At our recent big church bash Ian, one of the Jesus Army's main leaders, spoke about "covenant".
We call the commitment made by core members of the Jesus Army a "covenant". It's a mutual promise to be faithful to God together and to live out His calling to be a Jesus army (and not without its controversies; for instance, some have seen it as too limiting: “why commit to just one church?”) I’d say it was one of our key strengths, a confirmation of the real brotherhood and unity we share.
One thing that Ian said jumped at me with real freshness. I captured it with a tweet as he spoke: ‘Covenant commitment is not a super-spiritual pledge for holy people, but a survival pact for people who know they’re weak.’
All too often we can see things like covenant commitment as an attainment, as a plateau inhabited by the spiritual. In fact, it’s a recognition of need.
I cannot be a Christian on my own. Others may be able to sustain an isolated discipleship; I can’t. I need my covenant brothers and sisters and I need them to stay with me or I’m sunk.
I cannot stop sinning on my own. Others may be able to achieve solitary sanctification; I can’t. Without brothers to hear my sordid confessions and cheer me on along the upward road to (an, in this life, always approximate) holiness, I’d degenerate fast.
I cannot believe in God on my own. Others may have mightier faith than I; I need the reality of brotherhood if faith in God is to be anything more than just a theory (and one that I might well abandon when the chips are down).
What’s more, it isn’t enough for me to just have some brothers and sisters walking with me part of the road. I need them the whole way – or I won’t make it. What’s more, if I don’t promise, very clearly, to stay on the road with them, I’d be off into a siding in no time.
So I promise. I covenant. I need to.
It occurred to me last night – after an evening of wonderful relaxed eating and laughing with those I live with, in community – that Christian community is much the same. Some see living in community with all things in common as a lofty pinnacle (or at any rate something “for the most committed”).
If you can have your own money and not love it, you are more advanced as a Christian than I am. I need to have no money, to share all my money – otherwise money-love would get me (maybe subtly, maybe outright, but I promise you it would be there.) I take my hat off to those who evade money-love without a common purse. I’m just not up to their standard. I’ll take the easier path please.
I’ll live in community.