Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.—2 Timothy 2:21-26 (ESV)
When I married my wife, it was not just a public profession of our love for each other, it was really the first full public profession of faith that I had made as a young Christian prior to my baptism. We borrowed some vows that were Christ-honoring and straight out of the Bible. Each vow repeated Ephesians 5: for her, “as the church loves Christ” and for me, “as Christ loves the church.”
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.—Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)
I think that’s one of the reasons why we have had a successful marriage. Our vows set the tone of how seriously we wanted to take marriage and the unconditional love we are to have for each other.
However, I had several non-believing friends stand up with me who remarked afterward that they thought that portion of the wedding was drudgery. “The vows were so long, and why did they have to be so long, and we just kept standing there wondering when they were ever going to end, and you don’t really believe all that religious stuff you said, do you?”
And honestly, that should have been a clear indication of things to come.
Eventually, all of those friends fell away. One stopped talking to me altogether. He had suggested that I had changed, and he didn’t agree with the changes I was making in my life, such as praying in public.
Another friend let me know in no uncertain terms that he is agnostic and that I was a fool for falling into an organized religion, which he equated to being in a cult.
Another friend thought we were pushing religion on him at dinner one time, because he came from a church background and walked away. He didn’t want to see or hear any more of it.
Another friend mocked me for throwing out all the pornography I had accumulated over the years before I accepted Christ. He was sure that the only reason I was doing it was because my wife told me to.
Another friend asked me what assurance I have of salvation, and I fumbled the ball when I tried to explain it. He did truly seem to be seeking God, but he eventually found what he wanted out of the Freemasons.
What’s worse is that I’ve tried to keep the door open for dialogue from time to time, but they consistently have shown that they don’t have the capacity to accept or forgive. But, how can they have that capacity without the Holy Spirit and without declaring that they are sinners in need of a Savior? And speaking of acceptance, they have repeatedly told me how narrow and simple-minded I am.
At some point, I realized that I had to live out my new life in Christ on God’s terms and not my own terms or to seek the approval of others. I had to decide whether or not I was going to live out the vows I had agreed to on our wedding day, which said that I would put my wife above all others.
Of course, I now know that the choice I made was the correct one. Maybe someday those guys will come to God. That would be great. It just makes me sad to think in the meantime how those relationships ended.
When have you ever had to leave something behind and pursue God?