My wife and I wrote our own wedding vows. We weren’t interested in doing anything strange or cute or avant-garde. We just wanted to say the things you’re supposed to say in our own way. We included all the things that you would expect to find in wedding vows: a commitment to remain together for life, an acknowledgement that there will be both good times and bad, and so forth. We worked out an affirmation of our promises that both of us could recite to the other.
One of us, and I’m pretty sure it was my wife, wanted to include the following line at the end:
…and to join with you so that together we may serve God and others.”
Trust me, there was a lot about married life that we did not understand thirty years ago. In many ways, none of us knows what we’re getting into when we say, “I do.” Those promises all sound so perfect, but life, as it turns out, is far from perfect. Sickness and health, poverty and wealth…who really knows what those words mean when the only thing you can see is each other?
But with that last line, I think we stumbled upon something important. Even if we didn’t understand it fully at the time, we both had a sense that our marriage couldn’t ultimately just be about us. It had to be at least in part about being good stewards of the love that God had blessed us to share. And it had to be at least in part about passing this ethos on to whatever children we might eventually bring into the world.
To be sure, all families are different, and Jesus even warned that sometimes our commitment to him would cause family strife. Family unity on spiritual matters is not a given. But to the extent that we are able, I think we’re supposed to serve God with and through our families. That is certainly the impression I get from today’s passage from Joshua 24.
Having taken possession of the promised land, Joshua leads the Israelites in a ceremony of covenant renewal, calling on them to put away the foreign gods that they have begun to worship and serve the Lord alone. They must make their own choice as to whom to serve, but Joshua declares that he and his household will serve the Lord.
I’m confident that neither I nor my wife stumbled upon the idea of serving God together on our own. We were both blessed to have parents that modeled worshiping together, offering hospitality together, and trying to love our neighbors together.
Things like that have a way of sticking with you. And as I think about it, that’s probably the point.
• What does this passage say about serving God as a family matter?
• What can happen when a family agrees that God is their highest priority?
• What steps can family members take to encourage each other toward deeper faithfulness?
• How should believers proceed when their commitment to God drives a wedge between them and their family?
Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.
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