On a recent morning talk show I saw a wedding ceremony, convened on a side street in downtown New York and televised live. There were myriad peculiarities contained within this ceremony, but I was struck in particular by the vows, as administered by the presiding civil servant. He asked the would-be bride and groom if they would be true to each other’s love, accept each other unconditionally and find strength in each other’s commitment. There was no mention of God or the purpose of marriage. The vows were based exclusively on what the two would do for one another, in their own strength.
When I think of the many ways I fail those I love and the ways in which I have been disappointed by empty promises, I had a sense of sorrow for these two. There was no guidance given to them for their own promises, and I wondered what they really thought of their capacity to keep the vows they made. This pronouncement of marriage, above the din of city buses and taxis, in the presence of hot dog vendors, jugglers, and the lunch hour throng, seemed defeated as it was spoken.
How many failed promises comprise your existence? What is the basis of the promises you make? Why are you so hurt and offended when people break promises to you, even as you continue to do the same? What human beings desperately need is someone whose word, whose vow, does not fail. We yearn for a promise that will counteract the millions of failed promises inhabiting our daily lives.
Christanity’s chief object of worship and devotion is Jesus Christ. Our proposition to all who will listen is that, in all the days we have loved Jesus, followed Him, listened to Him and served Him, He has never failed us. He has never said something that wasn’t true. He has never let us down. He has never done us any harm. He has never had to justify a wrong action or wrestle with guilt.
What He says is truth, and what He does is right. Every human institution that is built on Him will stand, and every one that is built on the promises of men will fall. He is the Promise and the Keeper of all promises we are unable to keep.
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. …And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:20–22).