Horizontal Covenants

The God revealed in Scripture is a Covenant-making God.

God entered into covenant with Noah on behalf of all humanity, promising never again to destroy the earth by flood. It was a covenant of grace which required nothing on Noah's part. God simply promised it without condition.

God entered into covenant with Abraham, promising to make him into a great nation through which God would bless the whole world. It was a covenant of faith that required Abraham and Sarah to walk with God, trusting Him wherever He led them.

God entered into covenant with Moses, giving His people His law and promising to be their God and claim them as His people. It was a covenant of obedience that required God's people to be people of His law.

God entered into covenant with David, promising him one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever. It was a covenant of kingship that would only be fulfilled centuries later when Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit on David's throne as David's heir and rule from there forever.

God entered into covenant through His Son, Jesus, promising to all who trust Him and walk by faith with Him to forgive their sin and grant them transformation now, and eternal life in the future. It is a covenant of redemption by grace through faith that results in holy living.

God also enters into covenants with us as we make covenants with one another. The vertical covenant with have with God through our faith in Jesus is meant to work into the horizontal covenants we make with one another.

Some such covenants are simple contracts like a mortgage or auto loan, an employment contract or time share agreement. Because God calls us to integrity in all our commitments, we are bound not only by the terms of the contract and the threat of legal consequences if we break it, we are bound by our commitment to Jesus to be people of integrity when we sign such contracts.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Jesus in Matthew 5:33-37 NIV)

Two particular covenants we enter into with each other are holy covenants. We not only promise the other person we will be faithful to the covenant, we promise God. And the other person not only enters into the covenant with us. God does as well.

These two particular holy covenants are marriage and church membership. Our culture has cheapened the deep meaning of these two covenants.

In our secular society, marriage is often no longer seen as a life-long covenant. Marriage has too often been seen as a legal contract because of the legal proceedings of pre-nuptial agreements and divorce. If one is not happy, one may file for divorce and move on. But a believer in Jesus who enters into marriage enters into a holy relationship, both with the spouse and with God. Our accountability is to one another to keep the covenant of marriage in faithfulness, and it is also to the God who covenants with us to work in our relationship to deepen love and fill us with grace.

Church membership has too often been seen as joining the club. As a matter of fact, people are sometimes more faithful to their membership in the Rotary or the Lion's Club than to membership in their church. Long past are the days when the church of Jesus Christ was seen as the central institution in a family's life. Being a member of a covenant community that is striving together to know Christ deeply and show Christ to the world is not so much the way we view our relationship with our church.

In our consumer culture, we are tempted to look at our church on a pay-per-view basis. We focus on what value the church adds to our lives and attend worship with the same mindset we have when we attend a concert or see a movie. Did it bless me? Did I enjoy it? If not, why would I keep attending?

Covenant changes our worldview. Covenant is a holy relationship that involves Jesus, who is passionately committed to us. So committed that He laid down His life to redeem us. And Jesus calls us to covenant commitment to Himself and to one another in the way we live out our faith in marriage (if we are married) and in church membership (if we are members). Covenant relationships are not meant to be casual, it is meant to be all in. And covenant relationships give far deeper meaning to our lives than casual commitments could ever give.

As people of faith, covenant deepens the meaning of the commitments we make. God is with us to help us keep them. God is with us, holding us accountable to our commitments. And God is with us, giving deep meaning to life as we live in covenant with Him and with one another.

The God revealed in Scripture is a Covenant-making God. His people are covenant-making people. And in covenant, we find our deepest relationships and our deepest fulfillment.

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