A young couple begins to fall in love. There is warmth, and affection, and a lot of time that once went to other pursuits now being devoted to a relationship that everyone around whispers is heading in an inevitable direction.
These two are meant for each other.
The man and the woman agree to marry. As the day draws near, the woman suggests that they write their own vows, instead of using the old tried-and-true, “I take you…’til death do us part” routine. They eagerly go off to write their own personal expressions of love and commitment, and get together over coffee on a Saturday morning to share what they’ve composed and finalize their vows.
The man takes out his simple 3×5 index card, and pours out heartfelt words of undying love and acceptance and commitment toward this woman, for whom he is ready to forsake all others. He pictures them on the altar, before a crowd of witnesses, making this vow of faithful, self-giving love before family and friends. Eagerly, he waits to hear what his bride-to-be has written.
She pulls out a sheaf of papers. Having very carefully thought through every aspect of their potential life together, and how it might impact her future well-being and sense of self, she begins to read her vows:
“I, __________, take what I like of you, __________, and agree to give you access to whatever of me I feel I can safely impart to you at any given time. I receive your intelligence, your rugged good-looks, your 401K, your disposition when it is happy, and your willingness to cater to my desires. I will be loyal to you as long as it isn’t excessively inconvenient or painful to me, and as long as things are for the better, and not for worse, I’ll agree to be your affectionate companion.”
Her vows go on, detailing the aspects of her potential husband that she’ll gladly accept, while leaving unspoken the clear implication that her love is quite selective, conditional, and ultimately entirely self-centered.
Reverse the “he” for “she” if you’d like, then ask yourself – If you’re on the other side of that ridiculous agreement, are you going to be showing up at the altar that day? Pffffft.
We’d never accept a menu approach to marriage vows, even among mere mortals. If I love your cooking, the upper half of your body, your eyes, your family wealth, and your sense of humor – while the rest is negotiable – then I don’t love you. I love only what you do for me.
Yet are we willing to have Jesus a la carte? Do we pick and choose aspects of the Savior, parts and pieces of the truth, and decide what we will and will not have of Him? Some Christianity as a main course, but with an appetizer of this, a side of that, and oh…can we substitute that all-or-nothing discipleship thing for some carrots sprinkled with a generous dash of autonomy? I fear that we often do. It’s idolatry – and amazingly, Jesus came to save us even from that sin, that form of incomplete and impure attachment to Him. Amazing grace, that He would give vows of perfect and undying love, while accepting our feeble expressions of half-formed attachment in return.
Yet that does not warrant our continuing to take an a la carte approach to Jesus. The Bible is not a menu of options; faith is not ours to re-shape into whatever image we choose. Some restaurants have a “prix fixe” approach – this is the one price, and this series of courses is exactly what you get for it. That’s the agreement – no picking and choosing, no substitutions, no changing the menu in the middle. Marriage is like that (for which I am personally quite thankful!). Following Jesus is like that. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and strength.” Plus, the fixed price for us is zero – He has even paid that.
Here’s who I am. Take Me or leave Me. I am Lord over your mind, your heart, your past, your future, your gender, your body, your soul, your thoughts, your actions. Nowhere in the Bible is God presented as uncaring about any aspect of our lives – nor does He cater to politically-correct notions of personal choice and societal conformity. 80% of a Jesus we’re comfortable with, is an idol of our own making. If we pick and choose what we’ll have of God, we’ll be left with a god in our own image.
You will search in vain, from the first words of Genesis to the last paragraph of Revelation, for a God who says, “take me a la carte!” What you will find is a Savior who says, “I’ll take you as you are – and you’ll have Me as I am.” Any God who will stoop to being re-shaped by our fickle imaginations isn’t worthy of worship.
Jesus and syncretism don’t get along. Pick one. Choose your life partner. Bigamy is not an option.
The altar is before you. His vows are long-ago written, and they are full of grace and faithfulness. Will you try to come with your sheaf of choices and clauses, dressed in rags of your own devising? Or will you put on the white of full pardon and gladly receive the One who will gladly receive you – prix fixe, and not a la carte?