My husband devours the Saturday Toronto Star. I doubt very much that he reads the obituaries or the classifieds, but he does read most of it over a period of a couple of days.
I, on the other hand, seldom read it, but once in a while an article catches my eye. This happened a couple of Mondays ago when I was gathering up the scattered paper to put in our recycling. I skimmed the pages and two headlines caught my attention. I read each to completion. My stomach almost heaved at the repulsion I felt at the conclusion of one, and respect mixed with sadness swept over me at the conclusion of the other.
Two men made headlines. One, a paedophile. The other, a long-term supply teacher. One targeted young boys—Using the cloak of his priesthood, he abused over 500 victims in a 22-year-period. The other helped his students succeed, dedicating his time tirelessly to that end. It was said of the one that the abuse was horrendous in its impact and massive in its scope. Of the other—in response to his sudden death at 31—it was said that the school community would never be the same without him. One betrayed parents’ trust and destroyed lives. The other’s dedication earned him love and respect, and in his death was honoured at his school and in the community.
The one was committed to harming those in his care, leaving irreparable damage. The other was committed to encouraging his students, causing them to believe in themselves.
Recently, I’ve been challenged about the word commitment. By definition, it simply means that we are willing to dedicate ourselves to a particular cause; that we are pledging to do something which we fully support and believe in. In reading the two stories about the choices and commitments these men made, the word commitment seemed to wear two very different faces: commitment to an evil and harmful behaviour in one situation, and commitment to an upright and righteous behaviour in the other. It’s obvious that Ralph Rowe, the paedophile appeared to be committed to an evil, destructive and hateful act, all for his own self-gratification. Raphael Loh, on the other hand, was committed to the happiness of another human being and passionate about the future of those over whom he had been given a grave responsibility.
One man failed and received a justifiable conviction. The other, while alive and then posthumously, received respect and honour.
I read and reread the stories of these two men and realized that choices and commitment go hand in hand. One man made a choice and commitment that came from the mind of God. The other made a choice and a commitment that proved to be from the pit of the evil one. I’m reminded of Matthew 12:34-35: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
When I’m curious or challenged about something, or, in this case when I’ve been sobered about something I’ve read, I ask myself, What does the Bible say? According Matthew 22:37-38, the Bible teaches that the chief commitment of our lives should be to God Himself. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” This kind of commitment can only be life-changing; it can only be transforming!
In a modern translation, The Message quotes the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed [transformed] from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
For me, this is a life-long commitment that I choose to do, knowing that at times I will fail, but knowing, too that I will be picked up, set on the right path and loved, regardless! That’s the kind of God I’m committed to.