Calvin and Julie Tadema spoke this last Sunday at church on marriage. They put forth the idea that our “marriage” to God holds the key to a good and healthy relationship with our spouse. How very thought-provoking that is, and challenging, since God is perfect in every way, while we are not.
But the emphasis in the Tadema’s teaching wasn’t on the perfection of our relationships, but rather on the nature of it. To show this, they contrasted “contract” with “covenant.” They asserted that many of our earthly marriages are entered into like a contract, which has the purpose of guaranteeing maximum benefits and minimum liabilities for ourselves. In such a contract, if I feel one day that the liabilities are too large and the benefits too small, I have reason to nullify the contract. The other person is not fulfilling their end of the bargain, so I am justified in getting out of the bond. And vice versa.
God doesn’t sign contracts with us. He gave His only Son to be born of a woman, live a righteous life, but then be killed by unrighteous people so that we, by believing in Him and His resurrection, might be able to live with Him in His kingdom forever, forgiven and redeemed. He gave His all, 100%. He didn’t state any conditions or requirements other than humbling ourselves, turning to Him and accepting His free gift. This is not the stuff of contract. This is covenant. He promised to never leave us and never to give up on us. His offer of love and acceptance is forever.
How different our earthly marriages would be if we lived by covenant. What if our guiding principle was not: “I’m going to give 50% and will expect 50% in return,” but instead was: “I’m going all in and giving 100%. I’m not going to keep track of how much she gives me so that I can keep score and see who’s doing more. I will love her as best I can and I want her to love me as best she can. We won’t do this perfectly and sometimes one of us will give more than the other. God help us love like you do!” The first principle is based on law and the second on love.
We humans often treat our relationship with God as a contract as well. We seek maximum benefits and minimum liability and get discouraged or even despairing if we don’t get from God what we expect and feel we deserve. At that point our relationship can go cold or we can give up. But God’s promise of unconditional love has no end; it only appears different at times from what we want it to look like. This is where trust and patience comes in, just like it would in a covenantal earthly marriage.
I think this is what Jesus meant when He crystallized all the commandments into “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” This is covenant!
I look forward to more teaching of the Tademas as they meet with us later in the month. And I look forward to happier, healthier, stronger covenantal marriages at CitySalt!
John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.