Monday, August 23, 2010

A Promise Is A Promise

Change is a natural thing in life and as much as we try we cannot stop it from happening. There is very little in life that remains the same as the days, months and years march on. We grow older; the people we love grow older; society grows older; and the older we get the more things change. Technology seems to have multiplied this rate of change by a 100%. It's hard to believe that most of the things we take for granted as being a natural part of our daily life now have only come into existence in the last 13 years. However in all this change there should be one thing that refuses to change and instead grows stronger; good character.

Good character is a decision that we must take because it does not come naturally to us. What comes naturally is self-preservation. We lie to protect ourselves, we cheat to get ahead, we steal to possess what we want. It is the same pattern that Eve fell for in the garden; we look, we desire, we take, we taste. At any point in that process we can walk away, but we don't because it is a natural part of us. However, God desires righteousness, good character in us. We know the power of Jesus Christ in us makes this possible because he has broken our natural character, giving us the freedom of choice where once we were slaves to sin. The law reveals just how far we fall short of what is important to God and one of those things is the strength of our word, or our promises. Jesus taught:

"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.". (Matthew 5:33-37)

You know what he is talking about here; swearing on the Bible is just one example. We swear by things when we want to make a point with people. However, our character should be such that when we say something it is as good as done or that people believe that if we say it it is the truth. Such a trust in our word only comes with time as we gain in reputation for having a strong word. Unfortunately in this age it does not seem to be a priority for a lot of people and we do not consider too many people in our lives to be credible in this thing, especially leaders.

Perhaps the problem is not the good intentions of people when they make a promise or state something as fact but instead the real problem could be the haste in which honest people speak. Sometimes we do not consider everything or investigate the facts before speaking so we set ourselves up to breaking our word because we have put ourselves in an impossible situation. I think many politicians fall prey to this as they speak their intentions to us. They do not understand that they have given their word on the matter and it is not good enough to come back with excuses. People will judge that their word is no good and will judge them in light of this next time they speak.

Parents are guilty of this quite often. I think many parents speak in haste because they are only speaking to children. They consider it not important if they are unable to follow through and keep their word. They are only children who love their parents and who will forgive them. But why put them in the position of needing to forgive in the first place? Sometimes we speak only to placate the children in the immediate moment and are willing to deal with the disappointment in the future because, well, it's in the future. We fail to understand the pattern we are establishing in our children and how they cannot trust the promises of people.

I have been a terrible person of haste. My life is impossible, my schedule atrocious, and my work is complicated. It is easy and often that I become a victim of my own planning. I actually set myself up to fail when it comes to keeping my word because I have forgotten to value its importance. I have forgotten how much my Father values it. I often speak in haste concerning my intentions, failing to understand that each time I fail my word becomes that much weaker. I laugh when my children scoff at my promises, "sure dad", thinking it cute and hilarious whereas it is actually very sad. I use little catch phrases now just to deal with the immediate so I can avoid disappointing people not realizing that using phrases such as "We'll see", "maybe", "perhaps" weakens our word even further. In fact we weaken it to the point that we have to swear by something to show people that we are serious this time; "I swear on my mother's grave", "I swear to God", "I swear by everything that is holy", "I swear on a stack of Bibles". I am sure you have some you can add to the list.

As followers of Jesus Christ we need to become familiar again with the truth that our word is important to God. "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No' 'No'." Whether it is a matter of trying to please everyone, trying to get rid of pesty people, or avoiding the immediate we need to start putting value on our own word by not speaking in haste. It should be our desire to hear people saying of us, "His word is as good as gold", or "You can take his promise to the bank", showing people put value on the promises we make. If you cannot follow through don't make the promise. If you don't have all the facts, wait until you do. Check your schedule before booking the date. Have some fear about breaking the word you give. Remember, its not just about you, it's also about Jesus, who you represent. It is true that everything changes with time, but good character should always remain strong.

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