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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Connections and Covenant

Oh dear! A week has gone by and I haven't posted! Thank God I am free from guilt. I just wanted to post one more thought on connection before I move on to something else (perhaps...). It concerns a word that many of us have valued over the years but perhaps also been intimidated by: I am talking about covenant.

Sadly some of us picked up an idea years ago that because we were all 'in covenant' together in our churches or networks or ministry partnerships, then disconnection was regarded as 'covenant-breaking' or 'violating-covenant'. In fact, it was a funny old thing because in my experience most of us said that we did not really believe this, and many of the leaders who might be accused of this stance are on record as saying it doesn't apply in most cases. And yet often when people felt that it was right to disconnect, for whatever reason (good or bad), the stakes for relationship had been raised so high by this language that it often felt that the concept of covenant-breaking cast a dark shadow over it and prevented us from handling disagreement better or maintaining relationship after disconnection.

Of course, covenant love is a beautiful thing. When we are brought into the new covenant with and through Christ, we are actually in that covenant with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. And, by the way, we are failing to value that covenant every time we gossip, ridicule, slander, dishonour, devalue, or dismiss any fellow-Christian (oh dear...if we're honest perhaps we are all covenant breakers). Of course, to have the opportunity to express that love in Christ in a strong, committed, transparent, mutually honouring relationship, friendship and partnership within a local church family (I believe God ideally wants us all connected to one of those by the way) and among close friends and fellow-workers, that's fantastic. Love, loyalty, faithfulness and honesty are vitally important in such relationships, and when they are damaged it's a tragic thing. But when the concept of covenant is used a a means of control through guilt, and covenant has become a cold chain locking us into a connection that no longer has life and purpose in it, then we are massively missing the point of covenant.

In fact covenant love enables us to disconnect with love. David and Jonathan are often rightly used as a great example of covenant friendship. I have always loved the words spoken by Jonathan to David when a combination of circumstances and calling meant they had to disconnect:
Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD...(1 Sam 20:42)
Far from being a chain that bound them, their covenant enabled them to separate in peace for they were knit together in heart and that joining transcended space and time. Of course, such covenant love should also affect the way separation is handled and means always maintaining peace, honour, love, regard and a good report towards and about those we disconnect from. Let's learn both how to connect and disconnect (when that's right) with love and honour, like these two covenant friends.


  1. Gosh, I can hear several sacred cows moo-ing long and loud here, just before you serve up the beefburgers. I'm wondering if we do away from command and control as a culture because we've decided that fear's a really lousy neighborhood to live in, and we want connection and community then a few things have to change. The first is an understanding that that thing that we've done to the birds and the sheep and the cows (ie cut them in half) well you can do that to me if I don't keep my end of this deal. In being clear about this connection of hearts, it's not my goal to broadcast or receive fear but quite the opposite. I think I'm suppose to make love my goal. The second thing is that after my heart connection with Father God, my main covenants are with my wife/husband and kids if I have them and my soul-mates and I don't trade these in for work or church connections.
    Thanks for stretching our hearts, minds and dreams.

    1. Thanks for that, John. I think I would also want to hold on to the idea of life-connections within a local church family as a practical outworking of the new covenant community in Christ.

  2. Absolutely. My point being that in the past I might have had a higher value for a notion of covenant within a church context that had something to do with fitting in, with compliance and the prioritising of attendance at meetings over time spent building heart connections with my spouse and kids. I agree that it isn't either family or church because we are a church family.

    1. Totally agree, John. I have made the same mistake and deeply regret it. Thank God that he doesn't give up on us but gives us more grace to learn better ways. And I like what you say - it is about connection and not compliance; they are so totally different.