Okay, let’s make one last trip to the dictionary:
“Commitment: a pledge or promise to do something.”
“Surrender: to give up possession of or power over; to give oneself up to another’s power or control.”
Commitment is a powerful word, especially in a culture that is so influenced by a sense of entitlement. As pastors and counselors, we try to instruct and encourage folks to make commitments – to God, to each other, to daily Bible reading and prayer, to seeking the Lord, etc. – and are thrilled when people make a commitment – and actually follow through on it.
However, I just read an intriguing article entitled, “Why I’m Not a Committed Christian (And Why That’s a Good Thing,” by Bob Butler. In the article Mr. Butler challenges the whole concept of commitment. Here is an excerpt:
In The Incredible Power of Kingdom Authority there is recorded a conversation between the late Adrian Rogers and Josef Tson, the revered Romanian pastor, author, and president of the Romanian Missionary Society who survived years of persecution and exile under cruel Communist rule. Rogers asked Dr. Tson for his perception of American Christianity. Tson’s answer is surprising. After some hesitation, he replied, “Well, Adrian, since you have asked me, I’ll tell you. The key word in American Christianity is commitment.” Rather than being a positive thing, he saw it as an inadequate replacement of an older Christian teaching: surrender.
Tson described the difference, “When you make a commitment, you are still in control, no matter how noble the thing you commit to. One can commit to pray, to study the Bible, to give his money, or to commit to automobile payments, or to lose weight. Whatever he chooses to do, he commits to. But surrender is different. If someone holds a gun and asks you to lift your hands in the air as a token of surrender, you don’t tell that person what you are committed to. You simply surrender and do as you are told. . . . Americans love commitment because they are still in control. But the key word is surrender. We are to be slaves to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As I pondered the words of the article, I could see the application in the ministry we do as pastors. The folks who are experiencing and living out the most dynamic life change are those who have gone beyond commitment; they have made the choice to surrender and do what they are told by Jesus.
What might that look like? For a married couple having challenges, commitment would be a promise to try really hard to love and respect; surrender would be releasing all control by permanently barring and locking the back door of divorce. For a person in incredible financial distress, commitment would be a determination to do everything he can to dig out; surrender would be releasing all control by permanently barring and locking the back door of suicide for the insurance money. And on and on, with each scenario fundamentally coming down to this awareness:
Surrender concedes that in the battle of wills, God has already won. Surrender begins with the understanding that I am not God’s partner—not even a junior partner. He is my creator and absolute Lord. I am ruined and worthless without Him. The surrendered disciple prays like her surrendered master, saying, “Father, if my problem or pain or illness or loneliness can be part of accomplishing your will, do not take it away.”
Wow, I really need to rethink this whole thing. Maybe you do, too……