Every so often you come across something so powerful and poignant that it challenges you to re-think more than just your beliefs, but also your actions.
Yesterday I was pointed to a video about a couple who chose to get married, even after the man suffered a debilitating brain injury.
In it, a woman married a man who would be severely impaired in his ability to:
She did so after taking a significant amount of time to gain an accurate picture of what such a marriage would cost her. In the face of this she did not just choose to “love” but to commit.
That commitment wasn’t made to her ” best available option”.
It wasn’t made to a man that she stood to gain from.
It was made to a man whom she was led to, by God.
I admit that relationships have a transactional quality to them: when someone does something generous it makes us happy, when they behave selfishly we become upset.
Where many relationships, especially marriages, go wrong is when we determine that we’ve made the best choice possible and then give to them with the expectation that we will receive in return. This transactional model of relationship isn’t best described as love, it’s better described as commerce.
“If you become my customer, I’ll treat you well.”
“If our business goes well, I’ll make you a partner.”
“If the partnership fails, we’ll dissolve the business.”
I suppose it’s hard for many Americans to not see life through the lens of commerce, since consumerism and business are the bedrock that our culture is built on. I grew up under the watchful eye of a television set that wasn’t just interested in entertaining me, it was trying to motivate me to purchase products every 15 and a half minutes.
But culture is not self-generating.
It wasn’t just prescribed for me, I joined in prescribing it. This exposure meant that commerce was not just an acceptable paradigm for me, but one that I demanded of others. It’s not our culture’s paradigm, it’s ours.
Our misunderstanding of the transactional quality of relationships grows from a preference for relationships of commerce (self provision) over relationships of commitment. In a relationship of commerce:
I only have to be nice to my friends when they’re nice to me.
I only have to be considerate of my wife, when she’s being considerate of me.
I only have to think highly of my kid when he’s well-behaved.
But in a relationship of commitment, I’m bound to live as a consistently generous person, regardless of what I receive in return.
The Bible makes it clear that the marriage of a man and a woman is a picture of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the people who have chosen to live as “his bride”. Over and over again the picture of God’s love for humanity is described as a faithful man who pursues an adulterous woman…
…Because of a love,
A love that made a commitment.
And that commitment wasn’t transactional.
What does that kind of loving commitment look like in an earthly marriage?
Click on this link to see the story of Ian and Larissa.
Sometimes you see something that questions whether or not you really understand the difference between commitment and commerce. It challenges the way you think and calls you to a better way of living.
It’s in these moments that we get just a small taste of the reality that even in our extreme relational poverty, God’s covenant promise to us is merciful, gracious, heart-rending, and terrifyingly beautiful.