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Are Promises to Follow God Good or Bad?

Sunset over Murphey

Are All Promises Bad?

After the post earlier in the week regarding the Problem with Promises, the natural follow-up is are ALL promises bad? Are promises to follow God bad?

I’ll give a definite answer… they can be.

I Will Not Kiss a Girl

When I was in college, I made the commitment before God that I would not kiss a girl until we were engaged. Up to this point I had some unhealthy patterns in relationships. I never knew I was dating someone unless we kissed and then I did not know what to do within the dating relationship except to kiss. I had problems. I wanted to honor God in everything. I decided to make some changes with this commitment.

The commitment helped avoid several bad choices, but it just put a band-aid over a cancer. It delayed jumping into to relationships too fast, but when I did find someone where something real could grow, the longing to kiss became too overwhelming. The point was never whether or not I should kiss, but to stop the pain I was creating through my woundedness. The promise not to kiss became a hinderance as it became the proof of my devotion to God and not a tool for healing.

Why Are Promises Common Among Christians?

Why are promises to God common among Christians? Because we are afraid of sin, so we create rules to help disassociate ourselves from our heart. We feel the pain in our hearts and recognize the thing it is asking for is wrong. Instead of finding out what is driving our heart’s request, we shame it for wanting such a thing. Promises to God are an effort to prove to God and ourselves that we are worthy of His sacrifice.

God is not looking for robots or stoics. Sure Job made a covenant with his eyes, but he was not commended for it. The one who was called a man after God’s own heart was David. He was able to connect with God’s heart, because he approached life with his whole heart – not deadening off his scary parts.

Peter’s Promise to God

I believe this is brought out more clear in Peter’s promise to God (John 13: 37–38; 18: 10–11; 25–26; 21: 18–19). You have Peter declaring to Jesus that he will lay down his life for Him. Doesn’t that sound like a great commitment?

How does Jesus respond? “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” Jesus calls his bluff. Later that night Peter tries to fulfill his vow to Jesus by go after the arresting soldier with a dagger. Jesus stops him.

Why Would Jesus Stop an Honorable Promise?

Why would Jesus stop someone from fulfilling a commitment that is so honorable? If Jesus did not stop him, Peter would have likely died and missed out on being the rock which the Church will be built. In our limited thinking we make promises that actually hinder the work of God in our lives and keeps us from our destiny.

It is shortly after this valiant display that Peter would deny Jesus to a girl in the dark. When Peter realized that Jesus was not impressed by his commitment and seemingly thwarting his efforts to fulfill it, Peter realized he misjudged Jesus and his plans. Then came Peter’s ultimate realization, “I really don’t know him!!!”

Our Promises Cloud Our Judgment Toward Our Destiny

The story ends with Jesus talking with Peter on the beach. This is a beautiful scene of restoration and realignment, but I think it is also interesting that Jesus confirmed what Peter said in his vow. Jesus told Peter that way he would die. I believe Peter caught a glimpse about God’s plans for him early on, but in his excitement he made a vow toward that end. His vow clouded his thinking and had him misaligned to how God was going to accomplish it.

Our promises to God are bad because they supported by our on effort and understanding to make them succeed. Since I promised this, I will make it happen. God wants to be involved in our lives partnering with us. When we make definitive statement, we forget that His ways are higher than ours, and He may have something better for us.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Please leave a comment below with your understanding of this subject.

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” – James 4: 13–15

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