Next Steps

We have a commitment issue in our marriages today. Too often we’re conditioned to approach marriage like a cell phone contract. You agree to pay a certain amount for goods and services, and the cell phone provider asks for a two-year commitment, which you happily sign because you’re still in the honeymoon of your relationship. But when a newer phone comes out, or when another cell phone provider offers a better deal, or when you simply get bored and want to move on, you figure out a way to wiggle out of your contract, paying a fee if necessary. Contracts are made to be broken.

Too often we approach marriage the same way: as a contract. Each side commits to provide for each other, love each other and serve each other. As long as both sides hold up their end of the contract, life is good. But when one spouse feels like they’re getting the short end of the stick, when the other spouse isn’t holding up their end of the contract, you start looking for a way out. Even if the divorce gets messy because there are kids involved, if that’s the fee you have to pay to break the contract, you do it.

The problem with this approach is that it fundamentally mistakes the nature of marriage. Marriage is not a contract, it’s a covenant (Malachi 2:14); and those are two completely different things. Here’s a quick look at the difference between the two:

A contract is based on mutual distrust.
A covenant is based on mutual commitment.

A contract protects rights and shirks responsibility.
A covenant surrenders rights and assumes responsibility.

A contract has personal conveniences in mind.
A covenant has the interest of the other in mind.

Now, here’s the twist: because the idea of a covenant is foreign to many of us, God gives us another picture of what a covenant looks like, and this one hits a lot closer to home. At the Last Supper, here’s what Jesus told his disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). Salvation is a covenant like marriage is a covenant. Think about it this way: do we really want Jesus to treat salvation like a contract? How would that conversation go?

“Hey John, we need to talk. I know you asked me into your heart when you were a kid, but these last couple of years haven’t been going so well for you. You’re not reading the Bible, you’re not in church, all those addictions you promised to give up are still hanging around. On top of all that, you’re kind of a jerk. Sorry buddy, I’m going to break my contract of salvation with you, it’s just not worth it for me anymore. Good luck with the whole heaven thing.”

We don’t want Jesus to treat his relationship with us like a contract. Our assurance of salvation is because salvation is not a contract, it’s a covenant. In the same way, marriage is by design a covenant. That’s why God takes such a strong stand for marriage. Treat your commitment to your spouse the same way you want Jesus to treat his commitment to you.

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