Saturday, November 8, 2008

Promises

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change. Psalm 15:1, 4

A promise must be kept, even when it turns out to cost us more than we expected. Inconvenience does not dissolve obligation. Inconvenience makes promise-keeping all the more beautiful, even God-like.

God is a promise-maker and a promise-keeper. He made us covenantal beings living in a covenantal universe. Our lives unfold with his beauty as we receive, believe, make and keep promises. It costs us. But it cost God too. His cross inspires in us the depth of personal character that doesn't go with the flow but keeps a promise even when unforeseeable eventualities make it hard. The unforeseeableness of the future is the very reason why we make promises. It's why promises are valuable. In a world of contingencies, promise-keeping is the glue that holds us together.

If in the course of life we find a promise hard to keep, we must not think, "Hey wait a minute, this is costing me more than I bargained for. This can't be right. This makes me mad. There must be someone else to blame for this. Now, who can I dump on as my excuse to get out of this?" If we choose to make a promise, and the promise is morally legitimate -- like marriage vows, joining a church, and so forth -- then let's cheerfully and wholeheartedly keep our word, no matter what. It's the Christlike thing to do. It's a pathway into God's personal presence in his tent and on his holy hill. And if God feels remote and unreal, maybe there's a promise we have forsaken. Maybe the way to deeper enjoyment of God is to go back and fulfill that costly promise we've been ignoring.