Thursday, May 14, 2020

It's covenant, dummy!

It follows from this that God’s relationship with us is unbreakable. Because God loves us this much, God will never let us go. If we think of a healthy family that is loving and committed——and I realize that many people, sadly, do not come from families like this——we can see that the parents are irrevocably committed to their children. Their relationships with their children are covenantal. They are unbreakable. Damageable, yes. Frequently bruised and hurt, yes. But breakable, no. These parents can never rescind being parents. They are parents forever. Their children will always be their children, and vice versa. I am the parent of two children and will never not be their parent. Never. Are they perfect? No. Are our relationships free from difficulty, hurt, and disappointment? No. Am I committed to them permanently and irrevocably? Of course I am. This will never change. These sorts of covenantal relationships—of utter loving commitment—lie at the heart of all healthy relating. They do not have to spring only from families. Paul had no spouse or children but he had friends who would die for him and he for them. Covenantal families and friendships foster all true human flourishing.

In the light of this it is tragic to see how often people alter these arrangements and claim that personal flourishing must take an altogether different form. When this happens we are no longer teaching the gospel at all. The gospel has been altered into something we can call religion. But how exactly do we transform the gospel into religion? It’s very easy. We insert conditions. This move transforms unconditional familial relationships of love into conditional and legal relationships of limited obligation. The covenantal forms of the gospel are replaced by the contractual forms of religion. It’s a small step for a religious person but a giant leap backwards for humankind.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 139–40

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