The importance of understanding covenant is underscored by the various ways we can fall into traps if we cherish a wrong view of it.
When we focus on the contractual aspects of it, we can slide into an idea best described as ‘transactional Christianity’. One of my neighbours was bemoaning the fact her eighty-year-old husband was losing his sight and would no longer be able to drive. ‘God’s not answering our prayers,’ she said. ‘After all we’ve done for Him!’ Suddenly revealed with that comment was a heart attitude that said: ‘God, you owe us big time for being obedient!’
Transactional Christianity is an arena where we do business with God: we make exchanges and we engage in trading, expecting a superlatively high yield on our investment—whether that outlay is in keeping the commandments or some form of financial sacrifice or offering of time and effort. Transactional Christianity is a denial of grace. It seeks to make God beholden to us for our behaviour, rather than just accept His gifts as undeserved graces. As for giving something to God, expecting nothing in return, just out of simple gratitude for His boundless mercy—that’s a thought that’s almost alien in conception.
At the other extreme from ‘transactional Christianity’ is ‘Gnostic Christianity’. The influence of Gnosticism in our century is pervasive. The human heart desperately longs for the oneness of covenant and for reconciliation with both God and His creation. So, to be told we are already one with the earth and all living things, we’re apt to believe the dream that all we need to achieve the reality is to awaken to it—to become aware of this truth and live it out.
Like transactional Christianity, Gnostic Christianity is a denial of the atonement of Jesus. Transactional Christianity wants to add to the atonement, to help Jesus out when He hasn’t quite delivered for us in the way we want. Or sometimes it’s more like an insurance policy: we pay our premiums in advance so Jesus will be sure to rush to help us in a crisis.
Gnostic Christianity, on the other hand, says we don’t have to covenant with Him at all. Nor do we have to accept the cross of Calvary as the bridge of reconciliation between ourselves and God. Gnostic Christianity is generally refined, and nauseated by blood sacrifice. To enjoy the benefits of at-one-ment, we simply have, in this worldview, to realise that oneness is the essence of the universe. We don’t have to repent, we just have to be enlightened. We don’t have to worry about the difference between being like God and one with God, we already are God.
Between these two extremes are a multitude of intermediary positions.
In reality, we are not automatically one with God—we are divided from Him by sin and iniquity. Yet He wants us to be one with Him. He has placed this yearning within every human heart.
This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. May the covenantal oneness Jesus offers be yours today.
Thank you to Lorna Skinner of www.riversofmusic.co.uk for the background music.
Covenant is at the heart of the Christian faith. It’s necessary to understand it in order to understand what can go wrong with it and how covenant violation affects our ability to come into our life’s calling. The Covenant Series of books begins with God’s Poetry, available as both print book and e-book.