Peter at this stage is no role model. In marriage our commitment can likewise fail, and we can unwittingly follow this same pattern in our relationship with our spouse. We can become distant, choosing to spend our time with work, hobbies or social media instead of our partner. Our loyalties can become divided as we seek out friends or family members to hang out with, knowing they will take our side when we complain about the state of things. We can cheat, emotionally, spiritually and physically, and then lie about it when confronted directly with evidence.
Jesus, of course, is the model of commitment we should seek to emulate. In the same account in Luke’s gospel, during his trial he is beaten and mocked and spit upon, Regardless of what indignity is being heaped upon him, he remains steadfast… of course he does; he is God, and we are told the God is eternal and unchanging. In our own strength we can never be as strong - but with God, all things are possible! We can look to Jesus’ ministry and learn vital information about how to remain committed to our marriage. In discussing Jesus’ earthly ministry Maxwell again makes four points, four levels of commitment: Come and see, come and follow, come and surrender, and come and multiply. These levels can also be seen as stages of development in a romantic relationship.
“Come and see” is analogous to the dating and courtship phase of a romance. Think of when Jesus spoke to some of John’s disciples in John 1:35 “Rabbi, where are you staying?” “Come, Jesus replied. “And you will see.” Jesus is allowing people to get to know him at this point, and dating couples do the same. While dating, shared experiences and long discussions are the norm. People seek to find “chemistry” with another person, and seek to discover the other’s character to determine compatibility. This stage is enjoyable, but shallow. We, and the relationship, must grow.
“Come and follow” Jesus says to those who are ready (though not everyone made the cut: the rich young ruler and the man freed from the host of demons were sent away) There is a step up in commitment when two choose to be exclusive in their relationship. Desire marks this stage and each must be willing to learn not just how this other person can benefit us, but how we can be a blessing to them.
Marriage can be seen as the “come and surrender” stage. We vow to forsake all others. The command for husbands and wives is to “Submit to one another as to Christ” (Ephesians 5:21) Each must rely on the trust that has been built to this point and take initiative. Love is a choice that is made daily at this stage.
The last stage is “come and multiply.” The literal reading could refer to children and starting a family, but beyond that this is when a marriage truly becomes more than the sum of two people. When done right this is when the union starts to hint at God’s love for his creation, and work for his kingdom is accomplished through the couple.
Each stage is in addition to the one before it. As the relationship grows we still must strive to nurture and develop the skills inherent to each one. Even when we have surrendered, it is the curiosity of “come and see” that will keep a romance fresh and new. We must choose to follow the path we walk with our spouse over and over, choose to be faithful each morning. We must commit to serve and to bless the one we have chosen with each morning.
Reflect on where your marriage is at; what stage are you in?