Sean McDowell | October 24, 2019

The Freedom of Lasting Commitment

SeanMcDowell.org

Last weekend I had the distinct privilege of officiating the wedding for my sister-in-law. Since they wanted the service “short and sweet,” my goal was to make one simple point during the message: Permanent commitment brings freedom in marriage. Let me explain.

Today it seems that few people make permanent commitments to anything. I live in Orange County and people switch schools, churches, sports teams, and neighborhoods with minimal second thought. It’s as if we as a culture believe that commitment ties us down and that we should not be burdened by allegiance to anyone or anything beyond our selves.

Maybe our world of endless options for music, entertainment, communication, and consumer goods has seeped into our approach to relationships. If you asked most people about this today, they might say, “Commitment limits me. I need the freedom to do as I want. Happiness involves keeping my options open.”

The Paradox of Commitment

And yet there is a great paradox this perspective misses: Commitment doesn’t restrict our freedom; it provides for it. Simply put, commitment brings freedom. Isn’t this counterintuitive? How can limiting options bring freedom? I am speaking of a different kind of freedom that is only found when people make–and keep–their relational commitments.

In marriage, couples may have difficult times when they reflect about the wisdom of their choice. Couples might be tempted to look at the endless availability of potential romantic relationships and reminisce, “Could someone else make me happier?” Such couples may be tempted to stay together as long as they feel they are in love. After all, our culture says to follow your heart. If your heart leads you away from commitment, follow it. Regardless of the cost, you must pursue individual happiness. Choice has replaced commitment.

Feelings Will Lead You Astray

Yet, ironically, following your feelings and forsaking commitment will lead you away from experiencing relational freedom. Feelings come and go. And it is only those who commit sacrificially to one another who are able to give, and receive, genuine love.

Permanent commitment enables spouses to experience love amidst their failures and shortcomings. Permanent commitment between couples enables them to experience the freedom of forgiveness when they hurt each other. Permanent commitment enables couples to experience the freedom of grace when they let each other down. And permanent commitment enables couples to experience the peace that comes from knowing their spouse will never leave them.

The Freedom of "No"

In marriage, it is saying “No” to every other romantic possibility, and reserving romantic love solely for one another, that actually sets couples free to experience love, forgiveness, grace, and peace.

Don’t buy the lie that marital commitment ties people down. Don’t buy the lie that commitment limits your options. If you want to be truly free in marriage, make a permanent commitment to your spouse, and stick to it.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, the National Spokesman for Summit Ministries, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.