As for me

Published 11:52 am Friday, February 23, 2018

by Charles Qualls

I wonder how many contracts or covenants you have in your life?

Some of them are obvious because they cost us the largest amounts of money. A lot of us have a mortgage or a rent agreement. We might have a loan balance on a car we’re driving. This really means that the bank is letting us live in our homes, or they are letting us drive our car, if we pay them the amount we are supposed to and on time. 

The myriad other contracts we have are subtler maybe because the stakes don’t seem quite so high. If you have a cell phone, you have a contract for service. If you have cable TV, or a dish, Wifi or propane gas, you have a contract for every one of these.     

They state the expected behaviors of both parties. If you give them what you agreed to give, in theory they will give you what they agreed to provide. Covenant is the language we have in our Bible. Covenants are what keep us turning the pages from Genesis through Revelation, for God entered into sacred agreements at different times with the Hebrews and ultimately gave us the Christian covenant in Christ. We entered the season of Lent this past week. With that marks our journey toward the hope we find as covenantal promises were kept on the Cross and at the Tomb.   

Like the contracts we are used to, covenants are an exchange of promises. Usually, they state the expected behaviors of both parties. Our home-owners associations in two cities we have lived in functioned on covenants. Famously, we also talk about the sacred covenant of marriage.

Couples exchange vows, or speak agreement to certain terms in the Declaration of Intent: “For richer or for poorer….in sickness and health….for better or worse… ” these are often the words of the covenant.  We will love and support, we will uphold and help. We will stay with and we will encourage.

Long before Abraham entered a covenant relationship with God, Noah received a covenant from God in Genesis 9:8-17. Covenants in the Bible did not mean that the whole deal would go away just because one or the other of us failed to live up to one term.

Many ancient civilizations had accounts of a catastrophic flood way back. In our Bible, Genesis has just such an account. It seems that God became disillusioned with humanity, and as it is portrayed sent a flood to wipe out the earth. Today, we would call it a reboot, or a reset button, that God pressed. God essentially started over, save Noah’s family and two of every species on the Ark. 

My friend and professor, Loyd Allen, says that “…in the Biblical flood story, God essentially un-creates. God un-creates the Edenic world, preserves a remnant of that original creation, and reestablishes the cosmos under a new order.” This flood is a story that we relegate mostly to the realm of children’s Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. When we put it like Allen does, might it sound like children of all ages would do good to revisit the Noah story for a minute? 

In resolving not to punish all of creation just for what humanity did, would God set us loose knowing how imperfect we could be? Did God simply unleash us on the earth with no fear of recourse? 

No. Moving forward, God would make a covenant with Noah. It would grant us the lavish and loving freedom even to sin, and then to suffer the consequences of our own choices in our living.

That slow flood of freedom, choice, justice and pain has been released upon us ever since. We will never be free of life’s pain because the natural world, and others around us, have free choice, too.

We are studying these covenants on Sundays at Franklin Baptist Church during Lent as we lead up to Easter. The latest covenant in Christ will bring resolve and hope to our lives.

Important to you and me, God will not abandon us. Among our resolves might be to pay closer attention to our human stewardship of the earth and its resources. Another possibility for what we do with this covenant is fairly simple to understand, and profoundly hard to live. That is, to make healthier choices and live in less strife.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.