11 August, 2009

Covenants

I was reading an article from my friend, Catherine, and thinking about the people who I love most in my life. Catherine spends her article talking about covenants and looks to some OT stories as an example. At one point she writes,

That's the thing about a covenant. A covenant is not made for one's own benefit. It is made for the benefit of the other. It is not made on certain conditions—I will be here for you as long as it is fun for me, for example. And it is not temporary. A covenant is based on that wonderful Hebrew word we see used so often to describe God: hesed—loving-kindness or steadfast love.

And here's the beauty and joy of covenant, be it in a soul friendship or in a deeper way in a marriage. Covenants enable another person to relax and experience care, to experience the safety that no matter how many bad days or personal foibles they have, you are for them. You are with them. You aren't going anywhere.

I think we often make unofficial covenants. I don't promise you I will always be there, I just am. I can think of a few friends who are on there for me regardless, and the action is reciprocated.

A covenant, whether marriage or between parties, is not based on conditions, which is how it is different than a contract. I will not be nice to you only if you are nice to me. I will be nice regardless. I think a well orchestrated covenant has a lot to do with love. I cannot fulfill my end of the covenant if it does not come from love. Love leads to service. I will keep my end of the bargain even when you hurt me because I love you and die to myself to keep up my end of the deal.

We really have bad language for trying to describe this.

Look at David and Jonathan - Jonathan is Saul's son, next in line to be king, but he realizes very quickly that his role will go to David. David will lead Israel next, not him, so what does he do? He loves David anyway, and ultimately saves his life. Think about that moment, David has trusted Jonathan with his life. If the response to the arrows is this David does X, if it is this he does Y. Jonathan had a choice in that moment - he could have said the opposite of what David should do, and sent David into a trap, keeping the throne for himself, he could have never showed up and left David alone. He had the perfect chance to take should have been his. But he didn't. He acted with integrity, saved David's life and assured David the throne.

He made a covenant with David to protect him and when the time came Jonathan followed through. They had entered into a covenant of friendship - one that says I will be there always.

Maybe in our lives we won't have a David and Jonathan situation. But we will have a moment of whether or not to give of ourselves. For me, it is answering the phone to a friend when I am dead tired and just want to be alone. It's driving 30 minutes to see someone, or going on when I just want to stay in, following through. It's small "sacrifices," which, to me, are part of a covenant. Catherine uses the marriage covenant "I promise to stay through good and bad, rich and poor, sickness and health, until the end..." And we can do that with our friends day in and day out, but find it hard to do in marriage. Maybe it is because in friendship we can take a day off from each other, or go a week without talking, but in marriage they are the regardless. I don't know. I am trying to stay on track, and not tangent into how I fear marriage because I don't like being around people all the time. Even roommates get old, but maybe there is a covenant in that too. I promise to give you space, to respect your personality, to not make you feel bad for being a hermit, to eat dinner with you, to listen when you want to cry, to be respectful when my boyfriend is here...


Maybe life is a just series of covenants spoken and not, that somehow define what I do in a given day. And the ultimate covenant was made when I accepted Christ - I sealed a covenant with Him to love Him and love His people regardless of their reaction to me. He has held up His end of this covenant with His Son on the cross, now I have to uphold mine by living differently, by pursuing Him, by being a servant and striving to love.

I read 1 Corinthians 13 this weekend and maybe that is the ultimate outline of anyone's responsibilities in a covenant. And it all rests on this: I can do everything right, on the outside and to those around me, but if I have not love I am nothing.

We enter into covenants with those we love, and when we keep that love as the first point in the midst of the covenants we've made we are able to experience the care and safety of being seen and valued and treasured by another person regardless of what is happening or how bad our day is.


For those Jonathans around me, thanks! I couldn't make it without you. 

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