Friday, June 20, 2014

Covenant or Contract

Christians like to use the word covenant. We think it sounds warmer less legalistic that contract. Most of the time we don't really think about the difference.

In today's first reading from 2 Kings the temple of Baal is destroyed and the people turn back to the true God, and

Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD as one party and the king and the people as the other, by which they would be the LORD’s people; and another covenant, between the king and the people.

Contracts are negotiated, they involve a quid pro quo, there is a sense of equality between the two parties.

contract 1) n. an agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as consideration.

Covenants in the scriptures are not such an exchange. Convents are grounded in dependency. One party realizes that they need the other party.

There are two covenants:
1) God and the people
2) the King and the people

Are the two sides equal? Of course not.
Are the terms required of both parties laid out? Of course not.
And what would be the punishment the people would inflict on God if he didn't fulfill his part of the quid pro quo? Silly!

A covenant is not a bargain; it is a relationship.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is both covenant and contract.

Marriage is a contract in that the parties are equal. There are specific things which must be contained in it: a commitment to fidelity, permanence, and an openness to the possibility of children.

It is a covenant in that the parties are there is a recognition of need and dependence.
It is a permanent relationship, not a 50/50 bargain where you give me this, I give you that.
And one persons failure to "keep their end of the bargain" doesn't void a covenant.

You enter a covenant "for better or for worse."

Too often we treat God like a contract.
God should do this, if I do that. Or we get mad because we did X and God didn't do Y.

We also fall into the pure contract sense of marriage, when we believe that sin on one parties part, frees the other party to divorce.

Contracts are clear, concrete well defined. Covenants are messy and relational. They are based in trust, willingness to entrust your very life into the hands of another.

We are all called to live in that covenant relationship with God, to daily recognize that without God we can do nothing. To free surrender into his love.

Like the people of Israel, most of us on some level vacillate, our own willfulness taking us over at times. This reading invites us like them to turn back this day. And re-entrust ourselves: not sinners in the hands of an angry God, but children in the hands of their loving Father.