One of the slogans the Seventh-day Adventist Church launched a few years ago was: TOTAL MEMBERSHIP INVOLVEMENT. I recently looked at some of the articles and sermons which explained the focus of this drive for the active involvement of all church members. It is the name for a world-wide evangelistic thrust. All members are called upon to witness in every possible way, so that the spreading of the Adventist message will gain a new momentum.
I personally prefer to emphasize ‘total commitment’ rather than ‘total involvement’ in an evangelistic strategy. What does it mean to be committed to something? It is more than a willingness to do something. It has to do with all that we are and have. There is a major difference between mere involvement and commitment. We know what it takes to make a ham-and-eggs breakfast. The chicken must be involved by providing the egg. But to have the ham you need a pig that is totally committed.
The English word ‘Commitment’ has Latin roots: It is derived from the word Committare i.e. bringing together, uniting, joining, engaging. English dictionaries refer to the act of binding ourselves, intellectually or emotionally to a course of action. Or to a pledge to do something; to feel obligated or impelled.
We find examples in the Bible of people who were totally committed. Think of Noah and his ark project on which he worked relentlessly for many decades, perhaps as long as 120 years. Think of Abraham and his willingness to travel into an unknown land and to embark on an unknown future. Think of Moses and the leadership he provided to a huge multitude during the exodus from slavery in Egypt and the ensuing forty years sojourn through the desert. Think of Ruth, who, after her tragic losses, was not prepared to give up on Naomi and on the God she had come to know. Think of the apostles, of their courage to take the gospel to faraway places and who, except John, died a martyr’s death.
But we can also think of many more recent examples of totally committed people:
• Martin Luther King jr, who saw a dream and died because of it.
• Albert Schweitzer, the talented theologian, musician and medical doctor, who spent a major part of his life under primitive, circumstances in an African hospital in Lambarene, in the African state of Gabon.
• Mother Theresa and her life’s ministry to the outcast in India.
• Nelson Mandela, who led his country into a new future, after having been imprisoned for many years on Robin Island.
And I could mention the names of many committed people – whom I have come to know over the years, in and outside the church.
What is Christian commitment?
Christian commitment is not primarily being committed to a set of doctrines, important though this element may be. Christian commitment is magnificently described in Mark 12:30, 31: It is loving the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength. And this must be complemented by loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Total Commitment is a commitment to the core Christian values of love, justice and truth. And yes, it includes involvement to service, to accepting responsibilities. But that is not where it starts. Total commitment to Jesus Christ means to be his disciples, who look towards Christ as the primary Source of inspiration for their lives. And everything else will follow.