What is a covenant?
What is a covenant?
A covenant is not the same as the more-familiar contract. A contract is an agreement the partners in it maintain as long as expectations are met and justice is done. A covenant like God makes is an expression of character—a character devoted to realizing self-giving love and mutuality—true love is more about the character of the lover than the characteristics of the beloved. A covenant is made by partners who promise to give love and commitment without an end in mind for themselves—their goal is keeping a reconciling, growing relationship alive and, if they follow Jesus, generating love. A contract is to covenant as ink is to blood.
A covenant is refined and comes to fullness when it endures conflict. It needs conflict like certain pine forests need fire to rejuvenate. Just like God’s covenant with us in Jesus goes through death to life, our covenants of love with God and others also endure that kind of suffering to become what they can be. So conflict between covenant partners is part of the love. Having healthy conflict is part of the covenant. Living in covenant is as Eugene Peterson (elevating Friedrich Nietzche) said, is a “long obedience in the same direction.” The full quote is: “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”
Our written covenant is a symbolic summary of the heart of what keeps us together. Our Map, our plans, our ongoing dialogue make the words of our covenant much fresher and wider, in practice, but we use this summary as a centerpoint:
I covenant with the others of Circle of Hope to live a life in Christ that demonstrates the love of God and lives out our purpose to be a Circle of Hope in Jesus Christ:
- a movement of cells multiplying congregations,
- a people called to reconciliation,
- an opportunity to explore and express God’s love.
I will use the gifts God has given me to contribute to Christ's global cause and to fulfill Circle of Hope's yearly goals and main mission to create an environment where people can connect with God and act for redemption:
- Loving the thirsty people of our fractured region,
- generating a new expression of the church
- resisting and restoring with those moved by the Holy Spirit.
I confess that Jesus is Lord and commit to live apart from sin and devoted to following in the Lord’s way. I will develop worship and prayer in solitude and solidarity and gain other disciplines that deepen my own life in the Spirit and encourage others. I will consciously participate in the dialogue that creates the character and convictions of our church and strive to be of one mind and purpose with our common understanding.
I will continue to study the Bible and listen to the Holy Spirit teach me: personally, through other believers, and through other bodies with whom we connect. I will do what I can to guide and teach others.
I will be a supportive member of the team and seek to be in reconciliation with others: in my cell, in our leadership team, and with others in the world. I will include people who are not like me, just as Christ included me, crossing barriers to love with Jesus. I will offer my resources to our common life: money, time, energy and grace.
I will seek to show God's love in practical ways as God enables me to be a truth teller and a healing agent, loving our neighbors and serving where there is need here and around the world, planting seeds of hope and extending the kingdom of God.
Here are a couple of blog posts that add some more thoughts for meditation:
Tenderness is the heart of the covenant.
Baptism and Covenant: radical expressions of community