Saturday, November 2, 2013

I'm Burning My Contract With God

I'm canceling my contract with God.
Ripping it up.
Throwing it out.
No, wait. Maybe I'll set a match to it. Burn it up. Yeah, that it's. I'll torch it.
Look at that flame! 
It's over. I am no longer going to obligated to God, nor He to me.

Sounds terrible,doesn't it? Sounds like I am turning my back on God. "Leaving the flock" - as they say in Christian circles.
But don't worry. I AM going to cancel my contract, but I am not turning away from God. I have decided to enter into a covenant with God instead.
No, not a convent. That's for nuns. I mean a COVENANT.
What's the difference between a contract and a covenant?
Love is the difference, my friends.

I did a google search (i.e. research!) on the difference between a contract and a covenant and there were several sites which explained the differences and the similarities. Each talked about how both contracts and covenants are binding, how they require a signature or an oath, how they spell out what each party is responsible for and what is at stake. Several described the difference as: "Contracts are for business and covenants tend to have spiritual or religious overtones." Another said, "A contract is made in my name; a covenant is made in God's name." I could see there was a difference, but it didn't seem that big of a deal. UNTIL, I heard a sermon by Pastor Timothy Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC.  Listen to Sermon Here
He described a covenant relationship as one built on love. He described the incredible scene in Genesis 15 where God makes a covenant with Abram (Abraham). This involves animal sacrifice and walking "through the pieces" and other ritual languate that is foreign (and slightly disturbing) to me, but in the end, God says "I will be your God and the God of your people." God promises to bless Abram and give him descendants that number even more than the stars in the sky. Pastor Kellar explained how this covenant was built on unfailing love - God loved his people and even though He knew they would not always love him back or walk in his ways, he entered into a binding relationship with them, one that said he would "never leave them nor forsake them."  God's love was guaranteed.

Is it because he expected something from them? I do this, you do that?
No. That's a contract.This was a covenant.
It was because he loved them. He wanted to bless them. He WANTED to be in a relationship with them--to see them flourish in His love. He did ask for something in return - obedience (or love shown outwardly in action), but the covenant would not be canceled if they disobeyed. (If that were true, the covenant would have lasted about 5 minutes! Think of all the times the Israelites turned their back on God, failed to trust him, disobeyed his commandments, even scoffed at and killed the very people He sent to deliver his message!) Sure, sometimes God left them to their own devices - to pay the consequences for their bad choices, but he never truly left them. I get the sense that he was always there, waiting, in sorrow, tears falling, for his people to turn from their ways and come back to Him. He was broken hearted. He was angry. He was fed up. He had entered into a contract - God! Lord! Holy Mighty Creator of the Universe! And these little peons had turned their back on HIM? He was betrayed. His people spit and stomped on the covenant.
And yet, his love remained.
Finally, He sent His son, Jesus.The final sacrifice had to be made to ensure that the people God loved, ALL people, could stay in covenant with him. We needed reconciling. Reminding. Renewal. The old covenant had been dishonored, destroyed. Not by God, but by his people - in the wandering away, the rebellion, the disgrace - the same way we live today. Jesus' final sacrifice on the cross restores the covenant, restores our love relationship with God. We broke the covenant with God and Jesus keeps it. We get the benefits (as though we kept the covenant) and the covenant is good forever. Never expires. Never fades. That's because death's contract is canceled--you know, the one that says, you die and stay that way? The one that says we get what we deserve? Hopelessness and despair are no more.  Death is defeated. The covenant of love remains - the one that was always there, but we ignored. 
How do we enter into this covenant? Accept it by faith. It is a gift freely given by God.  We don't earn it or deserve it. It is given graciously, lovingly, willingly by our Father in Heaven who wants nothing more than to be in a covenant relationship with us. No dotted line to sign on. No lawyers. No fine print. No one reading some legal language real fast at the end of a commercial. And nothing we can do to earn it. Just the greatest gift ever from the God of the world - one that he holds out with pierced hands and says:
So, I am canceling my contract because I don't need it. I wrote up that contract anyway. It came from my legalistic religious upbringing, my misunderstanding of God, my insecurity, my lack of understanding of Scripture - I thought I had to "get right" when in fact God "put me right!"  I was busy trying to fulfill my end of "the deal" and failing miserably, wondering if God was going to give up the contract with me all together when I realized the contract was all my doing. I was so busy working on the contract, I missed the covenant.
Look at the story of Abraham:
"Abraham entered into what God was doing for him and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own."  (Romans 4, The Message)
And then I read Romans 5 (The Message):  
"By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us--set us right with him, makes us fit for him--we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus.  And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand--out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting praise..."

Isn't that beautiful? Contracts make you nervous. Covenants make you feel like singing.
A contract is full of rules about what I must do, what I owe, what I have to commit to - - I better read all the fine print!  There is nothing for free and no one gets to benefit individually. It is quid pro quo, baby.
Not with God.  Not with love. Not with a covenant.
Love says, "I do this for you because I love you."
Love says, " I would do anything for you, even die for you, because I love you that much."
Love says, "Be with me forever."
Love asks for nothing except, "Won't you love me, too?"
To which I respond, "Yes!"as the pieces of my old contract smolder to ashes in my hands.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
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