Greg Boyd is the pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minnesota. I’ve been listening to his series on Divine love and was so delighted by one of his teachings about contracts vs. covenants that I transcribed a bunch of the sermon to post here.
Here is Boyd speaking about the difference between contracts and covenants.
They look similar, but in fact, there is a world of difference between a contract and a covenant. The Bible talks a lot about covenants, you hardly hear anything about contracts.
He goes on to make some distinctions between the two, pointing out characteristics of each and contrasting them:
- Contracts are associated with agreements, like what you find in employment or home ownership. Covenants are associated with things like marriages. Unlike contractual agreements, marriage covenants are meant to be unbreakable. They are not 50/50 deals. Marriages are 100/100 deals–you’re very being is to be invested in a marriage.
- Contracts are essentially deals that are made between two parties. Covenants have to do not with making deals, but with making pledges between two people. A deal is between us, and a marriage is us. In this case, a contract is about law, a pledge is about love.
- Lastly, contracts are associated with law, they are always conditional and evaluative. Agape Love covenants on the other hand, are always unconditional. While contracts may be obsessed with evaluating, assessing, measuring and judging, Agape Love Covenants are about accepting the other as they are.
Boyd goes on to say this:
Our problem–our core problem I believe–is that we look at everything in the world in contract terms rather than Agape love convenant terms. We look at and interpret everything in the world through the categories of law and deal making, rather than through the categories of love and pledge making.
…I submit to you that the story in Genesis 3 is a story about how we as a race have fallen from an Agape love, covenantal worldview to a contractual worldview.
What follows is a beautiful interpretation of Genesis 3.
In the beginning, the Bible says Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day–so in the late afternoon, when it wasn’t hot. And this is just the Bible’s way of communicating that they had this relationship with God that was innocent. They hung out with God, and God hung out with them, and they enjoyed one another and that is what life is supposed to be about.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil wasn’t there as a test, like a cookie in front of a child. It was God’s loving ‘no trespassing’ sign. Life revolved around these two trees in the middle of the garden. God is saying, trust me for my provision of life, but also honor my prohibition.
God is saying, ‘be like me, in terms of your character. Expand my love. Be like me in terms of how you treat one another, how you treat the animals and how you treat the Earth. But don’t try to be like me in terms of your wisdom. Don’t be like me in thinking you know and can define good and evil. Or that you are supposed to police good and evil and be the judges of good and evil. No, leave that to me. I’ll be the judge. You be lovers, in my image.’
This interpretation isn’t new, In fact, it’s an interpretation I’ve probably heard before somewhere. But I think what made it so special for me is hearing Boyd’s passion and sincerity come through in communicating his message. I really do sense his love for God and love people come through in his teaching, and to me, this is what makes a good teacher a good teacher. Boyd is not only a master at blending ethos, pathos and logos, but it seems like he genuinely seeks to inspire and act as a catalyst for others. I’m really excited for his new book to come out which deals with reconciling the violent God of the Old Testament with the non-violent Jesus of the New Testement. Good stuff.
Painting above Marc Chagall