Monday, January 10, 2011

Covenant is Messy

In preparation to block the scene in Godspell when the last supper is loosely reenacted, I explained to my actors what a covenant is.  I told them the story of God making a covenant with Abraham:  Abraham was instructed by God to kill a heifer, a goat and a ram, cut them in two and also some doves.  Abraham cut them in half, and placed them opposite each other, and then (I love this verse), Gen. 15:12, "As the sun was setting, Abraham fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him."  The Bible goes on to explain that in his sleep God spoke to him and then God "walked" between the carcasses in the form of fire.  This signifies that the bloody covenant was fulfilled by God; and God alone.

Usually a covenant is a binding agreement between two people and which ever person breaks it, dies.  But what is interesting here, is that God is the sole maker of this covenant--He made it with Himself, essentially, and regardless of who breaks it--Abraham and his descendants or God--God dies.  Now, since God cannot die, as He is eternal, we know the rest of the story--the second person of the Godhead, the Son, becomes human to execute justice in the broken covenant.  Every covenant God makes/made with His people, was fulfilled in Christ's death and resurrection--from Adam to you and me and our children.

Covenant is a bloody mess.  You cannot have a covenant without mess.  The only two times we hear this word used in our contemporary lives is the covenant of marriage and the covenant of church membership.  Yep messy, messy business.

During the Christmas holidays we were in California with relatives for 14 days.  There came a moment when this messy covenant business was quite apparent to me.  I wanted nothing else to do with these people I was covenanted with through marriage.  I was ready to catch the next plane back to Orlando.  

Somehow, through the irrationality and fog of anger, God broke into my thoughts and I saw that even if we all humbled ourselves and worked toward reconciliation, I would still not be happy.  What an eye-opener for me!  I wanted to keep my emotional distance from my family, and my anger was an easy way to do that.  I wanted emotional distance because I wasn't comfortable the intimacy this covenant brings--not just with my husband and me--but with our families.  I was much more comfortable not being vulnerable and exposing my true self and all my flaws and sin (like it isn't apparent) than opening up my raw heart to the people who love me but are also able to wound me most.  Therefore, it was fight or flight.

Think about it--where do most of our deep hurt and true conflict manifest?  Within our families (extended as well) and in our churches.  These are the two institutions God has ordained in our lives to bring about true change in us.  The people that are covenanted with us laugh with us, cry with us, worship with us, know far more about us that we want them to, see the sin in us, say hurtful things, aren't all gifted the same, misunderstand us, ignore us, completely excommunicate us at times!  These are not the same wounds we experience at work or with our neighbors.  There are many believers walking through life with deep, deep, wounds from family riffs and the churches they covenanted with at one time.

Unfortunately, the culture has reacted to these two institutions quite profoundly:  1) Couples living together without being married--we don't need to get married to show we're committed, and 2) Many churches priding themselves in NOT having membership.  Both of these reactions are directly rebellious to God's covenant with us.  God's covenant with us is not just real and tangible, but it is an example of the bloody mess we live with as we journey with our spouses and families and our church bodies.

If God, the Creator of the universe, the Creator of unity and communion, is willing to condescend into human form and die an unworthy death, and be forever scarred, because of the covenant He made with sinners who broke His covenant, shouldn't we also have that same mind with each other--not just giving grace to the grocery store clerk who is flubbing our checkout experience, or the guy cutting me off on the road--but to each other--those we love most and know us best?  Those we are covenanted with?

This should be my life verse, I think I'm afraid to make it so: 

Phil. 2:5-8
 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
 6 Who, being in very nature God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
   by taking the very nature of a servant,
   being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross! 

The only places you and I are really, really going to grow in grace, is at home and at church.  God, in His great wisdom and mercy, placed us in our homes, with our spouses, with our families, and in our churches.  He actually CALLS us to these people, and uses them in His sovereign plan of sanctifying us and making us more like Him.   Even Christ said in Luke 6:32, "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them...But love your enemies [those you're covenanted with], and do good...and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful [us] and the evil [us]. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."

The absolutely beautiful conclusion to my little tirade at Christmas, was that our family did come together, talk honestly, with many tears (from a couple of us), humble ourselves and reconcile.  I am so thankful to Lord for the contentment and joy I feel when I think about our time together and look forward with great anticipation to our next gathering!  Soli Deo Gloria!

1 comment:

  1. I love gathering together w/my Family - the whole motley crew. ;) big hugs

    ReplyDelete