I love theology. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time then this isn’t a surprise to you. I like to read theology, write theology, and talk theology. I know that not everyone (not even every Christian) is into theology in the same way I am. In fact, because of my inclination toward theology, I’ve been confronted a time or two by fellow Christian brothers about how theology isn’t “practical”.
I could write at length about how that statement is itself a form of theology and therefore self-defeating but that’s not the direction I want this post to go. Rather, I want to focus on what the title of this post: "Life is Messy. Covenant is Key".
As a Presbyterian, the idea of "covenant" is the lens through which I develop theology. A covenantal theology sees the story of the Bible (at first) from a broad lens. It sees things in a vast and sweeping way. A covenantal theology sees the Bible in the broad sweeps of: Election, Creation, Fall, Redemption, & Glorification. Then, having assumed this broader framework, a covenantal theology begins to narrow the lens, getting down into the particulars. As the lens narrows and focuses in on a certain story we will find that God works out these broad sweeping themes (Election, Creation, Fall, Redemption, Glorification) in (seemingly) small covenantal relationships.
It is this point that I want to focus on today: God's grand actions of salvation in history are played out in the seemingly meek forms of covenantal relationships.
This is why I decided to title the post as I have. All too often a focus on theology remains abstracted & isolated from the nuances, perplexities, and "messiness" of this fleshly world that we inhabit. A truly covenantal theology can help us to avoid this clean, abstracted platonic trap.
Until we perceive that God's grand salvation is being worked out in our covenantal relationships (husbands and wives, parents and children, church congregations) we will continue to view the mighty workings of God outside of the normal machinations of our daily lives. We must come to terms with the fact that a wife's submission to her husband, a parent's discipline of their child, a congregation's obedience to their elders are a few of the covenantal means through which God has decided to transform the world.
In our day of electric Christianity we can all to often prescribe the glorious works of God only to the work that is going on in massive, global ministries or the work of missionaries to unreached peoples. By doing so the way of the kingdom alludes us. The way of the kingdom is small and humble, submissive and receptive; the way of the kingdom is like a child.
On the other hand, however, we have many christian communities that value the importance of these (seemingly) "small" realities but refuse to connect them to the broader "macro-level" works of God. They aren't interested in the global reign of Christ's kingdom.
We must realize that God's plan is to save the world. God's plan is massive. Yet, as always, God chooses the weak and lowly means to accomplish his plan. Jesus died and conquered death. This is the key. Jesus tells us to pick up our cross daily and follow him. We do not do this by forsaking the covenatal bonds Christ has placed us in. There is hardly a more greivous sin than that of self-righteously abandoning one's covenantal responsibilities to "take up your cross and follow Jesus." This is not "following Jesus." This is abandoning the way of Christ to pursue the glory of self. As Christians we must embrace the small and ordinary way while paradoxically embracing the reality that God is transforming the world through these powerful (allbeit small) actions.
One parting thought as conclusion. Because the world is messy and God, in is gracious and infinite wisdom, has chosen to work through small, covenantal means, we must understand that God does not count time as we do. To God a thousand years is like a day and a day is like a thousand years. God is patient, slow to anger and quick to forgive. The salvation of the world (though completely accomplished in Christ) is not something that is implemented in a few generations. It is something that is carried out over a thousand generation. This is one of the reason why I am a postmillennialst; I believe that the world is going to receive Christianity completely over the course of history until Christ returns to a world that has been transformed by the gospel.
This doesn't mean that I don't believe things can't go wrong, like they seem to be going right now in America. Instead, this means that I believe the solution is always for the people of God to faithfully return to the covenantal relations that God has given them. When this happens we will find that what Jesus has promised is true: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Food for thought.
Michael lives with his wife (Caroline) and dog (Beau) in Athens, GA where he teaches history and economics to high schoolers. Michael enjoys reading, watching soccer, drinking bourbon, and taking walks with his wife and dog.