Thanks to Mike Carlisle for collaborating on this post.
God asks His followers to commit completely to following Him and there’s only one other type of relationship on earth that can be compared to that level of commitment: marriage.
There are 3 things that Jesus calls us to that are similar to the commitment of marriage. (1 and 2 won’t make sense until you understand 3.)
1. An Exclusive Relationship: You can’t say you love your spouse and have a boyfriend/girlfriend on the side. In your commitment to marriage, your committing to love and pour all your affection into one primary relationship. Throughout scripture God is constantly asking for our complete devotion. You can read about man’s competing affections for all the things of this world in every book of the Bible. This even made the 10 Commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me.” What do you run to, trust in, care about, more than you do your friendship with God?
2. An Everything Included Relationship: A few years ago I knew a couple who ran into a big problem in their marriage. The husband and wife shared most things, but the husband had a locked box that the wife wasn’t allowed to touch. Their problems increased and they later divorced but she never found out what was in the black box. It seems pretty clear, if you’re trying to create a healthy marriage, there can’t be any secrets or things you hide from your partner. Everything must be laid bare and transparent- no locked boxes! It’s the same with following Jesus. The Bible even says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”(Heb. 4:13) It seems vulnerable to share your faults and thoughts with God, but the truth is He sees them anyways, and loves us anyways. Crazy. Do you have any locked black boxes in your life? What do you hold back from God?
So often, this is where our discussion on discipleship ends. Sometimes churches hammer home that Jesus wants it all, and you have to follow Him alone. We might as well pass out orange jumpsuits, because it sounds like we’re asking people to enter relational prison. But, that’s not what God wants from us. The good news is, there’s something else Jesus calls us to that helps these first two make complete sense!
3. Enjoyment of the Relationship: The couple that grins together, wins together. (Ok, I admit that was a reach.) But, the point is, a healthy couple needs to make time to have fun together. Besides thinking your future spouse was hot, you probably wanted to marry them because they became your best friend. You had fun together, laughed together, and just enjoyed being in each other’s presence. As the years of marriage pass by couples easily fall into a pattern of complacency and forget to have fun together. Without fun, a marriage quickly becomes a list of tasks you each have to accomplish to survive the week. This is the same thing that happens with following Jesus. If you don’t first enjoy your friendship with Jesus, then developing an exclusive and everything included friendship simply becomes a list of rules you have to mindlessly follow to “keep God off your back.” If we prioritize knowing and enjoying God, we’ll naturally want to share more with Him. Have you ever noticed you never have to force a young couple to spend more time together? Do you enjoy God? Do you genuinely like Him and how He works? If not, get to know Him. As you do, #1 and #2 will more easily start to happen.
It’s important to remember that a follower of Jesus is primarily called to follow someONE not someTHING. We are following the person of Jesus, not a list of rules. More than anything else, God wants us to know Him.
Jeremiah 9:23 Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me…
John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Isaiah 29:13 These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.