The Covenant Talk

torn contractWith my student ministry background I tend to get nervous any time a subject is described as “The ____________ talk.”

Having had the responsibility of giving “The Sex Talk”, “The Alcohol Talk”, “The I know what you were doing when you were supposed to be sleeping at the retreat Talk”, and countless others, I broke into cold sweats when our professor asked us whether we have had “The Covenant Talk” on Friday morning. Fortunately I didn’t have to give it, and it didn’t involve the biological functions of a middle schooler.

What we did discuss was the difference between a contract and a covenant.

In our current society, we don’t do a whole lot with covenants. We use the word, but we often ignore the concept… and I think that this is to our detriment. As we had the talk, our professor said something that I have been soaking on all weekend: “If you break a covenant, you are not the same person afterwards…”

We live in a world of contracts. People make contracts and then the proceed to fulfill them or break them. If you break your cell phone contract, you pay an early termination fee and move on. Other contracts might have a steeper penalty, but it is typically something that you can take in stride. Classes are taught on how to break contracts, and it is somewhat acknowledge that contracts are semi-permanent at best.

Covenants are somewhat different. Covenants become a significant piece of our identity. Looking back at the covenant in Genesis 17, the covenant changed Abraham significantly: name changes, circumcision, and an inheritance. In much the same way, the modern marriage covenant changes people: name changes (sometimes), living situation changes, financial situation changes, etc.

Where things get tricky is when we enter into a covenant with a contract mindset. 

The Israelites learned this the hard way: approaching the covenant that the nation had with Yahweh in a casual manner, given to seasons of ignoring the contract for other gods.
Many marriages experience this as well: much focus on wedding days, feelings of happiness, yet unwilling to do the hard work that comes during the “for poorer, in sickness, in sorrow, and in bad times.”

We have seen how this plays out with the nation of Israel, and in marriage. Generations are affected by the ways that we handle our covenants. While we may not experience exile and the destruction of our temple, breaking covenant does result in generations being affected by our actions, changing us significantly… and significantly altering the direction taken by the generations who follow.

Are YOU approaching covenants with a contract mentality?


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through MinistryBriefing.com and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.