aren’t things, or the money that buys them. Happiness isn’t circumstantial, but rather the by-product of virtue, and an ethical system not tied to the whims and winds of a self-centered culture.
Ultimately, it will be our commitments that determine our comforts, and our satisfaction in this life. Commitment, not convenience, must be our guiding principle lest we join so many today who are making compromise a preferable virtue. The race is never won by those who quit or turn aside. Let’s run the race to win, all the way to the end, committed to finish well what we have started.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.