Personal Online Journal

Monday, June 27, 2011

Giving Ourselves in Love

I read a good article today on the difference between covenants and contracts.  In it, Jeffrey Thayne points out that covenant is not a word in regular use today.  Sometimes an economic contract is used to try to explain what a covenant is.
A contract is formed when two parties, each with particular needs or wants, make an agreement to supply the other’s wants in exchange for their own... If conditions change significantly so that one member of the contract can no longer hold up their end of the deal, the agreement is dissolved.
One example he gives to contrast the meanings of covenant and contract is how I approach my marriage relationship.  If I am consumer-oriented or if I approach my marriage as primarily about personal fulfillment, I may take a 50-50 approach.  I expect my wife to contribute 50% and I the other half.  On the other hand, if I treat my marriage appropriately, as a covenant, I think of what I may do to serve her.  My focus is on her and not myself. I like the quote he gives from David Lapp:
In courting and choosing whom to marry, we would do well to focus on the person and to remind ourselves that marriage is about giving ourselves in love to another person, and not primarily about individual fulfillment. … Marriage isn’t necessarily a ticket to our own version of individual fulfillment. What if your future wife becomes severely paralyzed? What if your child has Down syndrome? I suspect we have not adequately wrapped our minds around the meaning of marriage until we have considered the possibility that at any moment, whether during the honeymoon or in mid-life or in old age, tragic circumstances could call us to give up almost everything—our dream career, our comfort, our “happiness” — for the sake of the beloved.
I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and the phrase "But if not, … we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up"*  Jeffery concisely put this principle as,
The only blessings that are unequivocally promised us in this lifetime for strict obedience are peace of conscience, companionship of the Spirit, and discernment.*
The sermon of King Benjamin describes very well how our covenant relationships are not always profitable.  There is something of a pay it forward principle that is not included in a strictly contractual relationship.

I covenant because I am grateful to God and his mercy and his generosity.  I trust that He will continue to bless me in His own time and in His own way to my eternal benefit.  I love the way Jeffrey closes.
When we truly understand the nature of a covenant, we will realize that the first solution to difficulties in our covenantal relationships is not renegotiation or even communication (which connotes a two-way contractual agreement). It is to realign our hearts towards service, compassion, commitment, forgiveness, and love. Each of these terms connote a one-way submission of the self to the Other, which is what I believe covenants are all about.

1 comment:

my mudda' calls me jack said...

working on a talk for sac. meeting tomorrow on strengthening marriage... thank you for sharing your thoughts.