Started thinking about this again after reading an article by David Lapp in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Section. Lapp wrote about engaged couples who want to write their own wedding vows, or to have someone else do it for them. He mentioned an online service that advertises “Instant Wedding Vows” and offers to have ghostwriters “capture your personal voice while encompassing the appropriate etiquette and emotion.” Lapp acknowledges that this probably reflects a desire to say something more honest than traditional wedding vows that promise to love, cherish, and to honor one another until death.
But Lapp also sees problems with customized vows– honest as they may be.
To support his point Lapp talks about what it would be like to have incoming presidents of the United States say in their oath of office “I will try as hard as I can to the job of president” rather than “I will faithfully execute the office the president of the United States.” Again, Lapp acknowledges that such words might come closer to reality but assumes most of us would not like to see such a compromise.
As I read what Lapp said about the merits of marriage vows, and presidential oaths of office, got to thinking again about something we find in the unfolding record of the Bible. At a number of points the people of Israel promise God that they will do everything he tells them to do.
For instance, the 24th chapter of Exodus says, “And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do” (Exod 24:3).
Looking back we see how quickly those good intentions unraveled. Within a few days of promising to be faithful to God, the people of Israel were worshiping a golden calf at the foot of Sinai, even as Moses was meeting with God at the top. The Bible tells the same kind of story over and over ( Joshua 1:16, and Joshua 24:24).
The same thought struck me a couple of weeks ago as I saw a new believer in Christ baptized and led by the baptizer in a promise to follow God in a way that none of us ever do.
Sure seems to me that one of God’s purposes in telling us Israel’s story was to show us how futile and naive our commitments can be– while also reminding us of the seriousness and gravity of the consequences of not loving and being faithful to him and to one another.
So how do we handle important commitments that deserve the highest level of devotion–with all honesty, and without sounding naive? Do we lower the bar and water down our responsibility and accountability in the process?
Does saying at the end, “So help me God,” solve the problem?
Is it worth thinking about to increase our sense of dependence upon the Lord in everything, knowing that–in one sense– Jesus reminds us that, by our own words we will be “justified or condemned (Matt 12:37).